"Rail Fans in Deadly Light"

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"Rail Fans in Deadly Light"

Postby LongIslandTool » Fri Sep 19, 2008 6:20 am

"Rail Fans in Deadly Light" is the title of an article to appear in Friday's Wall Street Journal, along with a story about railfans' text messaging and its part in the Metrolink disaster.

The story is rather fair to the railfan hobby, though it does mention how railroads' openness and relationship with railfans has changed after the World Trade Center attacks and now after the Metrolink incident. There has been quite a bit of discussion about railfans within the Long Island Rail Road and much of it is not very positive.

It is often said that timing is everything in life.

Keep this political climate in mind when out and about the railroad. Now more than ever is time to stay off private property, never call employees when they are working and avoid any actions that can be construed as distractions to operating employees.
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Re: "Rail Fans in Deadly Light"

Postby RearOfSignal » Fri Sep 19, 2008 7:54 am

Link to the article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122179026816055427.html.

The the only gripe I have with the article is the mention of rail enthusiasts as "a relatively obscure and insulated group of hobbyists". I think there are more of us out there than most people think. Not every rail-buff stands around curves with cameras and scanners, some have monthly passes, expensive suits and a copy of the WSJ under their arm; they may feel that they're too old to still be liking trains -but they still know they do.
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Re: "Rail Fans in Deadly Light"

Postby Lirr168 » Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:08 am

Very well said, RoS. The author of the article doesn't realize that, in the days before state and federal takeover of many railroads, the highest ranking officials were themselves the kids and young men who photographed trains in their spare time! A fairly even-handed and well done article, though.

On another note - hey Chris, was that one of your friends from the FEC they interviewed??
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Re: "Rail Fans in Deadly Light"

Postby jayrmli » Fri Sep 19, 2008 10:24 am

Rear of Signal,

You are correct that there are probably more enthusiasts than the article mentions. You probably feel as I do that there is more than one type of railfan out there. The ones with monthly passes and expensive suits aren't the ones we're talking about here.

To some, the engineer is like a "rock star" and the railfans are like "groupies," and a visit inside the cab is like a backstage pass.

The ones called "foamers" in the article are generally the ones that are not, nor have never been employed by a railroad, an many do not realize the safety implications that railroaders have a responsibility to uphold. I worked for a railroad for 10 years, but I wasn't a railfan while on duty because I knew my life and the lives of others were on the line.

Some do not make that transition. While it is advised that railfans keep this in mind while following their hobby, it is even more important to keep this hobby a secret if you plan to go for employment from a railroad. If you think railroads had a bias against train buffs before, now they have a real reason to be.

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Re: "Rail Fans in Deadly Light"

Postby LIengineerBob » Fri Sep 19, 2008 1:03 pm

What I think needs to be done, and this is directed to the younger railfans out there, is that if you happen to be lucky enough to befriend a railroad crew member, who may or may not do something special for you, is to keep it a "secret" to yourself. I find that the younger fans are the one to post these types of videos and information. It seems like a contest to me at times (and it might just be for all I know), to see who can post the most "awesome" video or photograph. There has to be a way to get this information out there. Little do they realize that they will just ruin it for themselves in the long run.

In this day and age, posting photos and a videos on-line is just way too easy, and too easy to get an employee in trouble.

Just browse through YouTube for a few minutes, you'll see hundreds of rail videos posted that actually mention the crews by their full name.....this is just not fair to the crew members, who are bringing the railfans a little something extra, but can cost someone their job if the wrong person notices it.

I think all of us operating employees are a little "guilty" of doing something a little extra for the track-side railfans at one time or another, but common sense has to prevail when receiving a cell-phone call or text message.
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Re: "Rail Fans in Deadly Light"

Postby tushykushy » Fri Sep 19, 2008 1:03 pm

Well said Jay, although there is a fine line between a passionate person in their craft and a foamer. Whatever guage you use to measure being interested whether it be paint jobs, horns, engine blocks, etc none of these things should cloud your judgement for the first and foremost thing, safety. Then comes along getting the job done. Obviously the ML thing, judgement was compromised with a technological tool, which is doing it's own fair share of harm in more areas in life other than railroading. It's degrading our society on academic, professional, and social levels. It's destroyed relationships and jobs along with it.

People are so reliant on this piece of technology theres even therapy for it.

I've had a few people hire on in train service and they actually learned more from these enthusiasts or what I like to refer to as "passionate people" everyone speaks of (employees of the RR) than non-enthusiasts or un-passionate people. Things like troubleshooting equipment to braking and rules; some people really go out of their way to show new people to the craft things other people aren't aware of or aren't as willing to share.

Still not all details have surfaced thru the terrible mishap with ML, but this is a huge eye opener and it's going to be a tough one for the rail enthusiast to swallow.
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Re: "Rail Fans in Deadly Light"

Postby Dump The Air » Fri Sep 19, 2008 1:20 pm

Posting an employees full name to your stupid video is just plain silly, that job puts food on the table for him/her for you it's just a stupid video on youtube.

If you have something that you might think could get an employee in trouble, DON'T post it. Simple as that.
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Re: "Rail Fans in Deadly Light"

Postby jayrmli » Fri Sep 19, 2008 3:10 pm

I've had a few people hire on in train service and they actually learned more from these enthusiasts or what I like to refer to as "passionate people" everyone speaks of (employees of the RR) than non-enthusiasts or un-passionate people. Things like troubleshooting equipment to braking and rules; some people really go out of their way to show new people to the craft things other people aren't aware of or aren't as willing to share.


Again, it's not a bad trait to be a railfan, but I've seen some who can perform their job admirably, and maybe with a bit more pride than your regular employee. There are also others who hire on, and not only can hurt others but also themselves. Those who come to the railroad "knowing everything" are usually some of the most dangerous people to be around. Even someone with 30 years experience can learn something they never did before. You always have to keep an open mind.

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Re: "Rail Fans in Deadly Light"

Postby LongIslandTool » Fri Sep 19, 2008 5:51 pm

The Long Island has always had its share of railfans among its ranks and in its management. The vast majority areexceptional employees. You simply can't amass the huge amounts of technical knowledge to be an outstanding railroader without liking what you do.

What obviously has changed in recent years is the availability of great technology that enables instant sharing of information with everyone and a newfound paranoia of technical knowledge.

The Wall Street Journal article cited above should be a wake up call that buffs must alter their image and sometimes their behavior to gain acceptance and respect in these changing times.
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Re: "Rail Fans in Deadly Light"

Postby M1 9147 » Fri Sep 19, 2008 7:32 pm

The first, and most important thing is post something that you are doing, and not who you are with which I always do! This is in both public, and areas accessed by employees only. In such cases, when I put my photos in photobucket, I would say only such as an aircraft, what type it is, and such. I never would say who let me did it, or why I did it, because it makes no sense. All it takes is pure common sense here.
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Re: "Rail Fans in Deadly Light"

Postby oscapsfan » Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:55 pm

Crossposted from Mr. Norman's thread in the Amtrak forum:

While I agree that it doesn't cast rainfans in the best light, I'd hope most readers would be able to realize that anyone could have been text messaging the employee. It just so happened to be a friend that was text messaging him at the time, but it just so happened that that friend was a railfan. It could have easily have been a family member or non-railfan friend.
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Re: "Rail Fans in Deadly Light"

Postby jayrmli » Fri Sep 19, 2008 10:19 pm

While I agree that it doesn't cast rainfans in the best light, I'd hope most readers would be able to realize that anyone could have been text messaging the employee. It just so happened to be a friend that was text messaging him at the time, but it just so happened that that friend was a railfan. It could have easily have been a family member or non-railfan friend.


This is true. And no blame should be placed on the teens who may have sent a text message. They did nothing wrong. If what has been reported is true, the fault lies with the engineer who should have known better than to text message or do anything with his cell phone while operating the train. As a qualified employee who passed a rules exam, he/she is to know what is wrong and what isn't. No one else.

But, as was said earlier, if railfans can pose a distraction to employees on duty, they will be looked at differently on company property. As was mentioned, it is not all, but a few immature ones who don't keep their activities to themselves, and post things publicly on forums so they may be idolized by their peers. (i.e. - Look what I did yesterday - I got a cab ride from Joe Blow.)

Jay
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Re: "Rail Fans in Deadly Light"

Postby oscapsfan » Fri Sep 19, 2008 10:26 pm

jayrmli wrote:This is true. And no blame should be placed on the teens who may have sent a text message. They did nothing wrong. If what has been reported is true, the fault lies with the engineer who should have known better than to text message or do anything with his cell phone while operating the train. As a qualified employee who passed a rules exam, he/she is to know what is wrong and what isn't. No one else.

But, as was said earlier, if railfans can pose a distraction to employees on duty, they will be looked at differently on company property. As was mentioned, it is not all, but a few immature ones who don't keep their activities to themselves, and post things publicly on forums so they may be idolized by their peers. (i.e. - Look what I did yesterday - I got a cab ride from Joe Blow.)

Jay


I agree with this for the most part. Perhaps engineers should be prohibited completely from making cell phone calls and text messaging while working, because a text message/phone call can come from anywhere at any time. I mean, I get text messages and phone calls on my personal line while I work every day. Whether I choose to check them out or respond depends on the work I'm doing at the time. I don't see why this is any different. People in positions where peoples' lives are at stake need to be able to figure out when it is appropriate to handle personal business. This accident should not in any form be blamed on railfans.

-Dan
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Re: "Rail Fans in Deadly Light"

Postby Noel Weaver » Sat Sep 20, 2008 5:30 am

Unfortunately, this terrible incident has cast a bad light on both railroad employees and their fans. It can be overcomed but
it will take much cooperation and common sense. Operating employees especially need to keep their cell phones in their
grips and turned off when they are working and not give out their numbers to outsiders. Railfans need to leave the railroad
people alone and allow them to do their jobs when they are on duty and this includes trespassing on railroad property,
not trying to reach a friendly engineer, conductor, block operator or dispatcher. Public timetables give the train schedules
for the LIRR and outside of deadhead equipment moves and freight trains, this is it. The railfan grapvine is very effective
in providing information regarding extra special moves and sometimes an employee will post something concerning this
during their off duty time.
I think most of the railroads still want a decent relationship with their fans but it has to be on the railroad's terms and that
means following the points I posted above along with some more that I did not put on here.
Another thing, if you are riding a passenger train, let the crew do their jobs, do not ask to ride the cab or the front end of
the first car if it is closed off. Engine and MU cabs are off limits and right now any conductor or engineer who allows an
outsider who does not work for the railroad in a cab risks losing their job. How would you feel if you caused Mr. "Nice Guy"
to lose his job for allowing you to ride in his cab or on his locomotive? Engine cabs and head cars are not particularly safe
places to ride especially on the LIRR which has a huge number of grade crossings, a very poor place to be in the event that
a gasoline truck decides to race a train to a crossing. Not a pleasant place to be if a train hits a trespasser or even if the
cab window gets struck by a rock or other large object. Stay back in the train where you belong, are very safe and out of
the way.
One last thing, when you go out to photograph or watch trains, leave the attitude at home as it can get you into trouble
quicker than you think.
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Re: "Rail Fans in Deadly Light"

Postby kmart » Sat Sep 20, 2008 7:37 am

I got a kick out of the way the wall street journal article refered to buffs as "foamers" for the way they foam at the mouth when they see a train.never heard that expression before.good one.
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