“I realize that that guy in the window is now me”.
Logan in the fireman’s seat of the Green Train at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Photo by Nathan Brown.
Our stories here at Behind the Throttle have mostly focused on seasoned veterans of the railroad industry, with those folks having spent most of their lives working to their current position, and having thousands of hours of service under their belts. But this interview breaks from the status quo: Today’s highlight is of a man who despite his young age, already has a story to tell, and has much more down the line. With a highball signal given for his future, Logan Dahir has a life of railroading ahead. Today on Behind the Throttle, we meet Logan Dahir- The new kid in town.
Logan’s story began at the age of one when he was first introduced to a talking blue steam engine. Much like the author of this post, the famed show Thomas the Tank Engine got Logan hooked on trains. After his parents noticed his tireless interest in trains, they decided it was time for some exposure to the real life counterparts. Logan took his first train ride when he ventured to the Busch Gardens Williamsburg amusement park, and later would journey to Lancaster, PA, to see a real life Thomas. Here Logan was entranced by the sounds and sights of a real steam locomotive. As Logan explained to me, “From three years old I liked the sound and the smell of a steam engine”. Logan explicitly remembers his first encounter with the smell of burning coal, which remains a comforting aroma for him to this day. From there on out, Logan and his dad went to several other nearby railroad attractions to fuel Logan’s newfound passion. Soon, Logan’s interest in trains matured from Thomas to model trains, specifically O Gauge. He and his father would venture to Pennsylvania to go to the famous York Train Show twice a year, where Logan loved looking at the assortment of trains for sale, and scouted out models of his then favorite roadname, the Pennsylvania Railroad. As time went on, Logan’s interest manifested once more, as he began to focus on real trains and the history behind the legendary railroads that came before his time on this earth. Later, at another York show, Logan was introduced to Jim Stump, a board member at the Virginia Museum of Transportation. They began talking about the museum’s claim to fame, the N&W 611, and Logan learned of the plans to restore the engine to operating condition. After staying in contact with Stump, Logan soon found himself at the North Carolina Transportation Museum, where 611’s restoration was finally finished. Logan was starstruck at his first time seeing the 611, and fell in love with the magnificent locomotive. Soon the 611 would facilitate Logan to launch from being a simple onlooker to being part of a 21st Century Steam crewmember.
Logan poses for a photograph at the front of the Blue Train, his favorite of the three locomotives at Busch Gardens. Photo by Elisha Evans.
As 611 took to the mainline under her own power for the first time, Logan and a few friends decided to chase the move back to Roanoke. Logan snapped photographs the whole way, which he later sent to Jim Stump. Stump shared the photos with the rest of the VMT board, and before long Logan’s photos found themselves on 611’s website, Facebook, and just about everywhere else. In 2016, Logan was formally asked to take photographs by the VMT, and later in 2017 he was given his official employment status and was paid to join the 611 crew. Logan recounted working on these trips, as an overzealous 17 year old, who would “ leave school early on Fridays to get a head start on the chase”. In 2019 Logan once again found himself working with 611 at the Strasburg Rail Road when the small shortline called him back into action for more of his stellar photography work. All the while, Logan sought out a more permanent job that would give him his train fix during 611’s off season. He found himself working at Busch Gardens as a train conductor, and soon worked his way to being the engineer and the small scale steam locomotives that ran around the park. Working at Busch Gardens, while not bearing all too much resemblance to mainline operations, Logan still learned the basics of working on a steam locomotive, as the engines at Busch Gardens are propane-fired and steam driven. Additionally, through his time at the theme park, Logan was face to face with the general public, which gave him an opportunity to help share the wonder of trains and railroading with the whole world. Logan takes pride in that he created a lot of memories for younger kids at Busch Gardens, and hopes that he give rise to a newfound passion in some of them.
Logan smiles to a photographer onboard CSXT #3159, while on his second trip as a certified conductor with CSX. Photo by Mike Castellow.
In December of last year, however, Logan started down a new track. He hired out with CSX as a conductor trainee, and spent several months in training where he diligently worked to ace this new career and achieve a childhood dream. “It’s one of my life goals I can check off”, he explained to me. After a short while, Logan gained his certification and took his first trip out on the high iron as a conductor. Logan reminisced with me about the times that he would drive to his grandparent’s house when he was younger, parallelling a set of tracks and pacing the trains as they roared by. He recalled often waving up to the cab, and nowadays does the same from the opposing perspective: “I realize that that guy in the window is now me”.
As Logan continues to gain experience working as a conductor, he’s kept trains close to his heart with his HO models and his admiration for history. Trains have always been an important part of Logan’s life, both as a way to make memories and to create happiness. In 2011, the importance of trains in Logan’s life was emphasized when his mom passed away from cancer. Having a coping mechanism like trains helped Logan get through the hardships and kept his mind busy. For Logan, and many others, trains are much more than just a job: They are his passion, his lifestyle, and his future.
Left: Logan in front of his favorite steamer while she visits the Amish in Strasburg, PA. Photo by Alex Merrill
Thank you for reading this edition of Behind the Throttle, and thank you to Nathan Brown, Elisha Evans, Mike Castellow, and Alex Merrill for contributing photos. Tune in next time for an interview with Shelly Hall, a fireman and welder at the Strasburg Rail Road. For now, I am Max Harris, and thank you for your continued support of Behind the Throttle.