Old 03-17-2015, 03:08 PM   #51
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Hi Kent,

The biggest concern that I would have about using flashes is temporary degradation of the crew's night vision. It takes about 30 or more minutes for the human eyes to adapt to the dark and develop their maximum sensitivity. As a pilot for more than 30 years, my training and experience says that for best vision, I need to avoid exposure to bright lights, once my eyes are dark-adapted. The concern is, of course, that if the crew's vision is degraded, even for just a short time, and something were to appear on the tracks ahead, their recognition of the situation, and therefore their response, could be delayed. When it comes to stopping a train, every second of warning is precious.

I've been tempted to try night flash photography, but the stories that I hear from pilot colleagues about being flashed with laser pointers and other devices during the critical minute or two before landing just leave me concerned about putting train crews in a similar position.
Two completely different things Kevin. Night vision for a railroader is constantly attacked, and is never the same as a pilot for flies in complete darkness for 98 percent of the trip. I've been on a locomotive and been flashed. It's nothing, zero, zip. You barely notice it over top of the headlight and ditch lights. You would have to load up all your flashes head on to make any difference, and any adequate night photographer would never do that. I will never believe that it has any difference on a crews ability to safely perform their job in that environment. But I would suggest people not do it because there's too many sundown foamers who suck at it.

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Old 03-17-2015, 09:07 PM   #52
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I've never heard any crews complaining about lightning affecting their vision. And for that matter, me when I'm driving in my car. A camera's flash is barely a blip compared to the intensity of lightning.
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Old 03-17-2015, 10:07 PM   #53
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Hi Kent,

1. The biggest concern that I would have about using flashes is temporary degradation of the crew's night vision. It takes about 30 or more minutes for the human eyes to adapt to the dark and develop their maximum sensitivity. ... The concern is, of course, that if the crew's vision is degraded, even for just a short time, and something were to appear on the tracks ahead, their recognition of the situation, and therefore their response, could be delayed.


2. I've been tempted to try night flash photography, but the stories that I hear from pilot colleagues about being flashed with laser pointers and other devices during the critical minute or two before landing just leave me concerned about putting train crews in a similar position.

1. I'm now going on my tenth year with flash, and have photo'd hundreds of trains, mostly in the Midwest. I have some experiences and observations. Living where I do, I know quite a few of the train crews fairly well to quite well. We talk. What they've told me over the past decade is that my flash are so fast they really don't have any impact on them at all. There are maybe three reasons for this. First, the duration is about 1/1000s and they are relatively far away. The eyes don't have time to react. Second, crews are looking down the tracks and I place flash off to the side at angle. Third, their eyes are NOT accustomed to dark--they are staring down the extremely well lit path made by those three bright headlights. I've measured the light from those headlights and it's about half the strength of my biggest flash at full power. The headlights are actually stronger than the little 4AA flash I often use. So, this is a total non-issue as their eyes are NOT accustomed to darkness in the first place. At any rate, hundreds of trains going on 10 years and not a single complaint or issue. I have sat in cabs with my biggest flash pointed directly at me (on conductor's side) and popped it from about 40 ft. away with an 8 in. high output reflector. It was surprisingly low intensity! Train crews repeatedly tell me that coming to a grade where a big truck has its brights on is far more of a problem than my flash. This is believeable because the truck lights are constant where mine are a fraction of a second. As for my little 4AA flash (Nikon SB-25,) the type 90% of the guys use because they are cheap and fast, crews sometimes don't even see them go off at all! It's just not an issue. As long as I'm not fouling the tracks, they don't care. When I started out I used the little 4AA flash at 1/4 power because I was a little nervous, but after talking to these guys for years, I now will put out my big monolights, equiv. to 15-20 of the little 4AA flash, and use them at full power. Naturally with that much power it means that I can place them much further back than I can the little flash. In this shot I had two monolights at full power placed 60 yards from the track and a third placed 100 yards away. Light loses strength very fast--geometrically:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/96826069@N00/16658345346/

I will add that I do avoid setting up right before a switch or a W-board, more because I don't want to be a distraction. I do this during the day as well--the distraction is me, not the flash.


2. Laser pointers are a different matter entirely. They are a highly polarized beam, very concentrated. The beam holds together over great distances and the more powerful ones (used for astonomy) will actually permanently destroy your retina. It's not the same thing at all. (I took a lot of science/physics for my medical science degree.) Think of throwing a single 4oz. rock vs. throwing 4 ounces of loose sand.



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Old 03-17-2015, 10:17 PM   #54
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You would have to load up all your flashes head on to make any difference, and any adequate night photographer would never do that. .

Well, almost never. I once set up a line of about eight little 4AA flash plus three more on the other side of the main line to catch a n/b BNSF at Clara City, MN. There are three tracks there. Mainline, siding, and old grain elevator siding. The first two are used all the time, the third I've never seen used. It's rusted 75# rail with weeds growing over it. I set the line of flash between the gauge of that. Imagine my surprise when I hear over the radio that the dispatcher wants an approaching s/b to take 3-track and not the siding. 3-track? What's that? Turned out it was the old elevator siding! I had to scramble to pull those flash out of the way as the train slowly rolled towards me. What happened was the train was the little local and since it was short it was being stuffed into the old siding so two longer trains with more priority could meet on the mainline and long siding. The local crew got on the radio and was teasing me quite a bit, saying they could get the lightstands down for me if I wanted. I was pretty embarrassed and haven't set up flash between the rails since then.


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Old 03-17-2015, 11:56 PM   #55
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I've been tempted to try night flash photography, but the stories that I hear from pilot colleagues about being flashed with laser pointers and other devices during the critical minute or two before landing just leave me concerned about putting train crews in a similar position.
I just don't know how that is physically possible. Yeah, I hear the stories, but I'm still very skeptical. Anyone who has ever used a big zoom lens knows how just a fraction of movement on the camera lens can mean a difference of several feet on the subject. How anyone can hold a lazer pointer and aim that tight beam thousands of feet without a huge range of movement on the subject (a moving subject at that!) is beyond me. Not to mention, it's not just a moving subject, but also a VERY tiny target (an eyeball). I just don't buy it.
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Old 03-18-2015, 12:53 AM   #56
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Take it from someone in the industry, the laser threat to aircraft is highly problematic. There are numerous documented cases of pilots having damaged vision lasting anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

The vast majority of laser strikes are an annoyance, and the crew just turns away from the source and continues with their duties. But there have definitely been more severe incidents over the years, none of which have caused any sort of accident or loss of control.
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Old 03-18-2015, 01:18 AM   #57
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I just don't know how that is physically possible. Yeah, I hear the stories, but I'm still very skeptical. Anyone who has ever used a big zoom lens knows how just a fraction of movement on the camera lens can mean a difference of several feet on the subject. How anyone can hold a lazer pointer and aim that tight beam thousands of feet without a huge range of movement on the subject (a moving subject at that!) is beyond me. Not to mention, it's not just a moving subject, but also a VERY tiny target (an eyeball). I just don't buy it.
Hi Jim,

My concern over the engineers and the flashes probably stems from a conversation that I had with a couple of friends who are steam engineers on a tourist line. They related a story about being hit at a grade crossing with several mega-flashes....Lumidynes or Bees, probably....and they indicated that it did affect their night vision for several seconds. Regardless of whether or not they were warned the photog had set up there, it still surprised them.

I can tell you that when taxiing an aircraft at night, it definitely does wreck your night vision when a careless pilot points the nose of his airplane at your nose and has not only his taxi light, but the landing lights on as well.

The laser pointer thing is real. It has become a real problem near major commercial airports. Apparently, there are folks who think it would be fun to smack an airline crew in the face with one of those while on approach. I had an Air Canada Jazz flight from Vancouver, BC to Whitehorse, YT get canceled one night, because the First Officer had to go to the hospital. Seems the aircraft was on approach to Vancouver and someone nailed him with a green laser. The airline ended up having to put all of the passengers up in a hotel and arrange transportation to get them there. Fortunately, the authorities are actively going after these folks. The ones they catch get the book thrown at them.
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Old 03-18-2015, 01:29 AM   #58
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Jim, maybe Kevin can chime in on the details. I read this

"you may be illuminated by a sudden, windscreen-filling flash with no indication of direction."

and I wonder whether that laser light, which is such a tight beam at close range, spreads out over the much greater distances of land-air. Quote taken from

http://www.laserpointersafety.com/ho...ts/pilots.html
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Old 03-18-2015, 01:41 AM   #59
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The Aviation Herald is one of my favorite websites.
Here is a search on laser incidents:

http://avherald.com/h?search_term=La...38&search.y=12
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Old 03-18-2015, 05:02 AM   #60
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We used to have to wear special anti-laser glasses on final approach over in the Middle East...the threat is certainly real.
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Old 03-18-2015, 11:43 AM   #61
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We used to have to wear special anti-laser glasses on final approach over in the Middle East...the threat is certainly real.
Sweet. I hope you got to keep a pair!
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Old 03-18-2015, 11:14 PM   #62
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Sweet. I hope you got to keep a pair!
Nope. They didn't even work with all the different lasers out there. Plus, they don't fit over glasses if you wear them (which I do). So the question became, do I try and land a 300,000lb plane while wearing anti-laser glasses instead of my prescription specs or do I take the miniscule chance that there's some clown down there with a laser while simply wearing my prescriptions? Easy choice for me...especially if I just slouched down below the window and flew on instruments down to minimums (~200' AGL)!
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Old 03-19-2015, 12:56 AM   #63
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Nope. They didn't even work with all the different lasers out there. Plus, they don't fit over glasses if you wear them (which I do). So the question became, do I try and land a 300,000lb plane while wearing anti-laser glasses instead of my prescription specs or do I take the miniscule chance that there's some clown down there with a laser while simply wearing my prescriptions? Easy choice for me...especially if I just slouched down below the window and flew on instruments down to minimums (~200' AGL)!
I'm surprised that the AF couldn't use something like the PLZT Goggles that SAC crews were once issued. Those could sense a bright flash (such as a nuke going off) and immediately go black to protect the user's eyes. Once the flash was gone, they resumed transmitting light. They were mainly for bomber crews, but the tanker guys carried them also. They would fit over glasses, if necessary. I recall one time when an ANG dude from the Life Support Section put one of the SAC-style helmets on me, then attached a set of PLZT goggles. He then brought a flash unit right up to my eyes and popped it at point blank range. I never saw the flash. Awesome technology! One would think that something similar could be developed for lasers.
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Old 03-19-2015, 12:58 AM   #64
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...using flashes is temporary degradation of the crew's night vision.
Especially if it's a big girl. Then the crew has that image burned into their retinas for a good hour.




....Oh, you mean cameras. Gotcha.
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Old 03-19-2015, 06:38 PM   #65
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Getting flashed is part of the risks that go with the job... they get paid pretty well
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Old 03-20-2015, 06:49 AM   #66
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Getting flashed is part of the risks that go with the job... they get paid pretty well
I've been to two NS hiring sessions and never once did they mention that. Lol
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Old 03-20-2015, 12:03 PM   #67
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I've been to two NS hiring sessions and never once did they mention that. Lol
Your point being? I'm sure they don't say a lot of things about the job. And it's not like this is a common occurrence. I doubt they tell airline pilots at hiring sessions that they could be blinded by lasers too...

My point is, railroading is a dangerous job. The employees are paid an extremely high wage for what the job entails because of that. Look at the difference in wages between railroaders and over the road truckers and you will see what I mean. The jobs are VERY similar. A little flash every once in a while isnt going to hurt them... I would be shocked if there is even one documented case of injury based on it. In fact more death, injury and damage has been caused by crew cell phone use. Fact...

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Old 03-20-2015, 12:52 PM   #68
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Your point being? I'm sure they don't say a lot of things about the job. And it's not like this is a common occurrence. ...
My point is, railroading is a dangerous job. The employees are paid an extremely high wage for what the job entails because of that. Look at the difference in wages between railroaders and over the road truckers and you will see what I mean. The jobs are VERY similar. A little flash every once in a while isnt going to hurt them... .


One engineer I know said he's making $84K a year. Of course, he's unmarried. This would be a VERY tough job not because of he work, but because of the schedule. The unpredictable schedule is the main thing that kept me from wanting to take conductor training. I want more control over my life than that. As for flash, no, they really really don't care. Just keep the lightstands off the tracks.


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Old 03-20-2015, 01:41 PM   #69
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Getting flashed is part of the risks that go with the job... they get paid pretty well
You were actually being serious with this reply, Troy? I think everybody on here took it as sarcasm, because that's pretty much all you ever post.
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Old 03-20-2015, 04:40 PM   #70
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My point was that I highly doubt that NS had foamers in mind when deciding how much to pay their train crews.
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Old 03-20-2015, 07:51 PM   #71
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You were actually being serious with this reply, Troy? I think everybody on here took it as sarcasm, because that's pretty much all you ever post.
Exactly. Troy is a little slow today.
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