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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Transportation Talk
Thread started 20 Jan 2009 (Tuesday) 15:03
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Train shooters - how do you find out when trains are coming?

 
NorCalAl
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Jan 20, 2009 15:03 |  #1

No, I don't mean putting your ear to the track, either. I've tried searching the web, but perhaps I'm just not using the right lingo or whatever. How do you find schedules?

I live in northern California a few miles from a busy line, but I'll be gol-dearned if I can figure out, short of sitting there, when a train will be coming by. Specifically, the hiway 70 loop. I know there's no passenger trains coming down, they are all freight.

Anyone got a source? Ideas?


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Anke
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Jan 20, 2009 15:11 |  #2

Perhaps investing in a day of sitting there studying the track would give you the general times they come by, then next time you can just turn up 10 minutes before.


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NorCalAl
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Jan 20, 2009 15:51 |  #3

Believe me, I've thought of that and done some. However, without some idea of how things work, the data gathered is pretty pointless. If I sat there today, Tuesday, Jan 20, would the trains that pass by be on schedule for Tuesdays? or the 20th of the month? or do they run different times in different seasons (which I know is true of some routes as they take food produced in California and run it back east or during the holidays when many extra cars/trains are hauling fedex/ups stuff)? If I come back tomorrow and the trains aren't there, was I too early/late? Was the date/day of the week different? I need some kind of data or knowledge to integrate with my findings or they aren't worth much.

That's why I was hoping someone had some insight.


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Anke
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Jan 20, 2009 15:55 |  #4

NorCalAl wrote in post #7119242external link
Believe me, I've thought of that and done some. However, without some idea of how things work, the data gathered is pretty pointless. If I sat there today, Tuesday, Jan 20, would the trains that pass by be on schedule for Tuesdays? or the 20th of the month? or do they run different times in different seasons (which I know is true of some routes as they take food produced in California and run it back east or during the holidays when many extra cars/trains are hauling fedex/ups stuff)? If I come back tomorrow and the trains aren't there, was I too early/late? Was the date/day of the week different? I need some kind of data or knowledge to integrate with my findings or they aren't worth much.

That's why I was hoping someone had some insight.

Ahh, yes, I see your issue there :)

Perhaps calling up the freight companies might yield something, or perhaps any local trainspotters or trainspotting societies?


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BobOh
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Jan 20, 2009 16:40 |  #5

Anke wrote in post #7119276external link
Perhaps calling up the freight companies might yield something, or perhaps any local trainspotters or trainspotting societies?

I had a station agent in Columbus, WI (Amtrak) tell me the freight lines don't disclose schedules to the general public due to post-9/11 considerations. Passenger trains obviously have to have schedules, but not freight trains. Don't know how true that is.

It's my impression that all the serious trainspotters have scanners.


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JDavis21835
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Jan 20, 2009 19:21 |  #6

Freights pretty much run any time. Some areas you get a pattern. In my area I know there is a freight that runs by at about 10 am, and returns to the yard at 5pm. Other than that the local runs all day some days. Other days you dont see it. It depends on the switching demands. You may try to talk to one of the customers of the railroad. When I was working in the demo business we usually loaded 7 gondolas out a day. Then call the railroad. They would usually be there within an hour.




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Jan 20, 2009 19:32 |  #7

Ask the neighbor's kids?


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ruaslacker2
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Jan 20, 2009 21:03 |  #8

Are there any signals where you are ? If so look for a green signal. Or go buy a scanner and find the frequency the railroad uses. Or thirdly look for people with cameras trackside and ask them. They will be railfans. Hope this helps.

Jerry


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dtw757
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Jan 21, 2009 19:07 as a reply to ruaslacker2's post |  #9

Put your head on the tracks and listen...that's what they did in all the early Cowboy and Ind...oops ..Native American movies:) Do you live near a big city where you can get an estimate of the time they leave the station and use say a 60 mile/hr avg speed, apply the distance to where you're waiting to get a rough time? For Frieghts....just ask the locals how busy the line is and do they have an idea of when they come through.


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Odie23
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Jan 22, 2009 14:19 |  #10

I usually go up to Point of Rocks MD to shoot CSX stuff, but have yet to be able to get "on schedule" with the trains. I carry scanner and have the frequencies, but I don't know the train numbers or where the mile post are so hearing "Q1214 passing milepost 1131" does nothing for me. I employ a wait & see approach. Fortunatly I pick a like that I know will have heavy traffic so my wait times aren't too bad.

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NorCalAl
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Jan 22, 2009 18:36 |  #11

Huh. I kinda thought there was some secret system that I just couldn't clue into as far as schedules go. I guess I AM going to end up just sitting there. It's a pretty busy line, at least judging how many times I've seen trains on it. It's about 15 miles from me to the place I want to shoot, but I can probably stay there for a while once I get set up.

Thanks for the tips - I guess Radio Shack will be seeing me soon, too!


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tubawxman
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Jan 24, 2009 08:32 |  #12

There are many different ways to go about it. I live in a major metro area, so its not hard for me to find trains. However, once out in the country, a radio is an indespensible tool. That and a map so you know where they are are in relation to you. Scanners are not overly sensitive and radios on the trains themselves are not overly powerful. I'm an amateur radio operator and the radio in my truck for that is much more sensitive than a scanner and works very well. Some states have scanner laws where you cannot have them in a motor vehicle unless you hold an amateur radio license. Finding a map with railroad mileposts is difficult, but they are out there. SPV Railroad Atlases are decent, showing railroad mileposts and cities, but do not include roads. I have friends that are railroaders and sometimes the info I am looking for appears in my inbox. There are many railfan groups on Yahoogroups that provide heads up on coming train movements and I'm sure there would be one for the region you live in. Also, there is a software package called ATCSMonitor that can show you where the trains are. Some rail lines use radio codeline to control switches and some radios and scanners are able to pick up these radio signals and decode them and display them on a display similar to what the dispatcher would see. You can check out ATCSMon over on Yahoogroups as well. Few freight trains run by timetable anymore, but some trains generally follow the same schedule that can vary by a few hours.


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tubawxman
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Jan 24, 2009 09:40 |  #13

NorCalAl-Did some quick searches and came up with a few leads for you. The UP's Canyon Sub does use radio codeline and some of it is monitorable using ATCSMonitor. It is not complete, but its all user-driven, so if there is interest, it may get finished. To be able to use what is there, you would need a laptop and a decent scanner. I can give you more information on that if interested. As for a Yahoogroup for your area, you may want to check out http://finance.groups.​yahoo.com ...ub=groups&sec=group​&slk=1external link It looks very active and covers northern CA especially. I would love to get out and shoot in your area sometime. Its too bad the California Zephyr doesn't take the former WP line through Feather River Canyon anymore, but I hear Donner Pass isn't too shabby either. Hope this helps!


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NorCalAl
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Jan 24, 2009 19:25 |  #14

Bryan - thanks! Feather River canyon is exactly where I'm talking about. There's a loop at the end (southern) of the canyon that is a great spot to catch the trains and that's where I've been thinking of just hanging out. I'm checked out the software and I'm going to check out scanners. I signed up for a couple yahoo groups, too. Thanks for all the info!


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s8langwo
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Jan 25, 2009 13:12 |  #15

A completely different method.

I frequent a hobby shop where model railroading is emphasized. I frequently am introduced into rail employees who model themselves. They would be a good source for schedules.

Some of the railfan forums might also yield helpful information.

Good luck,
Kevin


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Train shooters - how do you find out when trains are coming?
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