Old 02-18-2015, 10:17 PM   #26
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That's why foamers need to wear safety vests!!
Safety vests. I mostly wear them at night for several reasons. First, my winter clothing is all black, which soaks up more heat from the sun during the day, and at night gives me the option to fade into the shadows if sketchy looking characters show up. Sometimes I'm set up along a road, and wearing all black at night is just dumb! Now for another point. All railroaders are wearing safety vests--it's required. I rode with Tim Smith, operations manager for the Dakota & Iowa Railroad (DAIR) one night, and he told me he was glad I was wearing a vest. He said for one thing, it impressed him & other employees that I take safety seriously, something foamers aren't always known for. Other local trainmasters have told me something similar as well--they equate safety vests with people who want to act safe. I have had a few railroaders tell me I'd might be a bit better off wearing a yellow one instead of an orange one on some rail lines. Their reasoning was that FRA guys and railroad superintendents always wear orange, so someone wearing yellow would be seen as less threatening. I sometimes wear a vest in the daytime, especially if alongside a highway. I have heard of railfans getting hit by cars. I'll mention one other factor I've discovered too. When wearing a safety vest, it's sort of like "camo". You blend in more, and to someone watching you tend to look more like you belong where you are, rather than "suspicious." No one can accuse you of "sneaking around" if you're wearing reflective clothing. When I was only wearing the all black clothing I was sometimes greeted with some suspicion, especially out in the middle of the night. By simply adding the vest all of that has pretty much disappeared.

As for the rifle, many of the remote places I like to haunt at night are full of deer. No, deer aren't going to attack me, but I know full well that where there are deer, there are mountain lions. There have been some "incidents" out here involving those. A few years ago a switchman for BNSF quickly climbed up on top of a grain hopper, and watched a big cat circle him below.


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Old 02-18-2015, 10:18 PM   #27
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John - you skimmed too fast.

The BNSF safety vest was given to Kent by a BNSF employee. I've often thought that wearing a vest "might" be a good idea, the assumption being that you would be more visible and appear more professional (who wears a safety vest before a suicide or during an act of vandalism?). On the other hand, as I mentioned above, you may actually appear more distracting to the crew pondering who you are and what's going on up ahead.

As for the rifle, Kent stated it was an "automatic", not an "assault" rifle. I'm not a hunter, but I suspect there are quite a few in SD.

I've met Kent and a bunch of us (including Samuel Phillips and Travis Dewitz) spent a night photographing the elevated line in and around Chicago - a nicer and more sane gentleman, you'd be hard pressed to find!

/Mitch
I'm pretty firmly on the fringe of the social aspect of railfanning now adays, so maybe I've just forgotten just how goofy this hobby can be. But, I was totally blown away when I heard people (presumable alot of people if its happening enough that I've heard about it) are wearing safety vest while railfanning. I consider myself to be a pretty civil person who rarely draws a line in the sand when discussing a topic. But this is one such time: there is no reason to wear a safety vest while railfanning and by doing so you look like a complete moron.

Railroad employees are required to wear safety vest because the nature of their work requires them to be in situations and positions where the potential exist they could be injured from railroad equipment. Unless you are tresspassing or acting like an idiot, you as a railfan should never be in such a situation.

As for the "assault" rifle vs "automatic," point taken, shame on me. I actually really do not like the use of term assault rifle as most times you see it now adays its being used for shock value. But that being said and as a total moot point for this discussion, I seriously doubt the practicality of an automatic weapon for hunting purposes.

I've never met Ken, but I certainly respect the opinion of you and Jim (the other poster who said they've met, I think). So I guess I'm guilty of judging a book by its long, boarding off topic TLDR forums post

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Old 02-18-2015, 10:24 PM   #28
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I am not, have not, nor will I ever be a *cringe*.......foamer.



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Old 02-18-2015, 10:42 PM   #29
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There's no other way to say it then meanly, based on my travels through every state minus the Islands, and Alaska. There's a steep reduction in assholes, and common-senseless idiots in the rural areas.

Mass hysteria and idiocy rules the higher population areas. I awaken every morning thankful that I do not have to deal with it in daily life.


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Hmmmm.....
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Old 02-18-2015, 11:35 PM   #30
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(1) But this is one such time: there is no reason to wear a safety vest while railfanning and by doing so you look like a complete moron.

(2) I seriously doubt the practicality of an automatic weapon for hunting purposes.

(3) I've never met Ken, but I certainly respect the opinion of you and Jim (the other poster who said they've met, I think). So I guess I'm guilty of judging a book by its long, boarding off topic TLDR forums post

1. Keep in mind I do most of my railfanning in the middle of the night, often on deserted back roads where if there is someone driving, they aren't expecting someone to be standing around. I've had at least two close calls. Even in daytime railfans have been hit by cars and killed. I'd rather look like a "moron" than road kill. I do have a family.

2. They are a lot of fun to throw the select fire forward and take out a running coyote. I use a .30-06 for antelope, elk, and everything else (including ducks.)

3. Just as an aside, some of what I write might be a bit tongue in cheek. My strategy for life has been: wake up, have fun at what you do, help people where you can, go to bed, repeat. So far, it's working.


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Old 02-19-2015, 12:10 AM   #31
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What is the joke or issue or controversy? Why does that FB page even exist? What am I missing?
Well, quite a few people on fb have been mocking that page, and although I don't have a problem with it, I do find it funny and like to pile on by joking about it.

That being said, I think John summed it up perfectly. And this may be why so many people are mocking it.

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I'm pretty firmly on the fringe of the social aspect of railfanning now adays, so maybe I've just forgotten just how goofy this hobby can be. But, I was totally blown away when I heard people (presumable alot of people if its happening enough that I've heard about it) are wearing safety vest while railfanning. I consider myself to be a pretty civil person who rarely draws a line in the sand when discussing a topic. But this is one such time: there is no reason to wear a safety vest while railfanning and by doing so you look like a complete moron.

Railroad employees are required to wear safety vest because the nature of their work requires them to be in situations and positions where the potential exist they could be injured from railroad equipment. Unless you are tresspassing or acting like an idiot, you as a railfan should never be in such a situation.
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Old 02-19-2015, 12:17 AM   #32
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Even in daytime railfans have been hit by cars and killed. I'd rather look like a "moron" than road kill. I do have a family.


SD in Kent
In that case, every pedestrian walking near a roadway should be wearing a safety vest. Railfans aren't more vulnerable to being hit any more than the average pedestrian.

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Old 02-19-2015, 01:17 AM   #33
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In that case, every pedestrian walking near a roadway should be wearing a safety vest. Railfans aren't more vulnerable to being hit any more than the average pedestrian.

Well.........at times they might be. I'm a veteran of a number of UP 3985 chases across Missouri and Kansas.


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Old 02-19-2015, 02:03 AM   #34
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...there is no reason to wear a safety vest while railfanning and by doing so you look like a complete moron.
I will throw out one exception that has made me seriously consider wearing a safety vest...and it has absolutely nothing to do with safety. Whenever I am railfanning and visible to road traffic while on a military base (even though you need a military ID to be there and have gone through at least 1 check point), I get the Security Forces called on me almost every single time because I appear suspicious to all those people driving by wanting to prevent the next 9/11. Nearly every...single...time. To say it's annoying is an understatement.

I figure if I'm wearing a safety vest, I would look more official, that I'm supposed to be there. As such, people would not call the cops on me. And so much for the Air Force's Eagle Eyes program!
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Old 02-19-2015, 02:19 AM   #35
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Further to Chris' post - when you are in a really bad neighborhood there is something to be said about a safety vest and a hard hat and a scanner (which looks like a walkie to anyone walking by you).

That being said, I've maybe done that two or three times, but I think it can be helpful. The downsides are everything others mentioned and my own personal desire to not interfere with the rails in any way. Wearing a vest can really catch their attention and make them think you are some sort of official watching them.
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Old 02-19-2015, 02:23 AM   #36
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As for the rifle, many of the remote places I like to haunt at night are full of deer. No, deer aren't going to attack me, but I know full well that where there are deer, there are mountain lions. There have been some "incidents" out here involving those. A few years ago a switchman for BNSF quickly climbed up on top of a grain hopper, and watched a big cat circle him below.
I could definitely understand carrying some sort of firearm way out there in the boonies, not so much because of people, but because of the critter threat. Most critters, including cougars, won't bother you most of the time, but if one does decide you look tasty, it's nice to have an insurance policy. I don't own any guns, but when I am out in the wilderness, I do typically bring my big Mafrotto Monopod. It probably won't help me fend off a bear, but it might make the difference with a cougar. Cats are pretty intelligent animals. They know that any serious injury will eventually kill them, so they're not looking to mess with anything they figure is going to give them a hassle. From what I've read, almost everyone who has ever been attacked by a cougar, and has fought back, has survived.

As for people, I don't think I have ever felt threatened enough while photographing trains to need any sort of firearm. It has always baffled me why so many guys are packing on charters. I was at Nevada Northern a couple of weeks ago, which is about as laid-back as it gets, and there was one guy with a big-ass automatic handgun on his hip. Not sure what he was afraid of. Perhaps "Dirtball", the engine house cat growled at him.

WRT your weapon, you referred to it as an "automatic rifle". To me, that term means a fully automatic weapon, chambered for a rifle cartridge....basically, a machine gun. There must be some Federal hoops you have to jump to own one of those. I know it can be done, but I suspect it's not easy.
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Old 02-19-2015, 03:22 AM   #37
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WRT your weapon, you referred to it as an "automatic rifle". To me, that term means a fully automatic weapon, chambered for a rifle cartridge....basically, a machine gun. There must be some Federal hoops you have to jump to own one of those. I know it can be done, but I suspect it's not easy.
Easy in many western states, including South Dakota. No criminal record, pay the $500 federal fee, and your're good. Easy, but a bit expensive. Suppressors (aka "silencers") are the same way. I considered one for my .30-06, thinking I could get a second shot at antelope if they didn't hear the first one. However, they only reduce the blast, not eliminate it from rifles. There's also the mini sonic boom created by the bullet. I decided against spending the $1,500 on one and bought another lens instead.

And here's the irony. In the Western states I chase trains in the gun laws are fairly lenient, but I very rarely feel threatened by other people enough to want one. There are places I'd like to take photos (such as eastern parts of Kansas City) where I do not feel safe, but my thinking is if a place is dangerous enough to actually need a gun, I'll simply avoid it in the first place. I just want to chase trains, not get into a shoot out. If you are in bear country, it would be wise to carry bear spray. The stuff actually works very well.


Kent in SD

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Old 02-19-2015, 03:43 AM   #38
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I am willing to concede the "hiding in plain sight" expiation has at least some theoretical merit, but thats were in ends, in theory. If you are wearing railroad safety gear to either throw off authorities and/or potentially unsavory local characters, plain and simple, you are incorrectly utilizing the equipment. Obviously, the reason safety gear is the color it is is to draw attention to a potentially dangerous situation on the railroad. And draw attention is exactly what railfans are doing dressing like this, expect there is no railroad danger, just a hobbyist essentially crying wolf. Like has been said, what you are doing is at best distracting and at worse confusing train crews by dressing up like a railroader.

Yes, getting questioned by the cops is annoying, but if you are in right, you have nothing to fear. As for railfanning in seedy areas, I've done it plenty of times in places like Chicago and LA. Same thing; yes, you might get a rough looking person ask what you are doing, but 99.9% of time that interaction will end after a few awkward exchanges. And not to mention, if your concern is about personal safety in the worst parts of town, railroad employes and equipment get ripped off just as easily as the next person in the really rough neighborhoods, so maybe the best course of action is to just steer clear.

For my parting shot: lets just cut through the rhetoric: I think its safe to assume the real reason railfans are wearing safety gear is not because for its risk mitigation qualities, its because railfans what to show off their railroad swag to other railfans. This is just an offshoot of those guys who wear hats with lots of railroad pins in it; its an expression of ones love for the hobby. Case in point; Kent made a point to share with us he got his official BNSF vest from a trainmaster (sorry to single you out Kent, I really liked your light hearted reply to my boarderline trolling post). In these cases, safety gear is being worn as a fashion statement.

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Old 02-19-2015, 04:08 AM   #39
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While I mostly agree with John, I will say my experience has been that the vest and walkie have caused unsavory folk to steer clear of me. Simple fact. Now, then again, I've done it, like I said, maybe three times in forty years, so I'm not exactly making a practice of it - and the last time I used it I was on a road (and frankly had simply not yet taken it off after having had it on for legitimate reasons). Had a drunk (or worse) stare me down and then keep walking.
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Old 02-19-2015, 04:58 AM   #40
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Wanna wear a vest? Become a railroader. That's my plan.
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Old 02-19-2015, 06:53 AM   #41
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A cougar will hop up on that hopper, no problem. You arne't safe up there. They can jump like mad. Don't know if they can climb ladders though.
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Old 02-19-2015, 12:44 PM   #42
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1. Like has been said, what you are doing is at best distracting and at worse confusing train crews by dressing up like a railroader.

2. Case in point; Kent made a point to share with us he got his official BNSF vest from a trainmaster (sorry to single you out Kent, I really liked your light hearted reply to my boarderline trolling post). In these cases, safety gear is being worn as a fashion statement.

1. I think you have to keep things in context. You live and mostly railfan in very dense urban areas. I'm almost exclusively in rural areas and small towns. It's a different mindset. Often I am along rural roads, and speeds here are 70 to 80mph. I have a very real concern about getting hit out there in the dark. I know I'm not "distracting" any train crews because I talk to them. Whether I have a vest on or not, they are going to see me. Like they've told me personally, seeing me in some safety gear makes them think I take safety seriously.

I'm assuming where you live, the usual way to railfan is to take shots from bridges, sidewalks, etc. You rarely if ever actually talk to any train crews because they simply aren't available. Where I am, it's grain fields, grain elevators, tiny towns, etc. There are more cows than people. It's all dark territory and I often will go catch a traincrew that's waiting in a siding, or at the dog catch van during crew change. Or, when they stop the train & get off to go buy some food. This is quite normal out here. Many know me by name and instantly recognize, especially at night. I'm the only foamer out there after dark. I am the foamer night shift. Things are a little more laid back and personal here than a major metro.


2. I don't wear the BNSF vest all that often, usually it's a yellow one. I do like wearing it around other foamers, on those rare times there is another one out here. I've been given hats etc. from other train crews, usually a trade for a photo. I love to wear my D&I Railroad hat in the summer--it's my favorite "trophy." Keep in mind I generally only wear a vest at night, and it really is for safety. Sometimes will wear one so I'll blend in better, but that's more unusual. It's very easy for me to get permission in the places around here, and usually don't even bother unless it's a "sensitive" area. Grain elevator general managers usually request I wear a vest and steel toed shoes when taking photos in/on their grain handling fixtures. It's an OSHA requirement and they don't want to get nailed.


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Seriously though, think through the context of this photo. Train crew approaches a rural hump bridge late at night. In their headlights they see someone standing dead center in the bridge. Is he going to through a big rock at them? Is he suddenly going to jump? I was wearing my yellow vest. They associate people in safety vests as "safe people," not wackos. I'll argue that the vest actually made them more at ease. I mostly was wearing it because I was on a dark road, during a snow storm and didn't want to end up as road kill though. As the train passed, they got on the radio and asked me to email them a copy of the photo.


Kent in SD

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Old 02-19-2015, 12:55 PM   #43
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Goes against my long-time strategy for shooting photos: Be inconspicuous.

Especially if I was someplace without specific permission.
Right, today good to be like the Swamp Fox, not the Red Coats.

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Old 02-19-2015, 04:05 PM   #44
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I dress in a suit and tie when I go foaming. Seriously. I have.

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Old 02-19-2015, 04:25 PM   #45
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I dress in a suit and tie when I go foaming. Seriously. I have.

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Look at old photos of excursions in the 1950's and earlier. Everybody did.
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Old 02-19-2015, 04:43 PM   #46
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Look at old photos of excursions in the 1950's and earlier. Everybody did.
I'm bringing retro back.

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Old 02-19-2015, 05:32 PM   #47
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I dress in a suit and tie when I go foaming. Seriously. I have.

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When I am out of town on a business trip that is usually how I am dressed too. I've had RR employees come up and ask me what I am doing when dressed like that quite a few times (so it may be a bigger issue than a safety vest). I had a whole group of them in a golf cart surround me in Spokane once. They thought I was a management spy from Texas. When they found out I was a railfan between my last meeting and the airport they became super friendly.
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Old 02-19-2015, 08:16 PM   #48
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When I am out of town on a business trip that is usually how I am dressed too. I've had RR employees come up and ask me what I am doing when dressed like that quite a few times (so it may be a bigger issue than a safety vest). I had a whole group of them in a golf cart surround me in Spokane once. They thought I was a management spy from Texas. When they found out I was a railfan between my last meeting and the airport they became super friendly.
Glad I'm not the only one who was squeezing in 'me' time during official business.

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Old 02-19-2015, 08:18 PM   #49
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There's no reason to not carry a firearm if you legally can. My permit is good in 38 states. The ones it's not good in, for the most part, I have no desire to step foot in them anyway. An exception is Maryland...
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Old 02-19-2015, 08:38 PM   #50
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Look at old photos of excursions in the 1950's and earlier. Everybody did.
Even the ones riding along on top of the tender shooting movies!
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