Saturday, November 10, 2007

Trainspotting: A Beginning

My stars and garters, I've got a

Mission Statement!


1) To share good locations from which to watch and photograph trains in the Central Louisiana area
2) To help spread the fun of trainspotting to folks in and around CenLa
3) To bring to public awareness the surprisingly varied quality and quantity of freight trains that operate in and around the area.

Before I start sharing photos and talking about the locations I've found for photographing trains, let me say this in light of a man being killed in New Orleans by an Amtrak train:

I was lucky enough to have Thursday and Friday off this week, and spent most of both days in and around the outskirts of the Alexandria UP yard between Lee St. and I-49, and in the surrounding environs by the Mallin (Pineville, near Lake Buhlow) and Texamo (behind the Odom St. Post Office in Alexandria) control points. I was fully aware that I was trespassing on private property as all the areas are clearly marked as such, not to mention the common sense aspects of being near train tracks. Like most of us who trainspot I was basing my decision to 'gently trespass' on the grounds that I was fully ready to accept being asked to leave or ticketed for trespass, and that I was risking bodily harm. I try to use the Camper's Rule--leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos. And of course my Railroad Addendum--don't walk between the rails.

I took several really nice photos today while standing in the median (I can only assume that's the correct term for the 'clear' areas between active tracks because I'm still a n00b at 'spotting) while at least three engines were in operation at the outskirts of the UP yard today. I like to think that the friendly reactions I received from maintenance crew members and train operators alike who saw me was due to the fact that I exercised the same conspicuous level of care and judgment I use while riding my motorcycle on our public roads: I was constantly looking, listening, and making myself aware of my position, that of the engines and equipment, and keeping enough distance between myself and the equipment so that I could easily remove myself from problem areas. I fully understand the very real danger present every time I step onto a right of way: they may see me, they may not; they certainly can't stop on a dime to prevent injury to me, but just like operating that motorcycle, I make it my responsibility to keep my own hide safe at all times.

Plus, trains have the added benefit (to me) of not being able to leave the confines of their rails. If I'm standing on the grass verge where the maintenance vehicles drive a train cannot swerve unexpectedly into my path.

It's human nature to filter out noises, particularly repetitious or common ones, and this is a dangerous thing to be doing near a train. I keep my ears and eyes open constantly for horns or lights or ground rumble because that's the precursor to a photographic opportunity; I can see how other people wouldn't be so concerned. They're not packing a camera around with a hunger for That Next Great Photograph. The areas I frequent for photos are usually fairly removed from ambient vehicle noises but I can well imagine that a full interstate's worth of traffic could easily mask the tell-tale sounds of an approaching engine. In short, stay aware at all times when you are near railroad facilities or tracks, even if the track looks abandoned. Situational Awareness. Know what's around you, near you, know what's happening at all times. It's not the engineer's responsibility to keep you safe, it's yours.

And if you do happen to be detained by railway police or our own uniformed divisions I hope they'll be as understanding as the crews are: for the most part the Holy Trinity of Trains (Engineer, Conductor and Brakeman, amen) like to see people taking an interest in their jobs but when it comes right down to it, if you're standing on a right of way or in a yard or on a spur you're trespassing on private property. Be ready to accept the consequences of your actions.

And never, EVER forget your camera in the car. *g*

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5 Comments:

Blogger Jean said...

This is gonna be great!!
It's going on my blogroll :)

November 10, 2007 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger Nancy Dancehall said...

GREAT photo!

November 11, 2007 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Jean said...

ahem... post #2 will be...?
*smile*

November 16, 2007 at 7:16 PM  
Blogger Vulgar Wizard said...

Can I go next time, please?

November 17, 2007 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger Irrelephant said...

*loL* Seems I need to set up my comments to MAIL to me, rather than to simply ignore me.

And thank you, Miss Dancehall! I had owned Betty there for all of a few weeks, I think. That NS had been sitting there on the siding all day waiting for a re-crew, and I had just discovered the joys of shooting trains. I got to climb all around her, and when she pulled out with her fresh crew I realised Betty was right there and I had a banner opportunity!

Jean, it'll be right now! *g*

VW, of course you can, you freak!

November 18, 2007 at 10:53 AM  

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