To the delight of railroad fans and watchers the world over, a site now tracks rail yard action live, including in Texarkana.
At around 1 p.m. Thursday, a web camera began beaming online footage of the rail yard just outside of Union Station in downtown Texarkana. The YouTube site where the footage is going averaged a few hundred viewers at any given time in those first few hours and already has 155,000 subscribers.
Local entrepreneur David Peavy was approached by representatives from Virtual Railfan to find the best place to set up its camera to beam the rail video online.
According to Virtual Railfan's website, the outfit has 68 cameras in 42 locations throughout 22 states in the United States, as well in three other countries.
"The camera is mounted on the south side of 1894 City Market, previously known as Ritchie Grocery," Peavy said. "Depending on where the camera is facing, you can see different areas of the Missouri-Pacific, Kansas City Southern and Cotton Belt rail yard. This is the historic rail yard that is the center of rail traffic in Texarkana."
Depending on where the camera is facing, viewers can see a variety of angles and view arriving and departing trains and other area features like Union Station and the Flying Crow cafe, built inside a train passenger car.
"Viewers, depending on how they are viewing the feed, can change the angle of the camera and pick different things to view," Peavy said.
Remarking on the high number of subscribers to the Youtube feed showing the Texarkana railyard footage, Peavy said, "Rail fans tend to be truly fanatical about this subject. They have libraries packed with information about trains and railyards. They are very enthusiastic about trains."
On the subject of his fandom, he said, "I bought a building next to a major rail yard and helped set up the Flying Crow. You could say I've become a rail fan."
Peavy believes this video feed will not only benefit hobbyists, but it will be an advantage for Texarkana.
"This camera will increase Texarkana's tourist profile and it will help draw train fans throughout the world. Virtual Railfans then benefits on a large audience upon which it can sell ads," he said.
Virtual Railfan describes itself as "the premiere provider of LIVE train cams from some of the busiest spots on earth. Our camera network captures hundreds of trains per day from all over the world. No matter where you are and what you are doing, Virtual Railfan will bring the trains to you!"
The website for Virtual Railfan is virtualrailfan.com.
To watch the Union Station rail yard, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=krSRlMTU1-8.