Night Railfan'n

Hi all
Just some thoughts that ya'll might be interested in.
Ran out of sleep this am and to keep from screwing with computers I went
out of town about a ways and sat on the BNSF right-of-way at MP1330. It
was pretty dark, no moon in sight; although the stars were pretty
bright. Besides being dark, it was also quiet. I could hear the
distant roar of Kootenai Falls, along with occasional traffic on HiWay 2.
I could see the CS signal at East Kootenai Falls that was pointed toward
me ( east ); when lit of course, and if I looked and squinted me eyes, I
think that I could see the indication reflection of the west pointing
signal on the trees in the background. CS was about 9/10 of a mile
away. In the hour I just sat out there, I witnessed 4 movements, 2
east, 2 west with both eastbounds having to take the siding and wait for
a few minutes.
I guess that I am sharing this with ya as it is completely different
then the ...ahem... normal ( if train nuts are normal ) rail fan'n
during the day. Besides the prime mover, I could hear the different
compressors on the power along with hum/rattleing of the traction motors
when they came by along with a close up of all the running lights,
indicators and such. I also could hear the refrig compressors on the
boxes as they passed. Sure, you always hear the bad bearings on a few
of the cars along with the wheel/rail squeel, but have you heard this in
complete darkness? I guess that during the day you have sensory
overload and miss most of this stuff. When completly dark, all the
stuff you would normally see in the daylight isn't there and you end up
focused on the noises. You don't really realize how bright the FRED
is and how far you can see the thing in black.
East bound movements could be seen before I could hear them as the
headlight cut a pretty big swath on the mountain in front of me on the
other side of the river. When the eastbound came out of the siding, you
could hear the hogger moving to the different run positions. I suspect
that by the time the power got to me they were doing 30 to 40 mph. By
the time the end came by - 50mph or more. Westbound movements could be
heard just before the headlight could be seen on the trees near me and
these went by at speed, looking into a green over red at the CS.
I can just imagine what the crew(s) thought when they saw that there was
indeed someone in that 4X4 @ 3:30ish am.
Looking forward to run'n out of sleep again!
Reply to
Todd Hackett
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I've always been a nocturnal railfan - perhaps because we have more rail traffic in the after-hours, or perhaps because it's the only time I really have available. And it's amazing how different things look, sound and feel at night. In deep valleys here in West Virginia, sometimes you can hear trains when they're 20 miles away, and sometimes they pop out of nowhere. And the /thump-thump/ sound just carries better at night. I've spent many a nighttime hour watching/chasing trains from one end of this valley to the other - road traffic tends to be considerably less at 2 in the morning, making it much easier to pace a train for a considerable distance.
Glad to know that I'm not the only nocturnal nutcase out there. :) It's also affected my modeling - any layout I build will have to have some consideration for night operations. Buildings need full or partial interiors so they don't look empty when lit up at night. I've even considered running fibre-optic cables around my HO scale diesels to provide step and walkway lights. (Though I have yet to actually do so.)
Probably no different then they think about us during the day - hey, it's another loon with a camera! Here's to the night. 'till later.....
Reply to
Andrew Cummings
I've done it. Most rail traffic in the city moves at night because the commuter-rail suck up all the space 0600 - 2200
I used to lay in the grass, next to the equuipment/signal box, camera on tripod, remote in hand. I good time for a young man to aquaint himself with Led Zeppelin. __________________________________________________ ...Can't sleep. Clown'll eat me...
Drew Bunn Ainsley Specialized Transportation Mississuaga, Ontario __________________________________________________
Reply to
Drew Bunn
Gee if the police/railway officials give railfans a hard time during daylight, I wonder what they would do in the middle of the night? "Must be one of those sneaky terrorists!"
Bob B
Reply to
I put in 7 years as a switchman, mostly on the midnight shift, and I liked working nights for the ambience. It sucked for my social life, of course.
There is a lot of stuff that is visible at night that you can't see (or don't notice) during the day including the way headlights shine on surrounding structures, changing as the locomotive moves through, or past, them. I especially liked the way Mars lights shined all over the place illuminating all kinds of things momentarily as they went by and how the forward-pointing caboose marker lights shine on the side of the caboose.
And there are the signals, switch stand lamps, switchman's lanterns, lights inside and outside buildings and the patterns they make on the ground where they shine through windows. There are yard floods, lights strung along the top of the ice dock and hobo camp fires. And, as you mentioned, a number of lights on locomotives.
I think model railroads are more interesting at night, just like the prototypes. I'm building my model railroad for night operation and the buildings I have so far have interiors and are, of course, lighted. I also built a lighted backdrop of a town. I have started installing lighted caboose markers on my cabooses.
All of my "covered wagon" diesels (F units) have marker lights, lighted number boards, interior lights and "ground lights." They are on all the time. There was a recent thread about whether engine room lights are left on and on the prototype I worked for they were left on all the time. Same for marker lights and number boards. I don't know about other railroads, but the Rio Grande had "ground lights" on all their locomotives right below the engineer's window that allowed them to see the ground for judging speed. It also made the locomotive visible for switchmen and brakemen when it was a long distance from them. I used fiber optics to simulate the globe and used a lamp up inside the shell to shine on the trucks. Cabs are closed off to keep them prototypically dark.
Paul Welsh
Reply to
Paul Welsh

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