MWR - railfanning the Mountain West!
About Mountain West Rail & Paul Birkholz

Every once in a while I get an e-mail or am asked by other railfans "So, how did Mountain West Rail get started and when did you become a railfan?"  OK, so it's not exactly like that, but you get the idea.  The simple answer is I was running out of space on my regular internet account and wanted to create something a little more detailed.  Plus, you can't get much into 5 MB of space and I really dislike the web addresses they provide.  So, the obvious choice was to create a site where I could store everything in one place with a simple name.  I already had a small company called Mountain West Group so it seemed like an obvious extension of that internet company to create Mountain West Rail on May 20, 1999.  Plus, MWR was descriptive of the area I wanted to cover.  Then, it turned into something much larger which you find here, but that's another story.

The long answer relates to when did I become a railfan?  I think it had to be around the age of two or three and I had those great footy pajamas.  Remember footy pajamas?  Why don't they make those for big kids?  But I digress.

Anyway, in the image to the right, I can't be much older than two or three.  This was probably the first exposure to trains that I remember.  The guy with the groovy sideburns is my dad, Dr. Dick Birkholz, and this is our first layout.  It was a couple glorified loops of track but it was fun and I would always try to weasel out of bedtime to continue playing with Dad and the trains.  I was usually successful.

I'm not sure where my dad found his interest in trains but my grandfather worked for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe for a few years in Argonia, Kansas before he became a farmer in that same community.  That had to have something to do with it.

My mother, the late Sue Callaway Birkholz, also enjoyed trains.  She grew up in Milton, Kansas where she could see the railroad pass by across a wheat field.  One Christmas she received an American Flyer passenger train set and I guess from that point she was hooked.  I'm a little older in the image to the left and we're playing with Dad's Lionel set that he got when he was a kid.  Both of these train sets still run and every once in a while make their way around the Christmas tree.

So, not only did these two people help influence who I am today but they also sparked my interested in railroads and I never grew tired of it.  I was born in November of 1973 in Sheridan, Wyoming which is located on the northwestern corner of the Powder River Basin at the base of the Bighorn Mountains.  I grew up with the big green machines of the Burlington Northern and will always be partial to them.  We never missed a chance to go down to the depot and see what was in the yard.  Still don't either.

You're still reading?  Well, I might as well tell you a little more about myself.  After graduating from high school in Sheridan, I attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence and received degrees in both Architectural Engineering and Architecture.  I like living in the west much more than Kansas but it was great to see all those Kansas Basketball games in Allen Fieldhouse and railfan the Kansas City area.  You can tell why I went there....
After college, I found employment with an architecture firm in the Vail Valley of Colorado which gave me plenty of opportunity to railfan along the former Rio Grande and catch the last signs of that railroad in Colorado and Utah.  To the right is myself and conductor Woody Woodward sharing a friendly wave this past November.

I am now back in my hometown of Sheridan working for a local design firm and enjoying not living in a resort town anymore.

MDVRO-19 - Nov 19, 2000 - image by Todd Busse
I also travel to other parts of the Mountain West on a regular basis including Montana where my wife's family lives.  I'm recently married and I'm sure that will bring many changes, but I won't quit railfanning,  Yeah, I hear you laughing, everyone does when I say that.  I've been a railfan for over twenty years now and I don't see that ever ending.

I hope you enjoyed this little bio, now click one of the states below and go railfan the Mountain West with me.

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