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Would you go for this one?


GrizzFlyer
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MD0122 is a BM on a railroad bridge pier. Pix below show the general area. The bridge itself is easily accessible from the right (east) through a small municipal park. The BM is on the center pier and is 6.2 feet below the level of the rail. The railroad is fairly active, about one train per hour. Keeping in mind that it is an active RR, its on the center pier, and its over 6 feet down to the top of the pier, about another 25-30 feet down to a splash, and then there's that pesky trespassing issue,

 

....would you go for it??

 

Not trying to start any debates over any of the railroad legal issues, just wondering what the general consensus is on the actual physical obstacles and physical risk involved.

 

So far I've resisted the urge to recover it, and I probably won't do it

 

bmmd01222pq9.jpg

 

bmmd01221tk6.jpg

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Looks like a paddle to!

 

Jayman11

 

Yep. Thats what I thought. I would never try to access it via the RR bridge but might with my canoe.....

 

Edit to say nope. I spoke before I looked. The mark is on the top of the pier. I wouldn't even try it.

Edited by TheBeanTeam
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Nope - access issues preclude using proper safety guidelines in accessing this point on your own. The Alaska Railroad's Maintenance of Way division would require a line shutdown for accessing this location for the duration of mantime on the bridge - and that's required under the operating standards mandated by the Federal Railway Administration - designed to prevent injury or death of railway workers.

 

Railroad access rule of thumb: You can generally cross it perpendicular to the tracks, but there is no circumstance where parallel movement on the tracks (or even on the ballast alongside the tracks) is allowable or wise.

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Hmmmm...

 

Tough call. It would depend most upon how many other marks I had found in the area. I gladly pass up a mark like that if it is in an area I am only casually hunting, but in my "home territory" I tend to get obsessive about looking for everything. That is why I am one mark short of completing Lebanon County, PA, and within about 20 or so of completing Dauphin County.

 

Let's weigh the risks and benefits.

 

Benefits

None really. The mark was last found in 1992, so no credit for finding a long lost mark. With trains coming hourly it would be hard to occupy, and permission to do so would be difficult to get from the railroad.

 

Risks

It is in the middle of a bridge. A single track bridge. No easy way to get to it without walking on the tracks.

No easy way to get DOWN to it, much less back up. I ran into a mark that was 4 feet down on an abutment once and ended up tying a broom to a stick to clean it off in order to see it.

Busy track. No details needed for that.

Norfolk Southern police are mean. I never ran into one but the word is that they don't take trespassing lightly. They can arrest you if they want, and will most likely ticket you.

 

Ok, now that is of the way. I never was much good at doing that sort of thing anyway. I tend to do it in my head and reach whatever conclusion I wanted to reach, even if the evidence points the other way.

 

How to get to that mark.

 

First, research the railroad in that area. If you are driving around and see a guy standing beside the tracks with a camera around his neck and a scanner in his hand, he is a railfan. Stop and ask him when the least busy times on that rail line are. He will know, because he likely stays home at that time. In my area the slack times are Saturdays and Sunday mornings. Traffic picks up Sunday afternoon, because the railroads have a lot of Monday morning arrival commitments (so I have heard). If you want to go crazy about it, get a scanner, find your local frequencies and see if there are any automated announcers near that bridge. That means any detector that radios train status to the crew. The most prevalent are DEDs, dragging equipment detectors. They verbally announce the time, train length (by wheel count) and whether anything is hanging off any rail cars.

 

Second, determine how you will physically get to the mark. Take a scouting trip to see if the bridge has walkway or if you will have to hoof it across the ties to the center. This is the difference between an easy stroll and an uncomfortable slow walk, so it matters.

 

Third, try to figure out if you can get down to the mark and back up. The last thing you need is to be standing on the pier with no way back to the track level. The railroad and fire department would not be amused. The local news would however.

 

Fourth, how can you escape if a train comes? What if you are right in the middle of one of the spans and a train comes into view? It looks like the tracks are dead straight at that spot, so you should be able to see a train for quite a distance before it arrives. That can take quite a bit of the edge off.

 

Finally, wait until a train has just passed. At that point you know you have time until the next train. It may not be a lot, as trains theoretically can follow at about a 10 minute interval in the same direction, but most likely you will have a longer time to do what you need to do. Trains coming the other direction will have a longer interval, since they will have to start from a full stop at whatever siding they are located on, and then head your way.

 

I recently had a similar situation nearby with KW1360. It wasn't on a bridge, but was in a tight cut beneath one. And it wasn't a "walk in walk out" mark either. I had to chisel mortar off the mark just to confirm it was there. The abutment was so close to the track that if a train had surprised me the only option would have been to flop down on the ground on the ballast while the train passed. Before I set foot on the tracks I had my escape routes planned though no matter which direction a train came from. I also went on Sunday at about noon, the lightest traffic times there. The location was such that I couldn't see more than about 200 feet in either direction, so all my senses were on edge. Every truck that came along a parallel road made my heart pound. I probably resembled that meerkat that guards the den, perking up and looking around every 15 seconds or so to listen and look. Luckily I was totally correct about the light traffic time on that line (which the property owner beside the tracks confirmed) so I didn't have to scramble.

 

A future challenge will occur on a much busier line near my, also in a cut. This time I need to walk at least 3/10 of a mile along the tracks to get to the mark, cross two busy mainline tracks, find it on a rock outcrop, and get out. My main fear, and what has been holding me back, is the escape route situation. There is a dirt road along the tracks, on the opposite side of the tracks from the mark, so getting near the mark is easy. If I had the guts I could drive right to the general location. However, there is no clearance on the side of the tracks where the mark is actually located, so if a train came I would be in a difficult situation, with only one place to run--across two tracks. With my luck (and I always count on the worst happening), there would be a train on the other track and I would be trapped, forced to lie in the ballast while a train thundered over me at 40 mph. Then I would have to hustle out of there before the railroad police got there, as the train crew would most certainly call them! This is why there are 3 benchmarks in a couple mile radius that I simply haven't gotten to, and may never get to.

 

One last thing. Your picture of the bridge has me wondering. The mark is reported as being 6.2 feet below track level, but the top of the pier looks like it is about 2 feet below the level. And it looks like there has been a cap put on top of the pier. d4bf4a0b-f4b5-43dd-a325-a2ade4d26aaf.jpg

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No way anyone should ever walk along an active track on a single-line railroad bridge of that length. No escape route. A couple kids got killed in our town a few years ago in a similar situation.

 

mloser is as agressive as anyone I've heard of in these situations, although he does calculate his risks carefully. But even he seems to be saying it would be pushing your luck on this one.

 

He didn't mention the visibility factor--you aren't out in the woods, but right in town where the local constabulary are likely to see you as well.

 

You can investigate the idea of the new cap on the pier without taking any risks. Take a measuring stick about 6 ft long and set it near the end of the bridge. Go retake photos of the pier and your measuring stick from the vantage point that makes them equal distances away. Use appropriate zoom and don't change it between photos so you can scale the vertical distances at the pier using your stick to set the scale. This will give accurate distances below the rail.

 

Talk to the rail fans in the area to find out if they know about any work on the bridge that would explain or date the pier cap.

 

Find a friend with a fishing boat and rig your camera on the end of a pole with a trip cord, so as to get pictures of the top of the pier.

 

Then post a note explaining that the cap appears to be covering the benchmark, if that is the result of your investigation.

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Now remember, I never said I WOULD do it, just that I would CONSIDER it.

 

I can't stress enough that I go for these things only with full knowledge of, and preparation for,what I am getting into. People always mention the danger of begin on or near railroad tracks, and I see their point, I have only done this where I knew the train activity of the tracks I have been on, and I make sure I always have an out. Plus, I am always extremely vigilant in watching for trains, to the point of paranoia.

 

I won't even tell you the one I found along the Amtrak line where trains normally exceed 80mph and are pulled by electric locomotives (very quiet). No, nothing happened. But I was nerrrrrrvous! Email me if you want the details.

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There are two ways to do this.

 

One is to talk to track maintenance people. I would not go any higher than the first line supervisor. See if they know if any maintenance is scheduled for that line that would shut it down. People at that level probably don’t know the schedule in advance too well. But you might work something out if you offered a case of beer.

 

The second is to do a lot of recon. I was going to suggest you use Google Earth to check the track and see where the sidings and grade crossings are but I see the resolution is poor in that area. But you need to get that information. Then keep an eye on the track to see if there are any maintenance crews working on the line. Look for large equipment on the track. Highrail equipment is too easy to move. They are normal trucks with retractable flanged wheels. When a train comes they drive down to the nearest grade crossing, retract the wheels and drive down the road out of the way. So they are not as good of an indicator as things like tie tampers that move very slowly and therefore take a long time to clear the track.

 

When the maintenance crews are on the track you know there are not going to be any trains coming.

 

One other thing, look closely at what the track maintenance crews wear and copy them. The hard hat safety glasses and orange vest will make you look like one of them and nobody will suspect you don’t belong there.

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Getting pseudo-permission is always handy, if you can find the right people. Like 68-eldo suggested, don't go too high. If you can find a MOW crew on that stretch of track you can ask the supervisor. These people are not usually schooled in the dangers of letting people wander the tracks and may give you the go ahead to head out on the bridge. Ask someone higher and they will be well aware of the railroad's liability if anything happens to you and will give you a flat out "no". Remember that even if you get this sort of go-ahead to be on the property it is not actually permission, and the NS police will still frown on you being there (by "frown" I mean "ticket").

 

Mapquest resolution is pretty good for this area. It is VERY hard to tell but there might be a passing track at Broughton, 6 miles to the west, and one at Continental, 5 miles east. I am basing that on what looks like a slightly wider right of way in the images, not on being able to see the actual tracks.

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For the OP, too dangerous, unless you know the line has been closed for maintenance. But then, the RR would bring in enough folks to do all the needed maintenance quickly, including that near the bridge. TSee also the possibility of pier being capped. This one not worth it!

 

 

A future challenge will occur on a much busier line near my, also in a cut. This time I need to walk at least 3/10 of a mile along the tracks to get to the mark, cross two busy mainline tracks, find it on a rock outcrop, and get out. My main fear, and what has been holding me back, is the escape route situation. There is a dirt road along the tracks, on the opposite side of the tracks from the mark, so getting near the mark is easy. If I had the guts I could drive right to the general location. However, there is no clearance on the side of the tracks where the mark is actually located, so if a train came I would be in a difficult situation, with only one place to run--across two tracks. With my luck (and I always count on the worst happening), there would be a train on the other track and I would be trapped, ................

Rope ladder maybe, escape up and not out? Might work depending on the cut wall. May also give you greater vision each way before desending.

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When the maintenance crews are on the track you know there are not going to be any trains coming.

 

One other thing, look closely at what the track maintenance crews wear and copy them. The hard hat safety glasses and orange vest will make you look like one of them and nobody will suspect you don’t belong there.

 

This is so wrong, there are rules in place to protect us while working on the tracks. But it does not mean there will not be trains.

 

Since 9/11 the railroads have gotten alot more serious about non-authorized people on or near right-of-ways. Impersonating railroad employees is not the way to go. If caught you would probably be facing jail time and fairly stiff fines.

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But you might work something out if you offered a case of beer.
If you can find a MOW crew on that stretch of track you can ask the supervisor. These people are not usually schooled in the dangers of letting people wander the tracks and may give you the go ahead to head out on the bridge.

 

I guess I should have stayed at home drinking beer rather than spenting 16hrs in classes such as On Track Safety, FRA rules training and Rail Security Awareness. Training is done annually and is a requirement of employment.

 

Cannot speak for Norfolk Southern but by looking at their safety record one could assume their employees do know the danger of wandering down the tracks.

Edited by v-hunter
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Thanks, but I'll pass on that one. I've pretty much decided to give up on all benchmarks that bring me too close to active rail lines. (Ten feet away? That's a different story.) Once, I did one on a trestle. LY0394 It was in the middle of town, over a piddling creek, and I don't think the NYS&W runs on weekends. I have a fear of heights, and trestles terrify me! Even only six feet above the water! But, the NYS&W is not a very trespasser-friendly railroad. (And unfortunately, a lot of benchmarks in my county are along their line. Oh well.)

Nope, I'm not that hard up for benchmarks to find!

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Thanks guys for all the opinions and ideas, and pointing out a couple of things I didn't consider (like the possible cap on the pier). All considered, I'm going to have to pass on this one. If anyone else wants to attempt it though, let me know and I'll meet you there and videotape the episode from my photo-taking vantage point. :P

 

There have been quite a few BM's that I've passed by because they were on active RR property. And some that I probably should have passed by but did them anyway because I had a good "out" and they weren't physically dangerous.

 

One of Clint Eastwood's famous movie lines is "a man has got to know his limitations". Ain't it the truth.

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When the maintenance crews are on the track you know there are not going to be any trains coming.

 

One other thing, look closely at what the track maintenance crews wear and copy them. The hard hat safety glasses and orange vest will make you look like one of them and nobody will suspect you don’t belong there.

 

This is so wrong, there are rules in place to protect us while working on the tracks. But it does not mean there will not be trains.

 

Since 9/11 the railroads have gotten alot more serious about non-authorized people on or near right-of-ways. Impersonating railroad employees is not the way to go. If caught you would probably be facing jail time and fairly stiff fines.

 

I did not mean to imply that you should impersonate a railroad employee. But if you are out there without the OSHA approved gear you will stand out as much as if you were buck naked. If ask you tell the truth. But from a distance you could be a contractor inspecting the bridge.

 

The beer could get you in good with the supervisor who would work with you in some manner to help you with your mission. If the crew is in the area and they know there are no trains coming he could let you know and even supply an escort.

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MD0122 is a BM on a railroad bridge pier. Pix below show the general area. The bridge itself is easily accessible from the right (east) through a small municipal park. The BM is on the center pier and is 6.2 feet below the level of the rail. The railroad is fairly active, about one train per hour. Keeping in mind that it is an active RR, its on the center pier, and its over 6 feet down to the top of the pier, about another 25-30 feet down to a splash, and then there's that pesky trespassing issue,

 

....would you go for it??

 

Not trying to start any debates over any of the railroad legal issues, just wondering what the general consensus is on the actual physical obstacles and physical risk involved.

 

So far I've resisted the urge to recover it, and I probably won't do it

 

bmmd01222pq9.jpg

 

bmmd01221tk6.jpg

 

The pier definitely appears to have been capped, so that pretty much kills my enthusiasm.

 

If not for the cap however...

With careful risk assessment and timing, I'd go for it.

 

I have recovered plenty of marks on bridges along active rail, but so far they all (as I remember anyway) have been either small culvert-type bridges (6-10 foot leap to safety in the soft sand below if necessary), and/or the marks have been on the abutments at the ends of the bridge.

 

---I hear the train a comin'

It's rollin' 'round the bend---Johnny Cash

Edited by AZcachemeister
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