Trainspotter TV
July 19, 2017 4:05 AM   Subscribe

Maybe you’re thinking, “the best thing I could possibly do right now while I’m sitting at work is watch live video feeds of railroad crossings and hope that the occasional train passes by.” If so, then you might be surprised to know that there’s never been a better time in recorded history than right now! Start by checking what’s currently live on the YouTube accounts of Virtual Railfan, Railstream and Big Trains TV. Most videos in this post include ambient sound — even if traffic noise is quiet the trains will be loud. For more a whole lot more, see below.

YouTube live streams provide four hours of timeline scrollback, so the impatient can rewind to the last train crossing to get a quick fix.

The URLs of live streams frequently change even when the locations don’t. So it’s usually better to start at the streamers’ YouTube channels rather than link directly to streams. This is also a way to find new streams as railfans get permission (and/or funding) to set up more cameras.

Virtual Railfan: This has the best quality of the rail fan video streams and the locations are good, providing multiple camera angles, high-quality high-framerate video, and a very tightly moderated live chat. Current locations are Ashland, VA, where two tracks divide Center Street, La Grange, KY where a main rail line is literally on Main Street sharing pavement with local traffic, La Plata, MO at an Amtrak station, and the Horseshoe Curve near Altoona, PA, with a remote-controlled camera that chat moderators can move on request.

Railstream: Currently has two publicly accessible live streams, one each for cameras positioned back-to-back on a track in Chesterton, Indiana. Paid membership at their site provides access to up to a dozen more cameras at other locations.

Big Trains TV: Has three cameras positioned at New Bridge Road in Bergenfield, NJ. There is a moderated live chat. The frame rate on these cameras is kind of low, which can make watching hard on the eyes after a while.

Galesburg Railroad Museum in Galesburg, IL: A siding with camera views up and down several tracks. North Camera 1. South Camera 2.

RailCam Mierlo-Hout has one stream at a grade in the Mierlo-Hout district of Helmond, southeast in The Netherlands. The live chat stream is mostly in English.

RoanokeRailcam [silent] has one camera aimed at the switching yards in Roanoke, VA.

The Leek and Rudyard Railway [silent] is a steam locomotive line in Staffordshire, England with a rail camera at one station. (Link is to the video because the channel, for some reason, does not show it.)

HAB [silent] has a camera at Kanazawa Station in Ishikawa, Japan, where you can see high-speed Shinkansen arriving and departing.

If that’s not enough to zone out to, there are also dozens if not hundreds of live railway streams outside of YouTube. Some streams have music on the soundtrack. The indexes below rarely clean out dead or hijacked links, and many sites require Flash. So be aware and browse safe. indexes over 300 live railcams from many countries, some of which require viewer registration. WebCamPlaza lists a few dozen streams, with notes on with media type. MyLiveStream has even more links to streams mostly outside the U.S.
posted by ardgedee (10 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
For whatever it's worth, I find the mix of rural traffic and random downtempo electronic music to be synergistic. YMMV, of course.
posted by ardgedee at 4:12 AM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh wow- thanks for this. I have become mildly obsessed with the Virtual Railfan streams in recent weeks. Seeing the approaching lights of a BSNF intermodal followed by it barreling through La Plata station at 50MPH in the middle of the night is quite something. I also look out the for Amtrak autocar heading north through Ashland around 7AM local time - for a passenger train, that thing is huge.

In fact, as I was checking the history (yes, I do it most mornings - I may be a little more than mildly obsessed) there was somebody on the platform at 2AM wearing what looked like hi-vis gear and a camera round his neck who waved at the passing train but didn't take a picture. He hung around for a minute or two after the train had gone and then he too vanished. As we've now passed the 4 hour rewind window, I can never prove he was there...

I volunteer most weekends for a local heritage railway so you might catch me on the Corfe Castle webcam if you're lucky...
posted by jontyjago at 4:43 AM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

I should mention that the Virtual Railfan cameras, due to being situated on small town main streets, can also provide snippets of human drama. A couple days ago the La Grange stream treated viewers to the sight of a pickup truck getting clubbed hard by a crossing gate, and a couple hours later a DUI traffic stop. Virtual Railfan's channel homepage has some archived videos of past events of cars getting stuck on the tracks (tense viewing, but nobody gets injured).
posted by ardgedee at 4:50 AM on July 19, 2017

Back in the 90s my unsuspecting, railway-loving father rented the movie "Trainspotting" from Blockbuster thinking it was about people who did exactly this. Needless to say, he very quickly realized his error...
posted by elkerette at 7:26 AM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's a special kind of evil to record a train video vertically.
posted by CaseyB at 8:13 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ah yes, my guilty pleasure work aversion therapy.

I live within about a half hour from La Grange, KY, but it’s still fun to zone out on the live feed.

Another favorite nap inducer for me are the videos that put you in the train driver’s seat. Though not real time, it’s a real treat to travel the rails. You can start out on a train in Sweden, then move on to Netherlands, Austria and Japan, for starters.

If light rail is your preferred mode of transport, you can ride the rails through the streets in Germany, Holland and Poland. If buses are your thing, there’s always London and Hong Kong.

You’d rather stick to cars? Try a thrilling ride through central Mexico (with musical accompaniment, and for some reason sped up).

And if you’re feeling a bit off, back to the Netherlands in looking through the front window of an ambulance on a call.
posted by SteveInMaine at 8:31 AM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

I live next to the train tracks, in Houston. I will always take a moment to see what is traveling past my home. Often it is containers, or loads of rocks for the local concrete plants. Sometimes heavy equipment, large pipes, or military vehicles go by. Yesterday is was The Patron Tequila Express, a restored private rail car, attached to the Amtrak. After 20 years is still has not gotten old.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 8:37 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you find yourself in the mood for something a little more uptempo, there's always Star Guitar.
posted by CaseyB at 8:49 AM on July 19, 2017

Our almost-three-year-old is a ridiculous train fan and will wait for half an hour to see one commuter rail train go by, so this is exactly his kind of thing.

Which means I can't possibly let him know about any of these feeds. He'd never do anything else.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:37 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mr. Roquette watches train videos a LOT! EarthCam has a feed from Steam Town. Check that one out! :)
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:17 AM on July 20, 2017

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