In recent weeks, Claremore motorists may have noticed a young man walking along Blue Starr Drive near Gripado’s Restaurant or thereabouts, waiting to catch a train.
The young man’s name is Timothy Holliday and while the trains that pass through Claremore aren’t the passenger-carrying variety, Holliday nevertheless catches them with his camera.
“Got it — that one was good,” Holliday said on a cold January morning, after his patience paid off and a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) rolled through town.
Instead of making small talk, Holliday is too busy scrolling through the photos he’s just taken — this time, and most oftentimes, with his cell phone, although he’s branched out and started using a camera.
“This one’s good, that one’s okay, I like this one — ooh, that one’s really good,” he says, as if to himself, judging his work and the fruit of his efforts and his patience.
At 21, Holliday knows full well what his passion is — trains, and he follows his passions near the train tracks to photograph them.
For hours at a time.
It’s not uncommon for Holliday’s “day” to begin shortly before 9 a.m. and continue through the late afternoon or early evening, but the long hours and stretches in between trains don’t seem to bother this enthusiastic 21-year-old who’s doing what he loves.
“Oh, here comes another one,” Holliday says, quickly getting himself into position for capturing the best photos.
Something of a self-described “nomad,” Holliday is a 2016 graduate of Claremore High School. After graduation, he studied at Rogers State University for a time, and then moved to Omaha before returning to Claremore at the end of 2017.
“Claremore resident? I guess you could say that,” he muses. “I’m staying with my uncle right now, so I guess that would make me a resident.”
While many if not most who pass through Claremore might see the trains as an inconvenience, Holliday couldn’t disagree more.
“Trains are awesome — every thing about them,” he said, his face breaking into a wide grin. “There’s so much to love about them ...where did they come from? Where are they going? What are they carrying? What are the stories of the people on the trains? You name it, every train is different, special, it comes through like a mystery and then it’s gone. They’re just ...awesome.”
On a “decent” day, Holliday said he might luck into catching 20 trains passing through town, while on a “good” day, he might see 60, and on the “best” days?
“The best days, I think I’ve seen ...maybe 80 or more passing through town,” he estimated. “Those are ...just the best. I take a ton of pictures on those days --I do every day but those days, I stay really busy and take a lot.”
He’s not exaggerating.
In a three-week period, Holliday said he’d taken at least 3,000 train photos, his favorite of which, he posts on his Instagram account or Facebook page, where he’s listed as “Timothy Lee Holliday,” aka “Railfan extraordinare.”
“I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback on my photos,” he said, “and there’s a real sense of community amongst railway fans -- there are thousands of us, all over the world.”
Few things discourage Holliday from his daily watch.
“I’ve gone out in all kinds of weather, day and night, night photos are really interesting, very different from the day photos,” he said. “There’s not a lot that will keep me from coming out and shooting (photos) — maybe if there’s some extreme weather happening — if it’s raining really, really heavily or if there’s a blizzard, otherwise, I’ll be out, taking pictures.
“Or maybe if there’s a lightning storm,” he added. “I have a fear of lightning.”
Since making his daily rounds, reaction to Holliday has been mixed, he said.
“Some people are confused when they see me walking up and down, photographing the trains,” he said. “I’ve had the police called on me — I guess some people think I’m suspicious-looking or a terrorist or something, which is pretty funny. I’m just here because I love the trains.”
Holliday always is mindful not to get too close to railway property when taking photos and even when there isn’t a train in sight, he’s always looking, scanning the horizon for the next one.
His ultimate plan?
“I’ll be here (in Claremore) for a while. Maybe I’ll stay, maybe I’ll move on, I really don’t know yet. There are a lot of trains here, so that’s been nice,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind working for one of the railroad companies, or taking photographs for a magazine about the railways or trains.”
Until then, Holliday will just continue to stay ready, waiting to catch the next train.
“I think I hear one coming now,” he said, raising his camera. “This is going to be good.”
Holliday’s train pictures are available to see on Instagram or on his Facebook page.