Railfanning and Trainspotting, like any outdoor activity, carries certain risks. However, railfanning has its own unique set of dangers that are important to be aware of in order to stay safe. Some potential dangers of railfanning include:
Getting too close to the tracks
Trains can be deceptively fast, and it can be difficult to judge their speed when they are approaching. Standing too close to the tracks can put you in danger of being hit by a train or hit by debris kicked up by the train.
Trespassing on railroad property
Railroads are private property, and entering railroad property without permission is illegal and dangerous. Trespassing can result in fines, arrest, and injury or death if you are hit by a train.
Falling or slipping
Railfanning often involves climbing on and around rocks, embankments, and other uneven surfaces. It’s important to wear sturdy, non-slip shoes and to be cautious when climbing or walking on uneven surfaces to avoid falling and injuring yourself.
Extreme heat or cold, thunderstorms, high winds, and other severe weather conditions can pose a danger to railfans. It’s important to check the weather forecast before heading out and to dress appropriately for the conditions.
Unpredictable behaviour of trains
Trains can be unpredictable, especially when they are switching tracks or moving through busy rail yards. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and to stay a safe distance away from trains and railroad equipment.
Overhead electrical wires used to power trains can pose a danger to railfans if they get too close. It’s important to stay a safe distance away from these wires and to never touch them.
Many railfans drive to their chosen location to spot trains. It’s important to obey traffic laws and to be aware of the potential hazards of driving near railroad crossings.
How to Stay Safe when Railfanning
Here are some tips for railfan safety when out spotting trains:
- Always obey all signs and signals: Railroad tracks are private property, and it is important to respect that fact. Do not trespass onto railroad property and always obey all posted signs and signals.
- Keep a safe distance: Trains can be deceptively fast and quiet, so it is important to keep a safe distance away from the tracks. Make sure to stand at least 15 feet away from the tracks and never stand on the tracks themselves.
- Be aware of your surroundings: Always be aware of your surroundings when railfanning. Trains can approach from either direction, and they may not always sound their horn or whistle. Be sure to stay alert and listen for any signs of approaching trains.
- Do not wear headphones: When railfanning, it is important to be able to hear any approaching trains. Wearing headphones or earbuds can hinder your ability to hear and can put you in danger.
- Watch your step: Railroad tracks can be uneven and slippery, so it is important to watch your step when walking near the tracks. Make sure to wear sturdy shoes with good traction.
- Use caution when crossing tracks: When crossing tracks, always do so at designated crossings. Look both ways before crossing and never cross when a train is approaching.
- Respect the train crew: Train crews have a job to do, and it is important to respect their space and not interfere with their work. Do not attempt to board or touch a moving train, and do not block the crew’s view or access to the tracks.
By following these tips, railfans can enjoy their hobby safely and responsibly. Remember, the most important thing is to stay aware and alert when near railroad tracks. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep a safe distance from trains and railroad property. Remember that your safety is your responsibility, and taking precautions can help ensure a safe and enjoyable railfanning experience.
Additional Safety Resources
There are several official guides and resources available to rail enthusiasts to help promote safety. Here are a few:
- Operation Lifesaver: This is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting rail safety. Their website has a variety of resources, including safety tips for rail enthusiasts. You can visit their website at https://oli.org/.
- Federal Railroad Administration: The FRA has a Railfan Safety page on their website, which provides safety tips for rail enthusiasts. You can visit their website at https://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0397.
- Amtrak: Amtrak has a Railfan and Railroad Safety page on their website, which provides safety tips specifically for railfans. You can visit their website at https://www.amtrak.com/railfans-and-railroad-safety.
It’s important for railfans to review and follow these safety guidelines to ensure their own safety and the safety of others around them.