Old 02-09-2010, 04:22 PM   #1
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Default Where are the trains?

Ever since I moved to Durham, NC for college, I've hit the road a few times each semester to find trains in the rural parts right outside the city. Last month I got my first digital SLR and again I've headed out to enjoy the area and look for trains (hoping to get my first RP post). But despite my best efforts, I've never actually caught a train--I usually end up staring at the tracks. This may sound like the most novice question on this forum--but how do you guys do it? Do you carry timetables, or literally camp out in the hopes that a train will come by? I don't even know if the track I'm exploring is still active!
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Old 02-09-2010, 04:35 PM   #2
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That's not the busiest area. Your best bet is to go to downtown Raleigh where the NS and CSX share trackage, but neither RR is very busy there from what I can remember. Things may have changed though, its been several years since I have been in the area.
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Old 02-09-2010, 04:53 PM   #3
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I think that the best idea would be to consult Nick DAmato (Diamond D). I am pretty sure is is rather familiar with that area, and would likely be a very good source for info.

As for me, Railfanning goes like this:
When I get to go trackside (normally saturday afternoon or evening), I typically go to one of two places. The Amtrak Station here in town or a trestle, also close by. The station provides view of a signal, which is very helpful as I don't have a scanner. The trestle on the other hand is much more photogenic.
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On this line, train frequency averages one per hour. I wait trackside until one shows up. Simple as that. With the signal, I have much more warning, but the bridge is much better in terms of photo results.

Trains don't really have any set times at which they come, (normally) I do know that Durham has four daily Amtrak trains. These come at 07:22, 10:23, 17:24, and 20:04. You can check on amtrak.com to see if they will be on time, head out then, and be guaranteed a train. This can be very helpful.
Be governed accordingly,

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Old 02-09-2010, 07:20 PM   #4
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Use the net to your advantage. A Railpictures photography forum won't get you as much help as a YahooGroup or even another railroad discussion list. A few of us here are on the Carolina Rails list at YahooGroups --


I don't know Durham myself, but I bet more than a few folks there could get you pointed in the right direction.
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Old 02-09-2010, 08:03 PM   #5
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Your best bet anywhere is to get a scanner (either a cheap scanner from radio shack, or a better quality ham radio for a few $$ more), then you can hear the dispatcher planning the day, or hear the trains calling signals as they approach. It's not an easy area to photograph, a lot of places are treed in and/or have bad light during the day. But there's a lot of RR history here and I've come to find it very interesting.

I'll send you a PM with typical schedules, check my photo stream for some spots.

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Old 02-09-2010, 09:07 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by bondkid007 View Post
Do you carry timetables, or literally camp out in the hopes that a train will come by?
I used to spend hours a day just being near the tracks, and when I'd find a train, I'd chase it all day. Nowadays, I keep tabs on special movements through various yahoo groups, and some select friends in the know. I still don't mind to sit trackside for hours waiting on the scanner to crackle.

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Old 02-09-2010, 11:30 PM   #7
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What may help would be knowing what line you're on, so you can seek help by name. For shortlines, look online and find where their enginehouse is, and ask some local buffs when they run. Start in the big city, with a scanner and see what's moving. Then give chase. Hope you can benefit from us all and have some better luck.

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Old 02-10-2010, 01:11 AM   #8
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Thanks for all the advice, guys. I'm glad to hear there's no big secret I've missed about railfanning--no secret supply of timetables or anything. Just a little detective work and then the chase. I'll definitely give it a shot next weekend when the weather clears. In the meantime, if you have advice or could share how you would get started, please keep it coming!


Last edited by bondkid007; 02-10-2010 at 01:15 AM.
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Old 02-10-2010, 02:03 AM   #9
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You can get a pretty good bargain nowadays on a scanner that will totally do the job for you. My dad got the following one for $75 at a truck stop (it's $80 at Amazon). Granted, the Nascar logo makes it look a little cheesy, IMO, but it pretty much does the job just as well as the RadioShack model I use.


Oddly enough, right after he picked that up, we spotted a look-a-like to this in a dumpster:

Somebody's Bearcat 210 was almost gone for good but is now on a shelf next to my desk and still alive and kicking. With a new external desk-mounted antenna hooked up and 10 of my local channels (the whole capacity) programmed into it, I never have to turn on my handheld at home anymore. Never thought I would ever make use of a scanner from the 1970s.

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Old 02-10-2010, 03:05 AM   #10
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1. Do your research and know when the trains are coming.

2. Know what type of line your looking at (one in which you can stand by the tracks for 2 hours and catch some trains or one where you will need to trace).

3. Spend time, you won't catch the trains unless you look for them.

Fallow those 3 "rules" and you will see trains.
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carolina, durham, north, timetable, trainspotting

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