Student shares train hobby with others after generations inspire him


Photo Courtesy of Connor Striegel

Sophomore Connor Striegel’s great-grandfather (left), a former railroad employee, shakes hands with a friend in this photo, which sits in Striegel’s house. Striegel said he has a love for trains that first originated with his family’s relationships to them. “My great-grandpa used to drive trains,” Striegel said. “He started in 1945, and worked all the way up until 1976.”

Growing up surrounded by books, pictures, and stories of trains, sophomore Connor Striegel has been fascinated by the railroad from a young age. After learning of his great-grandfather, who drove trains between Chicago, Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri, Striegel’s interest in trains went from a childhood hobby to a passion he’s now sharing with others.

“I’ve always been fascinated by trains, even before I could walk,” Striegel said. “When I was little, my grandpa would pick me up from preschool, and we would go watch the trains go by, and I always thought it was the coolest thing. I guess I just never grew out of it.”

After seeing many memorabilia books of different trains, different train engines, and even of his great-grandpa, Striegel’s interest in trains and pursuing them as a career grew even more.

After my grandpa couldn’t take me anymore, my dad started taking me to see trains, and he eventually started liking them, as well.

— Connor Striegel

“My great-grandpa drove the trains, but my grandpa had the train books,” Striegel said. “My grandpa would tell me about my great-grandpa and how he’d drive the trains, and my great-grandpa is even in some of the books. He (Striegel’s grandpa) would just show me pictures, and I just thought it was so cool.”

Reading about trains from a young age allowed Striegel to know the parts of a train, as well, including the different types of engines to the original manufacturing of many different trains across the country.

A train drives by in Lafayette, Indiana. Striegel took this picture as he stood back from the tracks, watching the train. “It’s really cool to see it (the train) flying by you at like 60 miles per hour,” Striegel said. “We stand right next to the tracks to watch them, and you’ve got to stand back, but you can get closer the slower it’s moving.” (Connor Striegel)

“There’s one (train) in California that has an old passenger engine in a railroad museum, and it’s the same type of engine my great-grandpa used to drive,” Striegel said. “It’s the only one (of that engine) that still runs.”

Striegel’s knowledge of trains and what makes them run has even allowed him to make his own complex models of trains.

“I buy the (train) models a lot, but every once in awhile, I’ll get an old one and put new parts on it to make it have more details,” Striegel said. “I put computer chips in them so I can make them all run at once. They (the trains) have sounds, lights, and even little train cars.”

Connor Striegel

Models made by Striegel have been able to be seen by other people in other places, too.

“Connor was allowed to run some of his models on a nationally recognized model railroad layout in Ft. Myers, Florida,” Dave Striegel, Connor’s grandpa, said. “Connor has learned the complex electronics involved with model train remote control. Connor has hand-built some extremely accurate and complex operating models in HO scale (a rail transport modeling scale) .”

Not only is Striegel supported by his grandpa for his interest in the railroad, but by his dad, too, for everything from model trains in Striegel’s bedroom to going and seeing trains weekly.

“We spend a lot of time watching trains together,” Brad Striegel, Connor’s dad, said. “Even though I don’t know much about them, our time together has become very special to me. We’ve built a lot of great memories.”

A steam engine sits on display in Galesburg, Illinois. Striegel said he not only enjoys watching trains, but taking pictures of them, as well. “I love to take pictures and videos of trains, and I share them with my friends,” Striegel said. “There is a whole community of people who do this, and we always tell each other when an interesting train is heading our way.” (Connor Striegel)

Seeing trains around the country has become a hobby for Striegel, too.

“We traveled a lot (to see trains,)” Striegel said. “When I lived in Illinois, I would go to Chicago because that’s where basically every train in the nation goes, and that’s about a four-hour drive from where I lived. Other than Illinois, I’ve seen trains in Texas, Missouri, specifically St. Louis, Indiana, in a town called Lafayette, and Florida, too.”

Being a part of a train community has helped Striegel to see many different trains, too.

“It (the train community) is basically just a bunch of people like me who watch trains, and like going out and taking pictures of trains,” Striegel said. “If they see something good, they’ll take a picture of it, and say, ‘Hey, guys, there’s a rare train coming, come see it!'”

With the train community encouraging him, Striegel has used his love of trains to encourage his friends, as well, including social media pages where Striegel posts videos of trains he comes across.

“He showed me his amazing YouTube channel called ‘A Normal Railfan,’ as well as an Instagram at @a_normal_railfan103, where he uploads videos of trains as they go by,” Aiden Ulmer, friend and classmate of Striegel said. “It’s pretty epic.”

Connor Striegel

His interest in trains has also encouraged Striegel to pursue a career on the railroad, as well.

“I want to work for the railroad, but I’m not sure what yet,” Striegel said. “I like mechanical engineering, so I would work at the locomotive shop, where I prepare engines and build them, or I would want to drive trains where I would go across the country.”

Having generations of interest in trains in his family, Brad Striegel said he believes Connor’s love for trains is a “link” to his great-grandpa.

“Connor has taken ownership of a lot of my grandpa’s (Connor’s great-grandpa’s) personal train memorabilia,” Brad Striegel said. “His hobby gives him a link, almost a relationship, with my grandpa.”