I was very saddened to hear about Alan this evening, and it's an understatement to say I'm still shocked. Alan was the lifeblood of the Amtrak Unlimited community since its inception; a good friend; a true advocate for Amtrak and for all those who loved Amtrak. This was far too early for him. Some quick thoughts come to mind and I want to share:
As PRR 60 said, I first met Alan here on AU roughly 18 years ago, when the site was an early version of what you see here today. Although the site began in 1997, I only added a discussion forum later - around 2000 - after we had decent traffic coming from search engines like Yahoo. Mind you, this was coming out of a time when listservs/mailing lists (and also, newsgroups and subscription services like Prodigy) had been the main method of railfan dialogue online, so it was a relatively new medium. The forum got maybe one or two new threads a day at the beginning, and then, very happily, Alan found it, joined - and stayed.
Alan quickly proved to be extremely knowledgeable, generous with his time, friendly, and helpful to both newcomers and experienced train riders alike. He could talk in simple terms to a first-timer, and yet also in great detail about everything under the sun (from Amtrak politics, to operations, to the travel experience itself) with the pros. When the volume of users steadily increased, and with several upgrades to the forum software, Alan was the clear and logical first choice to help me manage the community. He wholly dedicated himself to this as well as several other online communities, doing what he loved the most - bringing people together (virtually and in person) in the common pursuit of the passion of trains.
I have many fond memories of Alan's friendship and leadership, whether in person, on here, on IRC chat, over the phone, or otherwise. Behind the scenes, for years, we would discuss in great detail what to do about specific forum issues and controversies, and he always brought a thorough and considerate perspective. This only continued after we added more forum staff, and saw a significant growth in the membership over time. After I moved to the Northeast for college, I began seeing Alan in person several times a year - whether in Boston on his AGR points runs, or in NYC while I was passing through, or at any one of the Gatherings which he so much enjoyed planning and organizing. I remember the very first one in Chicago and what a fun success that was, and what an annual tradition it became. In fact, it seems like it was yesterday.
I would continue seeing and speaking with Alan frequently in DC over the years I spent at Amtrak, whether just to catch up or to arrange things for the community. Sometimes they were visits in the ClubAcela or even on the train, or at a station along the NEC. A fun memory was on an impromptu HQ tour one afternoon, he and I went into the elevator alone from the top floor, and who gets in next but Mr. Boardman. That was a long ride down for me - who had failed to sign Alan in as a visitor - LOL! The best part: Alan didn't realize who it was until we got out of the elevator. (Boardman was just wearing a shirt and slacks, and perhaps didn't look the part!)
Ultimately, I'm comforted by the fact that Alan was doing what he loved most, surrounded by his railfan friends, today. My life would have been much different without Alan - during an extended and very formative period - and I remain grateful to him for all of his contributions and commitment. Alan, if you can see this - Thank you.