Old 04-04-2008, 07:43 PM   #1
Rich K
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Default What concerns you the most?

Along with the enjoyment we get from railfanning there exists some inherent risks and dangers. There are a number of ways our personal safety can be compromised while we are in search of the next shot. While most of us likely do not think about such things in the heat of the moment, have you ever considered some of the down side to railfanning, especially if you railfan alone in places off of the beaten path?

There is the possibility of crossing paths with an unsavory character who might view us as a target for robbery or mugging, or worse. A careless step, a fall, in some cases a chance encounter with an animal, all can do us harm.

Then there is the chance of being injured by objects falling/flying of of the trains themselves, not to mention what might happen if there was a derailment.

I think for me what concerns me the most is the possibility of being preyed upon by someone looking to rob me. I sometimes become so immersed in what I am doing that I tend to not notice what's going on around me, which makes me vulnerable to such an attack.

Late last summer I happened upon a homeless person as I was walking along a bank above a railroad right of way. He literally popped up out of some heavy vegitation where he had been sitting on a rock. I must confess there was an uneasy moment or two as we each sized up the situation. At 6'1" tall and about 220 pounds I was considerably larger than him, but even so it made for a somewhat unsettling encounter.

What is it that concerns you the most while you are railfanning? Have you ever had a bad experience along these lines while doing the things railfans do?
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Old 04-04-2008, 08:15 PM   #2
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I'd say for me would be the event of an object flying off, or a derailment along pretty much the only "high speed" Class 1 main that I fan (CSX Chicago Line between Erie and North East, PA). At least one place that I frequent is one of those "public" places that is only a controlled siding width off of the main, plus there is a cross-over a 100 yards or so away. If an EB spilts a switch there, you better be wearing your Nikes.
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Old 04-04-2008, 08:48 PM   #3
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I would say running into someone who is hanging around the rails for a different reason than myself is my number one 'fear'. I am well armed if I am near or in my car but I'm a bit of a wanderer so occasionally I get out of range. I do carry protection if I know I will be away from the car for an hour or longer and I know I shouldn't be running into any people or police. I am not the most threatening individual but I have freaked a few people out with my tantrums if I don't like the situation I'm in. Luckily, God blessed me with the gift of speed as well as a photographic eye so I can make quick getaways if need be.

Things flying off a passing train is number two especially after seeing the movie Final Destination. I always do a roll-by for the sake of the railroad and anyone else further down the line.
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Old 04-04-2008, 08:48 PM   #4
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At 6'-0" and 250+ lbs, it takes a few unsavory characters to ruffle my feathers.

The nearest I've come to really getting in a bind was the morning I planned to fan the nice curve in downtown Dallas, and this happened:


Courtesy WFAA


A gas supplier there had several propane tanks explode, and debris landed in the area where I would have been standing (arrow). Some folks on the forum suggested that I try another location, and for one reason or another, I didn't end up there that morning.
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Old 04-04-2008, 08:58 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EMTRailfan
I'd say for me would be the event of an object flying off, or a derailment along pretty much the only "high speed" Class 1 main that I fan (CSX Chicago Line between Erie and North East, PA). At least one place that I frequent is one of those "public" places that is only a controlled siding width off of the main, plus there is a cross-over a 100 yards or so away. If an EB spilts a switch there, you better be wearing your Nikes.
I know the feeling.

Personal circumstances have confined the majority of my railfanning trips to a popular spot in Berea, Ohio. The Station Restaurant allows railfans to park in one end of their lot, and as you can see from the shot below you are literally trackside even if you are sitting in your car. The track nearest the parked cars is a portion the CSX Short Line, and is rated for 60mph I've been told. If a derailment occured here it would be devastating.

A long time veteran of this area told me that a couple years ago a guy was hurt pretty bad when he was hit in the leg by a piece of brake pad that got launched from a passing train.

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Old 04-04-2008, 11:26 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich K
What is it that concerns you the most while you are railfanning? Have you ever had a bad experience along these lines while doing the things railfans do?
Most of my railfanning is done in the country, so I have little to no fear of any unsavory types showing up while I'm trying to get some pictures. I often do a bit of hiking to get some of my shots, so I think I'd be more worried about some crazy animal biting me, but even then, we don't have anything too aggressive around these parts. If I were in upper Michigan, I'd be concerned about bears, but there aren't any in lower Michigan as far as I know.

I'm not too concerned about a derailment or anything flying off of a train and hitting me. The odds are quite astronomical for me being in the exact place at the exact time when something like that happens, and I don't consider myself a particularly "lucky" person for such slim odds. haha
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Old 04-05-2008, 01:01 AM   #7
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Well I'm a small guy and one of the places I like to go to is in a part of town with a lot of interesting character to put it politly, so I'm always aware of who's around me.
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Old 04-05-2008, 02:57 AM   #8
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I'd say that the thing I am most concerned about while railfanning is the possibility of a derailment or a piece of equipment falling off a train and becoming a potentially lethal projectile. While the chances of this happening are extremely low (and I prefer to back away 50 feet or so from the tracks after the power of a train passes), the fact that trains run through most of my railfan locations at about 50 miles per hour can make it something to think about when you're trackside. Running into a rattlesnake or something similar is number two on my "list", but I don't spend much time in areas where these can be found frequently so I don't really consider it much.
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Old 04-05-2008, 03:06 AM   #9
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Well since we're headed to the Cumbres and Toltec this summer, I would have to say getting stuck between a derailed train bearing down on me and a rather high cliff. Either that or meeting an unfriendly wild animal somewhere on the line.
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Old 04-05-2008, 03:07 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ssw9662
Running into a rattlesnake or something similar is number two on my "list", but I don't spend much time in areas where these can be found frequently so I don't really consider it much.
Been there, done that, at Horseshoe Curve and Mitch knows what I'm talking about. I am a bit of risk-taker when it comes to wildlife since the two animals I have been bitten by are a snake and a prairie dog, but I am always cautious when in the woods. Ticks...yikes!
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Old 04-05-2008, 03:11 AM   #11
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I guess I would say some of the interesting characters that tend to be by the tracks that are not railfans.. 2nd would be getting back to one of my favorite spots where I have to park in a park that has a lot of lewd behavior, walk over a flood levy, then walk over a huge pipe close to the edge with a 16 ft drop, I'm always worried about falling off of that then anything else.
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Old 04-05-2008, 03:22 AM   #12
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My biggest concern is getting injured and not so much from debris or parts falling from cars as I try not to be that close or if I am, I am out of that spot after my shot, but more concerned with injuring myself getting somewhere. Back in December 3 of us were out and we were climbing some rocky ground. I got up to the top fine but while we were waiting and checking shot angles etc, I noticed a branch hanging in my photo just out of finger's reach. Grabbed the small tree by a branch to see if that would pull down the offending branch and *snap* went the branch I was holding onto and using to control my balance as I reached high. I lost my balance and composure and thanks to some quick hands and flailing, re-established a hand hold on something. It was a good 10 to 15 feet straight down onto the tracks and at 270 lbs, not an easy move for people.
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Old 04-05-2008, 03:33 AM   #13
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Flying debris is my biggest concern judging by all the crap I've seen lying around trackside. A chunk of coal or scrap metal flying off a gondola could really mess you up.
The only wild animals Ive seen so far are a few turkeys and a couple pheasant.
I'm 6' and if I'm in a remote area I always carry a buck knife should I be put in a compromised position.

When its nice out I'll walk the tracks behind where I work on my breaks. Occasionally I'll catch a CP,IC&E or DM&E unit cruising by. Today I walked down to check out an old siding about 60-75 yards down from the end of my building. As I approached the siding I noticed a quite elaborate tent complete with stove pipe vent out the side, and a clothes line with clothes hanging strung between 2 trees. It looked like somebody was home. Its nestled in the tree line and its a camo tent so I never really noticed it before. Theres a huge soccer complex directly adjacent so I'll call the Park District Monday and have him evicted. I think its the same guy that tried to get into our shop a couple weeks ago. When we called the cops that day they knew him by name, all he had on him was a half of a pint of rot gut whiskey and a half eaten hot dog. He was totally incoherent and belligerent. I feel bad for the guy but theres a lot of kids that play there. You just don't know.
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Old 04-05-2008, 03:40 AM   #14
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[quote=Andrew Blaszczyk (2)I am a bit of risk-taker when it comes to wildlife since the two animals I have been bitten by are a snake and a prairie dog, but I am always cautious when in the woods. Ticks...yikes![/QUOTE]

OK lets hear the prairie dog story.
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Old 04-05-2008, 04:17 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Damaged
Flying debris is my biggest concern judging by all the crap I've seen lying around trackside. A chunk of coal or scrap metal flying off a gondola could really mess you up.
I have a real nice piece of Powder River coal that I picked up trackside. It is one of many pieces that were pouring from the bottom of a coal car and bouncing along as the train passed at about 50 mph. Makes a nice paperweight.

A person standing within 20 feet of the track that day would have most likely been struck by some of this coal.
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Old 04-05-2008, 01:24 PM   #16
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I'd say my number one fear is animals. Not the wild variety necessarily, but rather, people's dogs running loose. When I stop to check out a photo site, my first order of business is a recon for loose dogs. Andrew mentioned smaller critters, like ticks. I have a relative who got Lyme Disease back before they were aggressive in treating it....bad thing to get. That's definitely something to check for when you get back from a day of chasing.

The number two fear? I chase steam equipment. Many of these engines are 100 years old or more and anything can happen. I think a derailment is my biggest fear, so I tend to stay back a bit from the tracks. Also, steam crews have been known to open the blow-down valves while cruising out in the boonies. If I happen to be by the tracks and they don't see me, that could be a bad day.

Overall, I try to maintain situational awareness and never get too far from my trusty rental car. After all, I am chasing and I need to be ready to MOVE!

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Old 04-05-2008, 05:44 PM   #17
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I guess I never thought about getting whacked by something coming off a train, but my biggest concern is other people...
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Old 04-05-2008, 07:09 PM   #18
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Since I usually fan out in the pine-scented boonies, my biggest fear is animals. Out here, they're wild. I've run into a fair few bears, innumerable elk, and one time I went around a large tree to find myself face to face with a large, luckily docile, moose. I always watch my steps and keep aware of my surroundings, especially during spring and fall (Bears with cubs, elk etc rutting)
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Old 04-05-2008, 07:31 PM   #19
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I generally try to keep an eye on the train when I am close in case something is hanging from one of the cars or something happens to fly off in my direction. I suppose I could be a little more careful about that but its just part of the danger that comes with the territory sometimes. I tend to be more careful about the people who like to hang out around the tracks in some of the areas I frequent. I carry a knife with me which helps clear any unwanted foliage as well as help deter anyone looking for trouble.
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Old 04-05-2008, 08:05 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Damaged
OK lets hear the prairie dog story.
In South Dakota, there happened to be a prairie dog "farm" where folks could go and see, pet and feed them. I think they are adorable creatures (animal lover) so I was having a grand ol' time feeding them peanuts which you could purchase inside the building. Well, I ran out of peanuts and went to pet one who was apparently still hungry so it chomped down on my finger which did not hurt at all and was pretty funny. I forgot to mention goat and horse to animals I have been bitten by in my original post.
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Old 04-05-2008, 09:13 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Blaszczyk (2)
Being armed...
Is that an artistic medium too? I've packed on my person once, but she's always "locked in my truck with my valubles" if some thug wants to escort me to get them.

As far as other people, I've only been concerned one time, which is the same time as the "once" from above. For some reason, Ytown, OH just scares me when I have been there. Only been there once to railfan and I was getting some looks from passers-by. I even saw the same car casing me out 3 times, and it wasn't an LEO. I made a trip to my truck after the second time they went by with 3 pairs of eyes glaring me down. Luckily, OHCR cleared the interlocking, and I cleared it too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Blaszczyk (2)
Prarie dog...
I was waiting for a story of how the prarie dog didn't want to cooperate for one of your shots, like the horse caption in your prof. pic.
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Old 04-05-2008, 11:35 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trainboysd40
Since I usually fan out in the pine-scented boonies, my biggest fear is animals. Out here, they're wild. I've run into a fair few bears, innumerable elk, and one time I went around a large tree to find myself face to face with a large, luckily docile, moose. I always watch my steps and keep aware of my surroundings, especially during spring and fall (Bears with cubs, elk etc rutting)
Gotta love this country! Do you carry bear spray?

Next to startling a bear, my biggest concern is me! Sometimes in a chase I might not be paying enough attention to traffic - the one car in five minutes that comes along just as I want to pull out. I am learning to pay more attention though.
I always carry my cell phone just in case of an incident.

The thing about the fears everyone mentioned is it hopefully keeps us alert.
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Old 04-05-2008, 11:36 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Blaszczyk (2)
I forgot to mention goat and horse to animals I have been bitten by in my original post.
The horse probably didn't like your long face
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Old 04-11-2008, 02:29 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Blaszczyk (2)
In South Dakota, there happened to be a prairie dog "farm" where folks could go and see, pet and feed them. I think they are adorable creatures (animal lover) so I was having a grand ol' time feeding them peanuts which you could purchase inside the building. Well, I ran out of peanuts and went to pet one who was apparently still hungry so it chomped down on my finger which did not hurt at all and was pretty funny. I forgot to mention goat and horse to animals I have been bitten by in my original post.

I suppose it looked like a peanut. I love animals too. Grilled that is. Probably not much meat on them.
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Old 04-21-2008, 08:50 PM   #25
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Being from a mostly urban environment, I come across alot of "ghetto" or "hoods" or "dawgs" or whatever you want to call them. I am worried that they may find the vehicle that me and my friend ride in, a red Mustang GT convertible, as a nice vehicle to steal. Also, when going to West Virginia and western Maryland, I always be careful of rattlesnakes.

As for objects flying off of trains - I have only seen it once. I saw a brake shoe come flying off a boxcar when it clattered over the diamonds at Greenwich, OH. Another thing you could count as an object flying off of a train, is the corn I saw leaking from a covered hopper. Bad? Yes! Good for the bird? Also yes!
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