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Railfan's Guide to Safety



NO TRESPASSING on  railroad property.


ALWAYS look left, then right, then left again before crossing the tracks. This includes all tracks in a multi-track situation; look both ways before crossing each track.

DO NOT step on the rails. ALWAYS step over the rails.*

DO NOT place any objects on the track. It is popular to put coins down and get them squashed by the train, but coins and small objects can go flying when the train hits; if it hits you or someone else, it will cause serious damage.

ALWAYS dress properly. T-shirts are OK, but jeans are preferred and sturdy shoes are mandatory; if you're not going to be too close, shorts are OK, but still wear at least socks and a pair of sneakers. Sandals or flip-flops just don't cut it.

ALWAYS.... ALWAYS face in the direction the train is coming, so you can see what's coming at you, be it a loose or shifted load, dangling straps or flying debris (coal does fall off those cars, and rocks do get kicked up by a fast train).

ALWAYS keep a sharp eye out for faults on passing trains or along the line. 

STAND far enough away that a shifted load (or broken strap securing a load) isn't going to smack you at track speed.  Park your car, and keep yourself, a reasonable distance away from the tracks, at least a (railroad) car length if you can manage it.... in other words, 40-50 feet minimum.

Rule G - Alcohol or drugs and trains do not mix. If you're drinking, stay home.

DON’T TOUCH power lines or other cables, guy wires or other like objects; you never know when they might be energized, purposely or not.

ALWAYS use common sense. If you don't have any, stay home. 

What would you do if you saw a dangerous situation?   Here are the numbers for railroad police:

CSX Police – 1 800 232-0144
NS Police – 1 800 680-0400



When you railfan, what would happen to you if the train derailed?  Stay a respectable distance away, and be ready to run like hell if you see something amiss.



If you are wearing ear phones will you hear a train coming up behind you?  Be alert!



How about your personal safety while railfanning? Do people know where you are and when to expect you back?



* Why do railroaders and knowledgeable railfans never step on a rail?  Because if you slip off the rail you can sprain or break an ankle.  If you step on the rail often enough you will slip off.  Stepping on the rail is a dead give away that you don't know what you are doing.

Thanks to Tom Swisher and the members of the Central Ohio Railfan Forum