View Full Version : Do's and dont's of railfanning. What to bring, what not to bring.

09-27-2005, 08:54 AM
All, after reading some concerning posts in other forums about stupid acts by railfans to get photos of trains, I thought it would be wise if I posted a list of things to do/not to do when out railfanning.

Feel free to add to the list! :)

First of all

What to bring

Digital Camera
Batteries, times 3.
Disposable camera. just for "happy snaps" not worth of a good quality shot.
Film Camera
Note pad and pen. Record the train name/number/time and loco numbers. This pays of in 10-20 years time when looking through the photos!

a hat (both of these are a must in summer. I got quite burnt railfanning without these)
Stuff to read/do when waiting between trains
A railfan buddy. Time passes a lot quicker with someone to talk to.

What not to bring
Girlfriend!! My bad <blushes>
alcohol. High speed moving trains and alcohol dont mix. Railfans here in Australia have thought they can cross tracks and they get busted for tresspassing.

Do's in railfanning
BE POLITE TO STATION STAFF/RAILWAY WORKERS. The world has changed. When taking photos of trains, ALWAYS check with local authorities if its OK to take photos. Mainly applies to suburban areas. A lot of workers appricate it and can get friendly if you ask.

Bring a camera. You never know when you get UP 2002 + UP 1983 + an unpatched SP SD45 in a consist! So many times here in Aus, I have not brought a camera and have seen a pearler of a lashup!

Donts in railfanning
NEVER go onto the track. Its what is getting us railfans into trouble!!
climb over fences to get into yards. You'll get majorly busted.

Hopefully you take most of this information on. Feel free to add more onto the list.


>Mike Forster<
Perth, Western Australia

[email protected]


09-27-2005, 09:08 AM
What to bring:

Cell Phone
Magazines for those slow times
Scanner; Good to have, but not really required.

09-27-2005, 09:17 AM
I bring all that except the sunblock, (Which usually isn't needed out here, I only got sunburnt once in my whole life while railfanning) digital and disposable cameras.

Another item that should be brought with you:

Tripod, not really required, but if a lot of your shots are blurry, you should get one. :)


09-27-2005, 11:07 AM
What to bring:
- first and foremost the timetable (where published). How many times did you think you knew all the times by heart and then you started wondering wether train 9156 leaves at 3:14 or 3:41?
- geographical maps of the area. You want to find the good spots, don't you, and you want to know where the sun will be once the clouds burn off.
- Spare film. Times 3 and a half.
- Photo ID / travel documents. Just in case somebody really wants to check on your brackground.
- Sample fotos of your work, ideally a small portfolio in a binder or similar. Great a) to show to railfan buddies you get to know b) and even better as a door-opener when trying to explain RR staff what you do and why you do it. (PS: That also works in other "tense" areas like spotting at airports, hanging around at the harbour etc.)

Lukas a.k.a Swissie

09-27-2005, 11:15 AM
Most important thing to bring:



You will always
be here with us.

09-27-2005, 12:25 PM
It is a little different out where I railfan. I usually go to the bicycle path in Kearney Nebraska. This crosses under the UP triple main. With about 155 trains a day now, you won't need the book. Since this is a frequent place for trains to stop for passing, it is not uncommon to have a crew member come over and visit while they wait. There is also an overpass with pedestrian path that crosses over the triple about a mile to the west.
Within a 30 mile drive, you can also see the BNSF coal trains coming down out of the sandhills at Hazard Nebraska. 25 miles to the south of Kearney, you can see AmTrak (although the times are not convenient) as well as a major BNSF route fromn Chicago to Denver. With a full 55 mile drive, you get well over 225 trains a day (more in daylight, less at night). Not much time to get bored out there.

09-27-2005, 01:32 PM
Since I go railfannning a lot, I have this down pat.

What to Bring:

Camera (film or digital or both)
Video Camera
Spare Batteries
Tripod(s) (one for every camera including the video camera)
Railfan Timetable of the area you are railfanning in.
Delorme Atlas of the State(s) you are railfanning in.
Railfan Magazines
Railfan Buddy if possible

What to do:

Wave to Crews (This is very important, it shows that you are not ill-intentioned, and that you know the train is there)
Keep a safe distance from the trains and tracks (about 20 feet away)
Stay on public property
Get permission to go on private property
Drive safe
Park your vehicle in a out of the way place

What not to do:

Do not bring girlfriend or non-railfan buddies (If they do not like trains already, they are not going to like railfanning)
Do not walk down tracks
Do not climb on equipment (locomotives, cars, signals, bridges, ect.)
Do not loiter on the tracks
Do not setup camera equipment on the tracks
Do not drive through or into yards and terminals (these are very dangerous places)
Chasing a train does not give you the right to drive dangerously
Do not park you vehicle in the middle of a road, no matter how lightly it is used.
Avoid Trespassing

09-27-2005, 02:08 PM
I must expand on this common sense thing: pay attention to the weather, particularly the wind. It ain't easy hearing a train if you find yourself in the midst of some blustery windswept spot. Those loud hulking machines'll creep up on you if you're not paying enough attention, because the elements of nature reign supreme.



09-27-2005, 03:19 PM
>What to bring:
>Cell Phone

Definitely. We had to call the cops when this drunk guy came up to us and started trying to push us around and start a fight (he drove off, so the cops were far more concerned about his DUI).

- - Nick Wilson


09-27-2005, 03:27 PM
It is a very good idea not to bring your girlfriend railfanning.

No matter where I take my girlfriend my wife gets mad at me :-)


09-27-2005, 03:35 PM

09-27-2005, 05:43 PM
Personally I think a car is the most important thing to remember.

09-27-2005, 05:48 PM
>Personally I think a car is the most important thing to
Unless you live next to the tracks or not far from them of course. :P

09-27-2005, 08:22 PM
I like to bring my little Locomtive Rosters & News bookelet too.

09-27-2005, 11:28 PM
I go for the simple...

scanner, camera + accesories.

Work boots, long pants, sometimes a hat.

I always wave to the crews, exactly for the reasons Ted stated.

If there is one thing I've learned, it's that foamers are plain ignorant.-Jeffrey

09-29-2005, 04:15 PM
Do NOT bring a girlfriend. Just because you think railroading is powerful stuff and 12 thousand horses is manly, she mostly likely is going to think you are gay. If you are gay, then you probably wouldn't care because you wouldn't be bringing a girlfriend so the retort is null and void,( for anyone looking to accuse me of homophobia) so feel free to do whatever. I cannot ever stress this enough to people I know who insist on bringing the new lady friend out by the rail to impress her. I can see the boredom in the girls' eyes, and funny, never see them again. Point is: Women want to be loved and respected. They don't care about your hobbies unless they are extremely open minded. I happen to have a wonderful girl that happens to be opened minded, but you think she goes to my band's shows and listens to me play hard music and scream gutteral phrases? It doesn't matter how melodic it is or how good I can sing. This just reverts to the point. Another bit of advice for guys who get a new girlfriend, and work for the railroad. Do NOT think she will tolerate you working all day with choo choo's and then spending your free time around them. Same thing applies to giving her rides in the cab. All she see's is confusion and levers. She isn't going to find it impressive when your POS decides to transition and throws you around or that special low spot that makes you almost fall off the rail. She'll probably piss herself and not ever feel safe around you again. She's most likely wondering how far a walk it really is when it says Start Measured Mile( spare me your FRA, company policy BS, I pay 230 a day to job insurance, and belong to the BLE ) Point is.... I have been there before. I'm hoping this saves a relationship or two, because I learned the hard way. Take care gentleman. This is meant more of a humor, but like I said, hopefully someone actually uses the advice. Railroaders, let her enjoy railroading from a safe standpoint, deep inside your wallet.