Jack Traylor grew up in a railroad family in Kansas and always had a fascination with the rails, but spent most of his career as a history professor at Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn.
But since retiring in 2010, he's returned to that earlier passion. Traylor has become a conductor for the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum and is training to become an engineer.
"From age 3, the railroad excited me. I guess it's the size and the noise and just the whole atmosphere, but I just have it in my blood," Traylor said.
He remembers frequent trips on the train from Emporia to Topeka, Kan. His dad would take him to roundhouses and let him climb atop the diesel and steam engines, explaining to him how each one worked.
"I was just in heaven," he said.
As a conductor, he is responsible for everything that happens on the train. Safety is the first concern, and an encyclopedia-sized book holds regulations and rules that he must know and follow.
"This railroad is very strict on rules and I think that's good because it protects us all," he said. He wants to add to his job skills, and has almost completed his training to become a locomotive engineer. After that, he can fill in wherever he is most needed.
Traylor enjoys talking with passengers and co-workers who share his passion. The kids who have never been on a train are always excited, but he says the adults are often even more excited in a quieter way. He frequently talks to senior citizens who are reliving memories, although he finds that even many older passengers have never ridden a train before
"All ages really seem to gravitate toward trains," he said.