Archive for April, 2011

Railfans & Passengers Recruited to Observe & Report

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Do you love trains and enjoy fighting crime in your spare time? Amtrak and The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) have jobs for you complete with official identification cards! BNSF has been doing this since 2006 under the Citizens for Rail Security program but now Amtrak has joined in with their Partners for Amtrak Safety and Security program. Picture, if you will, a neighborhood watch for railroads where railfans and, in Amtrak’s case, rail passengers report suspicious activities.

Once you sign up online you are able to print out your very own membership card. You are also given some direction about what type of activities qualify as suspicious. This includes things like: trespassers, unattended vehicles, suspicious objects/packages, suspicious activities or people all on or near railroad property, crimes in progress like vandalism or theft, threats against the railroad, gates left open or damaged, track obstructions, potential mechanical problems with trains and illegal dumping.

Nothing to see here, move along. Photo by Cat Cook

Nothing to see here, move along. Coast Starlight, November 2009 - Photo by Cat Cook

So, you’ve seen something suspicious! Both Amtrak and BNSF make it pretty clear, just because you have a special badge doesn’t mean they want you to go take care of it. What they want you to do is report it! This is where the card comes in handy, as it has the number they would like you to call to report your particular flavor of suspicious activity. Before you call they want you to note some specifics first, here it is helpful to pretend you are a newspaper reporter and note the 6 W’s: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How.

  • Who is being suspicious? Describe them, their vehicle….
  • What is suspicious? Describe what you saw, what occurred….
  • Where is the suspiciousness? Explain where the issue is, include streets or mile markers….
  • When was it suspicious? Relate when this happened, or when you noticed it….
  • Why/How is it suspicious? How doesn’t start with a ‘w’ but it’s in the list; include any other information that might help the police or railroad personnel.
Watch out! I'm official! My Citizens for Rail Security card.

Watch out! I'm official! My Citizens for Rail Security card.

Now, I know you are really liking this badge situation and feel pretty special. Like you have a special ‘in’ with the railroads but wait! There’s more…. The railroads want to make sure you understand that this isn’t an invitation to trespass. You are supposed to report trespassers, not become one! That would defeat the whole purpose. Don’t trespass even to answer the 6 W’s.  Restricted areas include places like: employee areas, maintenance facilities, unoccupied trains, engines, or maintenance vehicles, office areas, baggage areas, delivery areas, commissaries, right-of-way areas, track areas, and in-service train cars. Then there are the tracks, don’t walk on the tracks! That’s a big no-no. It’s highly illegal and highly dangerous. Only cross tracks at roadway crossings or designated pedestrian areas and when taking photos of trains always do it at least 15 feet from the closest rail.

San Luis Obispo Amtrak Station November 2009 Photo by Cat Cook

Where not to stand when taking a photo. Obviously I hadn't read the rules yet. San Luis Obispo Amtrak Station, November 2009 - Photo by Cat Cook

Of course, we should all be reporting suspicious activity whether we have a special identification card or not.  However, you may want to consider signing up with Amtrak or BNSF since the cards are handy for reminding us of rules around railroads and for providing the phone numbers to contact authorities in case of suspicious activities or safety hazards. Oh, and then there is the cool factor. I printed mine on card stock to give it that extra little ‘something’. Now, I just need a laminator to preserve my fancy ID cards for all time…

Eugene Train Show: Railfans & Layouts & Speeders – Oh My!

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Last weekend (April 9 & 10, 2011) was the 23rd Annual Willamette Cascade Model Railroad Club Train Show & Swap Meet in Eugene, OR. It was our first time there and we met many new & friendly folks. We look forward to going back for this show year after year. In all, it filled 3 large rooms of the Expo Building at the Lane County Fairgrounds. There were layouts, equipment, vintage railroadiana, railfan goodies, model trains & accessories in abundance. Lee & Diane Temple were on point organizing the show, their hard work paid off with a well-attended and smooth-running event. When they aren’t organizing the train show they specialize in buying, selling, and consigning trains, paper, books, memorabilia, & more! Their business is Temple’s Trains and Things and they can be reached at ttandt@ram-mail.com.

I think I was in the right place - Willamette Cascade Model Railroad Show - Photo by: Cat Cook

I think I was in the right place! - The Willamette Cascade Model Railroad Show - Photo by: Cat Cook

There were a few layouts including Clay’s Trailer-n-Train Railroad, a 24 by 10 foot G-scale layout that is displayed right on the trailer used to transport it from event to event. Across the way were the Oregon Electric O-Gaugers with their 30 by 12 foot O-scale layout. In one of the other rooms Roger Fegles, one of the members of the Willamette Cascade Model Railroad Club, had an awesome N-scale layout displayed.

Gary & Roger of the Willamette Cascade Model Railroad Club were all smiles while working the door at the show. Photo by: Cat Cook

Gary & Roger of the Willamette Cascade Model Railroad Club were all smiles while working the door at the show. Photo by: Cat Cook

Nearby, Ken showed off Dawson Station, his 1 x 4 foot N-scale layout based on the Hull-Oakes lumber mill in Dawson, Oregon. If you’ve never seen Ken’s Dawson Station layout or his website please check it out! I love his video tours, especially the Nightfall at Dawson Station which includes a soundtrack of Willamette Valley frogs & the Arduino Control of Model Train which gives an overview of the circuit boards used to control the locomotive and sound (Hey Dad, if you are reading this, watch that one!) By the way, wanna see how to use a Wii Nunchuk to control a locomotive forwards and backwards (with realistic acceleration) as well as to operate turnouts? You can see it in the Arduino Control of Model Train video. It’s pretty cool and geeky (two attributes I appreciate equally.)

Dawson Station Layout based on Hull-Oakes Sawmill - Photo by: Cat Cook

Dawson Station Layout based on Hull-Oakes Sawmill - Photo by: Cat Cook

If you’ve been to a train show before, you may have seen one of these on display:

M-19 Fairmont Speeder - Photo by: Cat Cook

M-19 Fairmont Speeder - Photo by: Cat Cook

These railroad motorcars, AKA speeders, were used to travel on and inspect track although nowadays Hy-Rail vehicles are usually used instead. The North American Rail Car Operators Association (NARCOA) is comprised of people who privately own these rail cars and get together for excursions on tracks around the country. We met Guy and his speeder named Sophia (pictured below) at the show and got to hear about this fascinating hobby. Because NARCOA has an excellent reputation for safety, they are allowed to rent out rail lines for their excursions. Often these excursions take the motorcar owners and their lucky few passengers to locales miles from civilization for some very unique railroading experiences. For more information about this hobby check out www.narcoa.org and www.railspeeders.com.

"Sophia" the Speeder! Photo by: Cat Cook

"Sophia" the Speeder! She's a Tamper TMC-2 - Photo by: Cat Cook

On the way home I snapped a couple more pictures of Central Oregon & Pacific’s Winchester switching yard:

CORP's Winchester Rail Switching Yard - Photo by Cat Cook

CORP's Winchester Rail Switching Yard - Photo by Cat Cook

Here are some EMD GP20Ds in Central Oregon & Pacific (CORP) and leasing company Capital Equipment Funding (CEFX) paint:

EMD GP20Ds at the Central Oregon & Pacific yard in Winchester, OR - Photo by: Cat Cook

EMD GP20Ds at the Central Oregon & Pacific yard in Winchester, OR - Photo by: Cat Cook

We passed this mystery piece of Maintenance of Way equipment on a West Rail Construction flat bed, if you can identify it please email me (Cat) at media@theshortline.com:

Maintenance of Way Equipment (Unidentified) Photo by: Cat Cook

Maintenance of Way Equipment (Unidentified) Photo by: Cat Cook

Happy Railroading!