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View Poll Results: What kind of railfanning do you usually do?
Wing it! Sit trackside and hope for something to go by. 20 32.26%
Advanced notice. I know whats coming because of schedules or other intelligence. 14 22.58%
Combo. I know about one train but the rest of the day is up in the air. 28 45.16%
Voters: 62. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 07-28-2008, 08:29 PM   #1
Andrew Blaszczyk (2)
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Default What kind of railfanning do you normally do?

A recent weekend trip with the family got me thinking about what kind of trips I usually take. I was sort of disappointed by the lack of "let's see what goes by" types of trips in the past few years as mostly everything I have shot was planned or scheduled ahead of time. With gas being so expensive it makes perfect sense that this is the norm for my brother and I so we don't waste $200 and get nothing in return, its comforting to know you can't mess up too bad when you know what time a train will be where. As time and money permits I do hope to take a few mainline trips in the next few months before heading out into the 'real' world. I know a few people here do this and are very successful so I'm hoping to pick up a few tips such as John Ryan's sunrise to sunset itinerary with time to rest in the afterlife.
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Old 07-28-2008, 08:34 PM   #2
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I certainly keep an eye on all of the Yahoo! Groups and local forums, but most of the time I just hope for good weather and spare time - I've done reasonably well so far.

Pretty soon I'll be obtaining one of those "scanners" that you all keep talking about... I hear those are helpful once in a while too.
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Old 07-28-2008, 08:39 PM   #3
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It's kind of a combo for me. I know the schedules for the Locals and many of the scheduled trains in the area, but coal/grain/re-routes are more of a crap shoot. Sometimes I get advanced intel on what's coming, but then again sometimes I'll get that when I'm already out and about winging it.

I guess bottom line is that if it's a sunny day, I'll be out if I can. If I know nothing's coming (from advanced intel), I won't venture out.
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Old 07-28-2008, 08:42 PM   #4
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Southwest Pa....coal fields.....schedule? What's that? But seriously, besides the norm around here, coal, and even though I do have a scanner I don't know schedules of the freight up north towards pittsburgh. The place I go, Homestead, see's all the mainline traffic both CSX and NS, so it's not a disappointing day.......


......if the weather is ok.

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Old 07-28-2008, 08:58 PM   #5
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I've never made an itinerary. I stay trackside, and whatever turns up, goodie.

If I have info concerning a special movement, I'll make an effort to be where I need to in time, although I usually end up chasing it from terminal to terminal anyhow..

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Old 07-28-2008, 09:07 PM   #6
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I get some advanced warning on the LA&SL stuff from TO and other sources. For the BNSF, I just wing it. Even on a slow period like last Friday and Saturday you're still going to see quite a few trains on the Transcon.

On my extended LA&SL outings, I'll go blind because after a couple hours, your info isn't as reliable and I can't get new information in the field anyway. Since the LA&SL gets about 12 trains a day, with about 9 regulars so I can kind of get a feel for what traffic is and what I can expect to see. Sometimes that backfires, sometimes I get lucky.

Starting in October I'll start doing my 24+ hour railfan marathons again, usually on the LA&SL. That way you pretty much can guarantee your rough train count, you just simply have to hope that more run in the day than at night!

BTW Andrew, what do mean by 'real' world?
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Old 07-28-2008, 09:17 PM   #7
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I am very, very new at rail fanning, so I have it all to learn. I cannot use a scanner/radio since I am hearing impaired (too garbled) so, I am slowly learning where and when on the BNSF from Phoenix to Williams and on the UP - Phoenix to points East and West.......... For now, since my office is about 150' off the BNSF, I look out my window when the ground starts to shake. If it is something good, like a 11 unit power move with 5 BNSF colors, I can "run" up Grand Ave for a shot.........


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Old 07-28-2008, 09:37 PM   #8
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You need an option for "Wander! You don't have the attention span to sit in one spot all day, so you head to the trains, instead of them coming to you." Since that's what I tend to do.
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Old 07-28-2008, 09:43 PM   #9
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Usually when i go out, i pick an area i wanna hit and sit and wait and listen to the scanner. Its nice to be in an area that has 2 Class 1 mainlines, and a bunch of shortlines. Always something to see.

Occasionally ill get info on a certain train movement and ill go out and try to catch him.

So i guess for me, it would be a bit of both.
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Old 07-28-2008, 09:53 PM   #10
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I do the railfanning that you go out and see trains....LOL No I wing it!
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Old 07-28-2008, 10:23 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slopes09
You need an option for "Wander! You don't have the attention span to sit in one spot all day, so you head to the trains, instead of them coming to you." Since that's what I tend to do.
That describes me to a tee. But I haven't done much railfanning per se in a long time. I spent five hours on the L&C a few weeks ago. That was paid for by the City of Cayce, SC for winning their calendar contest. I met up with a railfan in April and did the entire Aberdeen, Carolina & Western. I wrote up a trip report about the horrible luck I had in a post at the time. The last two times I really went railfanning was in February doing the Hamlet and surronding shortlines in the Carolinas and one night earlier this year when I shot the Charlotte Light Rail.

Now l;iving so close to two Class 1 yards, I do hit and run shooting every day or two. But it's never a long term, all day or even half day thing. Still interesting though and I sometimes get lucky with sun angles and such. And hopper scrapping!!!

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Old 07-28-2008, 10:41 PM   #12
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About 95% "intelligence," but once in a while I get lucky and catch a train that slipped by under the radar.
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Old 07-28-2008, 10:50 PM   #13
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I generally go to where I know a lot of trains will be and wing it from there, though I do know when some will come through, like locals. I also will chase the train if I know what's going on with it, like on the Cumbres and Toltec.
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Old 07-28-2008, 10:54 PM   #14
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I go to the Cass Scenic Railroad in the morning see whats going on if something looks interesting I may shoot it. So I guess my schedule is 11am,12pm,2:30pm .
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Old 07-28-2008, 11:44 PM   #15
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Most of the time I will take a look at ATCS before I leave the house, and then head off to the area the train is lined though, especially on the low traffic lines, then once I'm finished with that, I'll go and sit by some signals with the radio on, and generally move around depending on what I hear on the radio, or the signal indication.
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Old 07-29-2008, 12:59 AM   #16
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99% of the trains I shoot I know about in advance. I NEVER go out unless I know there is a train out there worth shooting. Going out and just 'wingin it' isn't worth it anymore for me. A few years ago it could work, but not now with almost every train having modern GEs leading. Dash 9s/GEVOs/etc. just do not interest me and I'd rather spend my free time doing other things.

I also bring along my laptop to keep tabs on the train(s) I'm after and to ensure that I don't miss them.
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Old 07-29-2008, 02:59 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slopes09
You need an option for "Wander! You don't have the attention span to sit in one spot all day, so you head to the trains, instead of them coming to you." Since that's what I tend to do.
Amen. Me too.
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Old 07-29-2008, 03:03 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike B.
I NEVER go out unless I know there is a train out there worth shooting.
Train worth shooting, or situation worth shooting? Would you pass up "storm light" because there are only GEVOs out and about?
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Old 07-29-2008, 03:22 AM   #19
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It's a real olio for me... as eclectic as it gets.

If something special is going on and I know about, I'll try to chase.

Other times, I'll get in the car and just nose around. I do keep a list of "Want to Have" shots in the car with me, and will poke around those spots at times, to see if today is the the day that I have a chance.

I really consider most things on fixed guideway as part of my hobby too (well, not elevators)... so I'll go hunt down the mall trolleys that we have here in LA, or the Getty Center people mover. Sometimes I'll head to a local museum, even if there is no event, for a chance to try and get some nice portraits of their stuff.

Frankly, I'm a moving target.
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Old 07-29-2008, 04:05 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris crook
Train worth shooting, or situation worth shooting? Would you pass up "storm light" because there are only GEVOs out and about?
I can't say for sure, but probably not. I've shot in storm light quite a bit this summer with good trains (a welcome change), so the only reason I would shoot a GEVO would be because I'm bored.
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Old 07-29-2008, 04:23 AM   #21
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I almost always know what's coming, but when I have time to kill, I'll head out and railfan anyhow. Hanging out at the tracks for an afternoon watching them roll by can be a good stress-reliever (though other days it's fun to wheel around town, shooting whatever the hot train is that day).
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Old 07-29-2008, 04:54 AM   #22
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I pretty much do the combo... whatever I can get. I wish I had more intel of suspected trains.
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Old 07-29-2008, 05:00 AM   #23
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90% of my shooting is very local, and depends on what I hear on the scanner and the light outside.

I get 2 Amtrak trains in good evening light in these long summer days, 1 each way, on the NS line about 1.5 miles from my apartment. Amtrak even tells me right when they're coming, pretty sweet deal.

I have been going down to catch them both every available day for the past few weeks. There's a lot of shooting options along this stretch of track and I haven't even begun to tap the various possibilities presented by changing light and "non-wedgie" techniques... it's been really helpful for me to make a point of "just doing it" in terms of becoming a more creative photographer and learning what works and doesn't work.

Like on this one, the sun had already set so I wasn't going to get the glint shot I've been trying for, but since I was already here and waiting, I figured I'd just try a pan. And it turned out to be pretty cool and something pretty different than the rest of my shots.

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Old 07-29-2008, 07:34 AM   #24
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CP here is SO BLOODY BORING that I only go out if I know there's something special, or if the light's -supposed- to be perfect and I have a shot or two lined up in my mind's eye. Then I get as much train movement information as possible, and fall asleep trackside between trains because I prefer to sleep in the early morning.
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Old 07-29-2008, 10:45 AM   #25
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These days its mostly the Combo option.

Unlike the 70's, when we had to rely on word of mouth, or begging information from a friendly railway employee, today (in the UK) we have excellent Internet sources to forewarn us of scheduled interesting moves. Many people subscribe to 'gen' mailgroups in order to send and receive up to date information via their cellphones and blackberries while out photographing.

If the light is special I might go out and wing it (as train frequencies in the UK mean you are virtually guaranteed to see something while the light lasts), but mainly I will target interesting workings. For example, there are 2 steam specials this week that I know about from the Internet. One tomorrow evening that I can get to after work, and one on Saturday that I can photograph both the outbound and return legs (but I have domestic duties as well, so won't stay out all day).
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