It is not often that our childhood fascination becomes our career. For freshman Drayton Blackgrove, however, this is a reality.
Blackgrove, film production major, is the founder of Delay in Block Productions, a locomotive filming company. He runs his own YouTube channel, and after receiving over 100,000 views on his most popular video, has become a viral sensation, gaining over 20,000 subscribers.
As a freshman at the university, he is in a balancing act managing a business and his studies all while continuing to make videos for YouTube.
Coming from a history of train operators and engineers, Blackgrove was enthralled with the art of locomotives from a young age. It was as if his passions were being lined up from the beginning — coincidently, the outfit he wore when his parents brought him home from the hospital had a train printed on the front.
Throughout the years, he would listen to stories of his family’s history with trains. These stories sparked his desire to learn more.
Around seventh grade, Blackgrove saved enough money to buy his first model train — the same one his great-grandfather ran during his career. This connection, along with his love for history, led him to start photographing trains.
“When you tell people that you love trains, they begin to think you’re weird, or that you only love Thomas the Train,” Blackgrove said. “For me, it’s more about the history. The history led me to begin shooting.”
As his love of trains evolved, he purchased his first video camera.
Blackgrove’s YouTube career began in middle school. After uploading videos to the channel DelayInBlock, his video of a well-known train in Ohio reached 25,000 views. This video traffic blew Blackgrove away, and he was approached by YouTube to place ads on his videos.
“My videos went from getting around 300 views to 25,000 hits,” Blackgrove said. “Which for me was a lot, considering the amount of people interested in watching videos of trains.”
Blackgrove is now able to pay for his education, and help others through his career, with the assistance of the profits from his videos.
“For some reason, God said, ‘I am going to give this passion to you, and it will touch your life and bless others,’” Blackgrove said.
In 2013, Blackgrove posted a photo of a car crash, caused by someone chasing a train, on his Facebook page. A comment on his business page was brought to his attention, leading him to Gavin Steel, a five-year-old who watched Blackgrove’s videos multiple times a day.
Steel is the only child in the world with cystic fibrosis, Digeorge syndrome and a heart defect simultaneously. Steel’s father contacted Blackgrove and told him how much of an inspiration his videos have been to his child. Their common love for trains brought the two together, and Blackgrove was able to set Steel up on his first train ride on a steam locomotive.
“I didn’t realize at the time that anything I was doing was good for anyone’s life or benefiting anyone,” Blakgrove said. “But here I am and I can see it now.”
This simple hobby allowed Blackgrove to share the gospel with the Steels and raise money for Gavin to attend an event for children with disabilities.
“I was able to share my testimony with his family and we stayed up until 5 a.m. talking about life,” he said. “Then I was able to tell them about Jesus.”
Blackgrove’s career was sparked by a simple passion. As an artist, he never imagined that this passion would be able to influence change.
“If you have something you’re passionate about, just go and do it,” Blackgrove said. “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. We might not change the course of history, but we can make an impact on the [people] we are close to.”