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View Full Version : All In A Day's Railfanning


dns860
08-19-2004, 03:30 AM
I was once again detained, questioned, and searched today. This time the New Rochelle, NY Police confronted me. It happened on Memorial Drive near the New Rochelle Metro-North Station train station. Three police cars, five officers, and one snarling German shepherd arrived on the scene - including a vehicle from the Critical Incident 'SWAT' unit.

When they got out of their cars they cautioned me not to make any sudden moves. As a team they systemtatically took from me and went through my belongings, patted me down, and took apart my camera. They were dismayed when they found the flyers for the Amtrak and Trains magazine photo contests. They couldn't believe a Federal agency was sponsoring a railroad photo contest, and implied that maybe I'd made up those flyers on my home computer. Both chagrined and exasperated, they passed the flyers back and forth to each other and made faces. "Do you believe they'd do this?" one officer asked. "Nah, I doubt it!" replied another.

While a few of them went through my things, the other two questioned me. One of them fired questions at me at a rapid, angry-sounding clip, while the other was nice and spoke to me politely. I felt like they were trying to confuse me and make me trip over my own statements, as if they were searching for a lie. Of course everything I told them was consistent, because everything I told them was true.

They really lost enthusiasm when they found and read the newspaper article about me and last month's similar incident with the Mount Vernon Police. I carry that article with me all the time now.

I missed my bus, and the people passing by eyeballed me, and I felt somehwat embarassed. The searching and questioning continued. But nothing in my belongings was illegal by any account, nor were the photos on my camera's memory card. They went through all 102. Fortunately they didn't erase them. Eventually, they were satisfied that I was being honest with them and the mood seemed more relaxed.

They asked me to understand that they didn't want to hassle me. Unlike the Mount Vernon Police, they didn't tell me to go home or stop taking pictures. They just said that I would be investigated further, and that I ought to consider a new hobby for the time being, unless I enjoyed being searched and detained. They also told me why they confronted in the first place. It turns out they were responding to a call made by a passing female motorist. She had seen me as I was taking pictures of the New Haven Line from the Memorial Drive overpass. I was already done with taking pictures at that point. I was actually just killing time waiting for a bus home. That's where they rolled up on me, at the bus stop. And, concerned by my actions, this woman called 911. Hence SWAT unit, the flashing lights, and the snarling dog, I suppose...

On an ironic note, this morning I played a role in saving a track worker's life, and I have the photos to prove it. The man was walking between the rails on Track Two at Fleetwood Station. He was wearing a reflective orange vest and a hard hat, and was obviously a railroad man, so I wasn't concerned. He just kept walking back and forth on the track, counting. I don't know what he was counting, but when I said hello he just nodded and I got the feeling I was distracting him.

But then, in the distance behind him, a Genesis unit leading a northbound train appeared. It was bearing down on him awfully fast. I gotta say, watching this unfold through my viewfinder, the first thing I thought was, "What an awesome photo op! Look at that huge speeding locomotive and this cool, calm worker standing with his back to the train like he knows exactly what's going on!"

But then, it became all too apparent that this track worker was unaware of the approaching train. I feel guilty saying so now, but I actually was mad! I had to give up a perfectly great loco shot to warn this guy! All in a day's railfanning, right? I lowered my camera, and I called out to him as loud as I could. He looked up at me, and just at that same moment the Genesis engineer started blowing the locomotive's horn.

Let me tell you, that train was really close behind the trackworker at that point, and his back was still turned to it. I'd say the train was closing in on him at at least 40 mph.

If he didn't hear me, he heard that train's horn! He reacted instantly and with admirable quickness, and when he hit the ballast he kept running. Remember, he'd been walking on the ties right between the rails!
I really give him credit for his deft reaction. He didn't even stop to look over his shoulder, or to yell back at me asking what the hell I was screaming about. Nope! He just jumped off that track! He knew! That train horn was loud, which meant it was close! He just jumped, smooth and calculated, and I think he just knew he was jumping to save his own neck. I mean it when I say he reacted just in the nick of time! It was incredible, like he was playing chicken with this speeding train. I've never seen anything like it! I don't know about him, but my heart was pumping fast! It was a really close call!

There was nobody around the station but him and me. Did my being there as a railfan make a difference? A positive difference? Did he hear me calling?

I sure felt relieved when the train sped past him and he was safe. The guy evidently was speechless too. In fact, he just went back to whatever he was doing, counting ties, and acted as if nothing had happened, as if it was all in a day's work. The photos tell a different story, however. It was friggin' scary!

I wonder if I should post these photos. I wouldn't want this guy to catch any trouble.

David Sommer
Mount Vernon, NY

Ween
08-19-2004, 07:05 AM
The man was walking between the rails on Track Two at Fleetwood Station.

Man, that John Witthaus gets around!!!! :lol:

As far as getting detained and searched, maybe you should bring this to the attention of Sen. Clinton. Maybe send her a box of cigars to sweeten the deal... :wink:

dns860
08-19-2004, 07:42 AM
Mr. Witthaus was pictured between two tracks. This track worker I saw today was walking along on a track, between the rails, with a live third rail to his right. He could only jump to the left to get off the track safely. But there he was, just whistling dixie and counting ties or whatever, with his back turned towards a fast moving train.

Cigars to sweeten the deal, indeed! :lol:

Dave

Warren
08-19-2004, 01:30 PM
Wow David that wouldn't be fun going thru that! :shock: What do those people calling the police think you are doing? They probably imagin themselves on the Opra show as heros. :lol:

At least post the photos of the track worker here in the forum.

dns860
08-19-2004, 01:35 PM
Yeah, how do you guys insert pics in a post? (...he asked quietly, embarassed by his own ignorance...)

:(

Dave

Warren
08-19-2004, 01:59 PM
Well you have to have a place to host your images then you link to them. Like my stupid license plate signature or any other photos I might show in the forum are hosted at a place called boomspeed.com. There are many other places to host photos as well and some are free for a small amount of space. Then once you have a place you link to them by inserting the address of the photo in between the IMG tags and it might looks something like this www.boomspeed.com/youraccountname/photoname.jpg

And that's how we do it. :)

dns860
08-20-2004, 04:01 AM
Workin' on it! TTYL!

Dave

dns860
08-20-2004, 08:05 PM
I changed my mind. I changed it back. Who knows how I'll feel about it in the morning?
Maybe it was just my imagination...

www.geocities.com/dnsommer/fwdnm1.jpg

www.geocities.com/dnsommer/fwdnm2.jpg

www.geocities.com/dnsommer/fwdnm3.jpg

Chessie4033
08-23-2004, 06:15 AM
They just said that I would be investigated further, and that I ought to consider a new hobby for the time being, unless I enjoyed being searched and detained.

But, why should you change? If you decide to concede your rights or your rights are taken away, don't the terrorists win? I'm sure it would be interesting to see the cop's face when confronted with that question. The answer would probably be amusing, too.

cmherndon
08-23-2004, 06:34 AM
But, why should you change? If you decide to concede your rights or your rights are taken away, don't the terrorists win? I'm sure it would be interesting to see the cop's face when confronted with that question. The answer would probably be amusing, too.

You have an excellent point there. If any of us give up our right to shoot trains, which technically can be tied into the first amendment right of freedom of the press, the terrorists have won. Granted, a lot of us who post photos to the site are rail enthusiasts, but some of the photos on the site have been used in publications, advertisements, and the like. I don't know about anyone else here, but I get kinda pissed when someone tries to violate my Constitutional rights.

Warren
08-23-2004, 12:56 PM
:shock: Wow Dave that was close! :shock:

dns860
08-25-2004, 03:27 PM
It was a close call, wasn't it?

I've been thinking that maybe it's not the guy's fault at all. Aren't slow order forms or some other kind of forms filed when there are workers on the tracks? Maybe the track he was walking back and forth on was supposed to be out of service on his account. It was after rush hour, and there were two other tracks available for the four or five hourly trains that pass that location during the middle of the day. Wouldn't somebody have had to known that he was out there?