Old 11-18-2005, 11:57 AM   #1
Christopher Muller
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Default Railfanning mishaps

Just wondering what list members have encountered in the field as far as a "mishap". Just wondering what bad luck stories railfans have.

For me, a few come to mind.

1... Backing on to a service road, and part of it washed away in a flash flood the week before. The back of my car fell in where a culvert was, a tow was needed. This occured in Iron, Minnesota while fanning the DMIR.

2... Having the battery leak and break on my truck, again, while in Iron, Minnesota, railfanning the DMIR. This required a family member to drive me parts and a battery to get if fixed.

3... Getting stuck in Superior. I drove down a plowed service road, I was unable to get up the very slight grade. I thought of what to do, and ran to the tracks a "borrowed" some ballast and shoved under the tires, believe it or not, it worked.

4... I have also gotten stuck in a snow drift in Eveleth. I was able to rock my car out, that was very lucky considering the snow was nearly as deep as the wheels on the car.

I just got to thinking about it since we have snow again on the ground in Minnesota. I hope the railfanning season of '05-'06 can be flawless and require no tows.

What war stories do you have?
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Old 11-18-2005, 12:33 PM   #2
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Last summer a friend and I were camping out trackside. A rail grinder or some giant MOW vehicle came creeping down the tracks making lots of noise at 4:30 am. It was also lit up and gave off an orange glow in the somewhat foggy/misty pre-dawn sky. It was downright surreal, and actually pretty frightening to wake up to! We didnt go back to sleep, instead we packed up our tent and got on our bikes and rode into town for a very early breakfast.
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Old 11-18-2005, 12:35 PM   #3
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Probably the only "mishap" that has occured during railfanning was during a cab ride on the Luzerne & Susquehana with an engineer friend of mine. Trip was cut short cause the locomotive derailed in Coxton yard.

There was a close call once. When the above friend worked for the Virginia Southern, I was riding shotgun on a night trip south with about 30 cars of coal. We begin to cross a bridge, when suddenly I notice that all the spikes on the bridge were pulled out and laying next to the rails. Apparently the contracted track crew that was working on them either forgot to put them back in or failed to let RR management know they were still working on them. Either way, my friend and I held our breath for quite a bit. One wrong move and that rail could have slipped and either we would have went over the side or many of the cars would have.

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Old 11-18-2005, 01:53 PM   #4
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1. I have had flat tires many, many times, the best being a blowout near East Saint Louis in an area frequented by hookers. We pulled into an access road to the old stockyards complex and found someone in a truck "having a friendly conversation" with a female companion. Sorry, but I had to get out and do some jacking of my own. As they say, it's a business doing pleasure with you.

2. I was stuck in snow once when the snow covered a big truck rut next to the pavement. I could not see until I was in it, nor did I know the pavement took a slight turn since the road was covered. That one took a call to my dad to drag me out, who was just thrilled to come his dumbass teenage son at 11 p.m. on a work night.

3. I was riding a train that derailed. I would have had to find out own ride home, or walk 30 miles, but the crew was able to get the engine back on the tracks, though they had to leave the cars.

4. I got stuck in a small depression on the ground when the front tire dropped into it and the back wheels did not have enough weight on the ground. We finally found a chunk of railroad tie to put under the front tire when jacked up, and simply drove right off of the tie onto level ground.

5. I broke an alternator belt, managed to limp home before the battery gave me its last gasp, though it ended my day of railfanning.

6. I've had ppeeding tickets, never actually chasing a train, though. It's just been to and from locations where I am not paying attention.

7. We got hung up on almost level ground that was iced over. We had to make a little ballast traction to get moving, and once moving, no problem. It was cold as hell, but I stayed in the heated truck to drive out while two wonderful friends of mine braved the cold and put rocks under the tire.

8. Trying to drive, eat Toxic Bell, and chase a train simultaneously is always good for a mess, and I have done that several times. The mess is normally made both on me and the vehicle. I do have a food catcher under my chin which keeps the truck somewhat clean. That food catcher is known as my gut.

9. There have been many, many, many surprise diaper bombs, the kind where a smelly smear of greenish poop comes out and up the back, out the legs, up the front, you name it. Those were not mine, by the way, but my kid's.

10. A friend and I got locked in the Monticello Railway Museum. We stopped by one afternoon to check the place out, parked, and asked some guys working there if we could look around. They said the place was ours, knock yourselves out. When we got back to the truck, which was parked right by their vehicles, we noticed they were gone. When we got to the front gate, it was locked. I tried to drive up and over the tracks, which would have allowed for an easy out, but could not get over the rail because the tires slipped on the ballast. We walked around, found a place we could drive to get over the tracks, then drive through the grass to a nearby road. When we got to the truck to do this, someone by coincidence was driving by on a neighborhood street, and he happened to have a key to the museum.

11. There are probably many more, luckily nothing major, mainly just annoyance type things.
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Old 12-07-2005, 01:51 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 4kV
1. I have had flat tires many, many times, the best being a blowout near East Saint Louis in an area frequented by hookers.
You got directions to that area?
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Old 12-07-2005, 03:46 AM   #6
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You don't want directions to these hookers! Most of them are named Tyrone! I have some funny stories about the "Tyrones" when I worked for the Ambulance company that served E. St. Louis. But definately not fit for these pages! (when business was slow by the stockyards hey call the "CABulance" to have you run them downtown then refuse treatment when they get to the hospital and walk out. Nothing like honest hard working law abiding taxpayers helping to support this lowlife crackhead lifestyle.
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Old 12-07-2005, 06:07 AM   #7
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Years ago when I lived in PA., I was chasing an EL freight pulled by several
"F" units-- I got quite a ways ahead of the train and found a good site between the tracks and the river to use the last light of day to my advantage-- Got set up, the train came by slowly with the crew waving and blowing the horn-- About 40 cars had gone by when the train stopped, blocking the crossing on this dead-end road-- After waiting about 20 minutes and realizing there were no sidings or spurs in the area, I drove on a dirt road as far as I could which got me within about 250 feet of the power-- The crew was friendly and I asked them why they stopped-- They went dead on hours and were waiting for a taxi to pick them up-- I told them I was trapped on a dead-end road, and couldn't leave-- They said: "Sorry, we can't move the train." Another crew wasn't due until the next day-- After making numerous suggestions and comments about my Ford 4WD, and what it could or couldn't do, they let me sweat for about 20 minutes-- Then they both started laughing and said if I gave the conductor a ride, they would break the train at the crossing and let me out-- I agreed, and the crossing was cleared-- I got into my truck and told the conductor he had to hoof it back to the power-- After he walked about 3 car lengths, I turned around and picked up a very pi$$ed off conductor-- The engineer got a good laugh out of it, but the conductor had lost his sense of humor-- Great idea for a thread-- Regards, da Gator
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Old 12-10-2005, 03:15 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Save The Wave
You got directions to that area?
Ha! Yeah, I can tell you how to get there. I'm not sure these are the type you want, though, unless you are in the kind that look like strung out herion addicts. There was also transvestite male who used to don a blond wig and gold dress right in that area. I haven't seen him/he/she/her/it/whatever, in a long time. It's a great area.
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Old 11-18-2005, 01:53 PM   #9
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Nothing major:

- I highsided my car on a crowned gravel road and had to be 'rescued' by the CSX crew who was waiting on westbound traffic. Saved alot on tow fees, that's for sure.

- I jumped a curb watching the H&E Geep doing some switching. Bruised ego, especially since I had some cars behind me.

That's it (knock on wood)...
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Old 11-18-2005, 02:39 PM   #10
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Old 11-18-2005, 02:41 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ween
I highsided my car on a crowned gravel road and had to be 'rescued' by the CSX crew who was waiting on westbound traffic.
Might there have been UP engines on that train which intoxicated your mind with such jubilation that your focus on the road's local topography went adrift?
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Old 11-18-2005, 05:58 PM   #12
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One very windy easter day me and a group of people went for a walk along the tracks, some of us were on the tracks and some off, and a train was coming and we didn't know because of the wind. My cousin said she was tired and wanted to walk back to the house from which we started. She turned around and saw the train coming straight at us. We were able to get off the tracks JUST in time. Back at the house there was a group of people(my aunts,uncles and cousins, etc. that were having an outdoor party) staring at us. When we did get back, we got an "earful".

If it wasn't for my cousin, I wouldn't be here today.
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Old 11-18-2005, 07:25 PM   #13
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Well, I can't say that I've ever been stuck in the mud/snow/whatever, but there was the time that I suffered a total vehicular electrical system failure. In other words, the alternator bit the dust.

I had left earlier that morning to go shoot the CSX (first mistake) south of Corbin since I hadn't been down that way in a while. After a few hours of trying to find all the trains that the AQ dispatcher was talking about I decided that it was nothing more than a wild goose chase, and started to head over to Oneida to shoot NS.

The car started to have problem after both the blower and radio quit. I think to myself, "This is not good." About 4 miles north of LaFollette, TN on I-75, the alternator finally dies. So I start walking to the next exit, but someone was nice enough to give me a ride there. I call the house and explain what happened. It'll be "a while" before anyone gets down there so I figure there's nothing else to do except go get something to eat and then sit on a bench and drink Gatorade (because water sucks).

About 6 hours later, my mom and stepdad show up with the truck and a trailer to haul the car back home. Amazingly nobody was upset. We get back home around 11:45 pm. I left the house that morning at 6:45. So, I was gone roughly 17 hours, saw one train, and left with zero pictures.
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Old 11-19-2005, 02:41 PM   #14
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I forgot to mention my worst railfanning mishap.

I met two railfans on the Iron Range, one was from Chicago and the other from L.A., being the native boy to the area, I played "host" for the day. We bagged several trains, and got some good shots, enjoyed a diner.

The day was starting to wind down, it was May 09, 2003, one day before the CN take over of the DMIR. We were shooting all day, a storm came in, and we were on the highway 33 overpass, shooting a northbound limestone train. A short time later, the wind came up, and a tornado warning was issued. We quickly left the area, and found a bar/grill to have dinner. We ate and left to return trackside as the storm cleared and it was dark. We took some night shots.

Anyways, the tornado had knocked out power to the area. Once the power was reconnected, a capictator (blah, technical thing) it exploded and sounded like 40 shot guns going off at the same time. A short time later, five St. Louis Co cars and an Evelth police car rolled up, we were taken down nearly at gun point. It was hard explaining to the officer what we were doing. Finally, the power company rolled by, and we told them to ask them, their story corraborated with ours, and we were left to take pictures.

When the officers were leaving, they were lauging and told their dispatcher they would call with the details, they wouldn't believe what these yahoos were doing.

Last edited by Christopher Muller; 11-19-2005 at 03:47 PM.
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Old 11-22-2005, 05:32 PM   #15
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Default Blowouts

2 come to mind immediatly and both involve railfanning witht the same person (Gee Pat maybe YOUR bad luck!)
1st time was entirely my fault. Was driving around Granite City, had just come past A.O. Smith yard when I must have nodded out (SHEESH) and hit a good sized (OK It could have swallowed my Escort!) pothole! Thanks to the animal control facility where it happened we were able to borrow tools to get the tire changed.
#2 was coming home from somewhere in the middle of 0'Dark hundred when I was on I-55 at Litchfield/Gillespie Il. interchange when the left front blew out on the Olds. Still ended up walking a bit to a station where I had to borrow tools (Once again) to get the tire changed.
Just remembered this as I was typing and doesn't involve a flat or that I was even driving BUT once again Pat (Getting the theme here?) was with us. This one involved the Reverand Spiv and thinking that a ditch would make a nice place to turn around at. His quote "I thought there was a road there" I drove home from there with no other encounters. This was around Centralia, Mo coming home from Bucklin and driving along the old GM&O.
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Old 11-22-2005, 10:48 PM   #16
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I could probably wright a novel..or at least a hefty volume of pulp fiction, on this subject. Getting stuck (that seems to happen a lot, even with a 4x4)...getting lost (not so much)..blowouts at speed, interesting run-in's with local yocals (steam train a coming??..sure..be here in 5 mintues) dropped camera, slips..trips...falls....

One specific (and embarrassing) thing that comes to mind is the time I got my old dodge truck stuck. Several years ago (10 or 12 at least) I went on a solo night photography trip on the NS. About 0200 on a dang cold winter night, I had shot a few time exsposures of trains coming through the cut at Kings Mountain KY After I had finished, I loaded up the truck, pulled onto a sideroad and went to turn around in a old abandonded gravel driveway that I had used countless times in the past.. I swung around, backed into said driveway..and BLAM..rear of thetruck dropped about 3 feet and the rear wheels where just spinnng in mid air. Seems that someone had taken a backhoe and dug a 6 or 7 foot ditch across the driveway. Truck was resting on the frame and driveshaft..and there was NO way i was getting it out without a towtruck...

Now, here I am stuck in the middle of nowhere (and this was before i had a cell phone) and I decided that knowing the kind of folks that lived around there, I wasnt going to go knocking on doors in the middle of the night. A cold 3 mile walk was made to a little country store and a payphone..called a buddy to come rescue me, and had a nice $100 tow bill the next day...but the pics came out decent
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Old 02-27-2006, 08:42 PM   #17
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Suspensful story, Dave. Thanks for sharing, it kept me on the edge of my chair!
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Old 03-07-2006, 02:41 AM   #18
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On Feb 02-06 I was heading into town from Magna in the early afternoon. The sky was cloudy all over, then suddenly the sun came out and lit up the area pretty good, and shone some sun under the clouds hanging over the Wasatch front. I made a split-second decision to go to the rail road tracks at 5600 west in West Valley, Utah. On the west side of the road there was a field that had recently been cleard of weeds and such. Due to the rain, the field was muddy.. I had this idea that I could cruise across the mud up close to the ROW where the ground was more solid, as I got out into the field a ways, I realized I wasn't going any further. Even with Four wheel drive.

My truck was stuck in the mud for two days.. I ended up digging around the wheels, jacking up each wheel and putting rocks underneith till I could drive out, thankfully, the field had dried out enough to get out.

When I went there to actually drive my truck away, there was a train leaving the intermodal facility, and a railroad security guy was up on the signal inspecting a train as it left (I only knew this after I asked him what he was doing). His truck was up by the tracks, and he said he was nervous about even drivning up by the ROW with his vehicle, even though the ground was much more solid there.
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Old 03-07-2006, 02:44 AM   #19
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LOL you're lucky it wasn't deeper or it could have been it's new permanent home.
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Old 03-07-2006, 02:53 AM   #20
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It was stuck up to it's axels on the back, completely high centered, I spent a good 5 hours digging on it (that included digging at it very early saturday morning from 1.30 to 3.30 a.m.)
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