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My YouTube Story: Building a Brand of Railroad Media

By June 7, 2017Video

AboveI had the honor of sharing “My YouTube Story” at the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s annual “Conversations” Conference this April. Photo by Otto Vondrak, CRPA.

Since I was about 12 years old, I have been playing with cameras. From my parents Palm-Pre cell phone back in 2010, to my first experiences with TV-broadcast cameras on set during college, I have had a wide variety of experiences. For me, digital media is a passion I gradually learned to love. With my background and passion for railroading came this desire to capture what I was seeing on the mainline and then enjoy it for many decades thereafter. That simple desire led to forming my own production company, which has taken me to heights that I would have never imagined possible.

Below LeftSince its inception in 2011, the Delay In Block YouTube Channel has grown beyond all of my expectations.

In November of 2011, I formed Delay In Block Productions – a digital media company aimed at capturing the essence of railroad. At the time, I was in 9th grade and had no idea how to tell stories. The only thing I knew how to do (at the time) was capture what I saw and then would commence dropping the footage into my cheap, run of the mill video editor. My main focus was to share my hobby with the world and I did so with this amazing medium called YouTube. In fact, what inspired me most was YouTube slogan: “Broadcast Yourself.”

Beginning in 2012, I set out to create the most epic examples of capturing freight railroads in the midwest. My first goal was to have a channel that was interesting and had a general theme. That theme would be professionalism. In my hobby, there is a lot of crap posted to the internet every day – and I wanted to change that. Over that year, I took advantage of several great opportunities that allowed me to gain a large online following. These opportunities included filming the clean up of a large train accident in my hometown. That video received over 100,000 views on YouTube and brought a large following of subscribers to my channel.

By 2013, I had a small fan base. Continuing on with my goals, I was able to further gain in terms of my subscriber base by filming things my audience wanted to see. For instance, I would film special trains that I knew would receive more views than others. While doing so, I enhanced my skills by purchasing new equipment and learning new techniques. With the ability to produce better content, my audience kept growing to the point where I was able to make a substantial income, through advertisement revenue on my YouTube Channel.

In 2014, I met filmmaker Kelly Lynch. Lynch, a lifelong Fort Wayne resident inspired me. Since he was about five years old, he too had a similar interest in trains and his desire to capture what he saw led him to become a filmmaker. He branched out and not only filmed railroads, but dramas, TV commercials, and so on. His company, Lynchpin Creative, is one of Fort Wayne’s most wide known film production companies.

Below RightKelly poses for a portrait with the mighty 765.

His talents inspired and intrigued me, causing me to have a desire for film production and storytelling, rather than just the same old format I had been used to. Because of Kelly, I decided to take the next step and attend film school, where I learned how to better my story telling abilities. I had no idea where this venture would take me, but I knew I wanted to continue learning.

Over the last three to four years, many things have inspired me when it comes to the actual railroad. Whether it be the history, the locomotives, or the people who operate them. Indeed, railroads inspire us, as railfans, for many reasons. For a few, they are the very thing that makes life worth living. Enter Gavin Steel, the only child to be diagnosed with both Cystic Fibrosis and DiGeorge Syndrome. Connected through social media, Gavin’s father, Jason, reached out to me in 2014. In his message, Jason told me that Gavin loves watching my YouTube videos during his lengthy hospital stays and medical treatments. The long, sometimes painful breathing treatments that Gavin uses to clean his lungs can last for over thirty minutes, and my railroad videos help him pass the time. Being inspired by Gavin’s incredible story, an idea was born.

Through my relationship with the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Gavin and Jason were able to ride behind Nickel Plate Road 765 from Buffalo to Corning, New York in the summer of 2015. This was Gavin’s first real train ride – and what better way to experience it than behind a steam locomotive?

After riding behind the 765, our story was told by several local news stations. Through a GoFund Me Campaign and promotional coverage by the news stations, my subscribers learned about Gavin and were inspired to help raised enough money for Gavin and his family to attend Operation North Pole – an event that would change my life forever.

BelowWHEC News of Rochester, New York broadcasted our story on the evening news.

Operation North Pole is a Chicagoland non-profit organization that gives children with life-threatening illnesses a special train ride to a winter wonderland. The event is put on by Metra and Union Pacific, along with hundreds of volunteers, that include local fire and police first responders. Since 2014, I have had the honor of producing the official event videos for the organization. It’s an incredible experience to partake in Operation North Pole and I would encourage anyone interested in helping to volunteer or donate. You won’t regret it.

If there’s anything that this hobby has taught me from my experiences, I have learned that it’s all about the people. From non-profits who volunteer to hours of personal time to operate steam locomotives on the mainline, to the encouraging comments I receive daily from the over 30,000 subscribers I have on the Delay In Block YouTube Channel, it’s the people that make being part of this hobby so great. I am so thankful for the opportunities that YouTube has afforded me.

One of the most exciting things to happen in the last few months for me was being invited to speak as a presenter during the Center for Railroad Photography and Art’s annual “Conversations” Conference this year, which was held at the beautiful campus of Lake Forest College. In my forty-plus minute presentation, which you can watch below, you’ll learn about how I grew Delay In Block to become the brand it is today. From humble beginnings to my large and ever growing subscriber-base, Delay In Block has become a modern day brand, much like Pentrex in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.

About Drayton Blackgrove

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