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Nostalgia & History > Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.


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Date: 12/13/19 04:14
Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: Roadjob

When you cover enough turf, you learn as a fan, who will tolerate you, who loves you, and who shallwe say, looks at you as a stain on the Earth. Most truly fell into the first two categorys, but there were some should we say, were hostile. I've said many times here that I fully recognized, and still do today, that railroads are not our personal playground. That is why I always asked permission when possible, but even without it being possible, I'd get in, take my shots, and get out. I always dressed like the railroaders, and kept a very low profile. No climbing on things, or moving an property around. Lingering was never an option unless they sanctioned my presence. To that end, there were three railroads that I considered Indian country when I went on trips. I mentioned many threads back, the worst experience I had in 1969 on RF&P, but the other two nastiest situations I had on the property were with the Boston and Maine, and the Union Railroad in the Pittsburgh area. The Boston and Maine was just plain belligerant. I had run ins with employees at Mechanicville and East Deerfield even while on public property. Those stories will be future posts. BUT, the Union Railroad was an adventure in itself. I was literally chased off the property one time by a guy who could have only caught me if he rolled, he was so overweight. One time I had the engineer give me the finger, and scream at me that he was going to have me arrested. I still remembering him yelling back even after several cars went by. Other fans told me that they would arrest anybody who came on their property. To that end, I found these shots taken on a Sunday foray around Pittsburgh in 1972. I shot the one train almost by accident, because I was more interested in the PC mainline. This crew basically just ignored me, because I was a step behind the shutter release getting the hell out of there. The other shots are of the facility at Hall Pa. I believe it was called. The four Baldwins, or Buffalos as I remember them being tagged, and the crop of switichers, was my in your face to the Union. Never shot the railroad again. I'm sure they missed me, LOL!

Bill Rettberg
Bel Air, MD
commercial photography



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/13/19 04:17 by Roadjob.








Date: 12/13/19 04:16
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: Roadjob

top...fine collection of mighty mites.

bottom...impressive shop complex. This was as close as I was going to get to thos service bays.

Bill Rettberg
Bel Air, MD
commercial photography






Date: 12/13/19 06:24
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: refarkas

Great set of photos. I especially like those showing the "buffalos".
Your comments are so true about different places and/or railroads. I was chased about a block by an angry Milwaukee employee who thought I was an insurance investigator!
Bob



Date: 12/13/19 06:37
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: njmidland

As a kid in 5th grade, we were asked to write 3 letters to companies asking them for information about their company.  I of course wrote to 3 railroads.  Here is what I got:

1. Erie Lackawanna - they sent me a nice letter and included timetables for the two commuter lines closed to my home.
2. Santa Fe - they sent a system map and a lot of nice 8X10 publicity photos.
3. Central Railroad of New Jersey - they sent me a mimeographed copy of the penalties for trespassing on railroad property in the state of New Jersey!

I never did go near the CNJ until after it was absorbed into Conrail!



Date: 12/13/19 06:50
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: Railbaron

Although a west coast railfan I made trips "back east". One of those trips found me flying into Pittsburgh and then branching out from there. Even before I left San Francisco I had been warned to stay completely away from Union Railroad's property and under no circumstances trespass - and this was long before the internet so their anti-railfan attitude was well known across the country even almost 50 years ago. BTW, I believe I also shot from that hill you shot from. 



Date: 12/13/19 07:08
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: Theowhitey

Too bad URR wasn't more tolerant, because you got some nice stuff even while "treading lightly".
Seems to me that the roads that were owned by private industry were generally more suspicious--and less tolerant--of visitors.
I can hardly wait for the Boston & Maine installment!
/Ted



Date: 12/13/19 07:24
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: icancmp193

A friend of mine lived up on the hill behind the shops in photo #5. He was not a railfan, but told me there were some railroad shops down in the "hollow". I cruised down there and grabbed a few photos from the (public) road and got out without incident, circa 1976.

TJY



Date: 12/13/19 07:48
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: Frisco1522

Only time I ever remember getting stopped was back in the '70s.  Joe Collias and I were driving around Dupo, IL and area and looking for something interesting to shoot.   I drove up to Valley Jct where the SLSW roundhouse was and was going to take a couple of pictures of the house.   Drove back and turned around to get out and take the pictures when a SLSW cop stopped me an put a .38 in the window and asked what the hell we were doing.   We were both cleanly dressed, in fact I think I had a white shirt on.  He told us people had been going back there and stealing journal brass from some reefers stored.  He saw how clean we were and decided we were no threat and told us to go.
I guess times are a lot different since 9/11.  I have no interest in contemporary railroading, so don't have to worry about the security problems.



Date: 12/13/19 08:19
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: jcaestecker

Back in the early '90s, I was making sales calls at printing companies in southern Idaho and stopped on the shoulder of a country road to shoot a UP local around lunchtime.  As soon as the train passed, a black sedan pulled up behind me and a nicely dressed older man idetified himself as UP Police.  After telling him about my interest trains, he looked at my clothing -- shirt and tie -- and asked me if I worked for the government.  I smiled and simply said "No."  He smailed as well and replied, "Well, then I guess I could like ya."  And off he went.

-John



Date: 12/13/19 08:22
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: SPDRGWfan

RR employee's can sometimes be a grumpy lot.  On the Joint Line between Denver and Colorado Springs a Santa Fe train was passinga videographer and a fireman was leaning out the door shouting "don't you have anything better to do?".  The miserable guy was immortalized on video.



Date: 12/13/19 08:28
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: SPDRGWfan

jcaestecker Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Back in the early '90s, I was making sales calls
> at printing companies in southern Idaho and
> stopped on the shoulder of a country road to shoot
> a UP local around lunchtime.  As soon as the
> train passed, a black sedan pulled up behind me
> and a nicely dressed older man idetified himself
> as UP Police.  After telling him about my
> interest trains, he looked at my clothing -- shirt
> and tie -- and asked me if I worked for the
> government.  I smiled and simply said "No."  He
> smailed as well and replied, "Well, then I guess I
> could like ya."  And off he went.
>
> -John

I wonder what he could have done if you were a G man?  Didn't the Feds have more authority in those day?  Or I may be thinking further back in time.  Of course the RR police didn't have to like the G men.



Date: 12/13/19 08:29
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: march_hare

hmm, the Union was legendary for its aggressive attitude toward fans. 

My experience with the B and M around Mechanicville was nowhere near as bad. Drove right up to the engine terminal on many occasions, even did available light night shots a few times. Billerica, on the other hand, was a different story, and I never did go in there (highway access was really bad, anyway). Never had much of a problem at Deerfield, either, until the Guilford years. 

Guilfod was just structually hostile toward everything and  everybody— fans, the public, regulators, shippers. 



Date: 12/13/19 08:36
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: BAB

One evening years back about 1971 a fellow who worked for the railroad and I went out to the Interbay shops in Ballard just north of Seattle. Walked around inside the shops, think it was just off a turntable but too long ago without any problems.  As we were leaving some fellow walked up to us and said leave now this is railroad property. That was it nothing else no threats at all.



Date: 12/13/19 08:41
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: cr7998

Bill - great commentary as well as great pics.  I lived in the Pittsburgh area for twelve years, and heard many similar stories from local fans about the Union Railroad.  One of them was hauled into a local magistrate's office by the Union Railroad Police for trespassing on Union property at North Bessemer.  The magistrate, who perhaps had dealt with such things before, asked the fan if he had crossed any tracks.  Fortunately for him, the fan had not, and stated so, and the magistrate dismissed the charges.  North Bessemer was a large yard where the Union Railroad connected with the Bessemer & Lake Erie (B&LE), a very active spot until the downsizing of the steel industry around Pittsburgh in the late 70's and early 80's.  The Union Railroad came in from the south, and the B&LE from the north.  Although both roads were owned by US Steel, the B&LE people generally did not have the hostility toward railfans that the Union Railroad did.  I knew a number of fans who took pics at the B&LE engine facilities (before being closed around 1980) and near the north end of the yard without incident.  But those fans warned me, stay away from the Union Railroad property at the south end of the yard, and I heeded those warnings.  I also heard stories of fans being told to leave from the road on the hillside above the Union Railroad roundhouse and shops, even though public property.  The hostility also extended to the security people at the various US Steel plants in the Mon Valley, who zealously protected the property and the 50-year old technological secrets of the various mills.  

Fortunately, there were many places where the Union Railroad could be photographed at some distance from the property.  The Route 22 bridge by the shops, which you used for a photo platform, was one, and there were several others, including the George Westinghouse bridge at East Pittsburgh and the Duquesne Blvd bridge over the Union Railroad's Duquesne Yard.  I took many pics from those bridges and was never bothered by anyone.  The Rankin Bridge was also a good spot, but Union Railroad moves under it became infrequent after closure of the Carrie Furnace Works and Homestead Works in the 80's.   

The Union Railroad is still active today, but slimmed down and with nowhere near the intensity it had back in the 60's and 70's.  I don't know about their current approach toward fans, but I would still recommend staying off their property.    

 



Date: 12/13/19 08:59
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: overniteman

Oak Island yard in Newark, New Jersey when it was the Lehigh Valley's.

It was as if they had Lojack or radar on me.
In I would go and get tossed within minites. Nothing crazy or violent, just get out.  

I didn't drive when I first started to 'fan so my mother would do some driving on the weekends.
She may have been the first and only mother to get tossed out of Oak Island and Communipaw yard in one day.



Date: 12/13/19 09:52
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: miralomarail

In the early 70's, I was walking on a Highway bridge over looking the San Diego & Arizona Eastern RR Yard in San Diego, Ca  ( Part of the SP ) and a SP Special Officer pops out of a building and yells, you can't take photo's of this RR

His Badge held high............LOL

Or walking down a Public highway in Silvis, IL and having a City Police Officer saying he was told to be on the look out for folks stealing Traction Motors, he had No Clue of how Havy and large they were



Date: 12/13/19 09:53
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: RayH

overniteman Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Oak Island yard in Newark, New Jersey when it was
> the Lehigh Valley's.
>
> It was as if they had Lojack or radar on me.
> In I would go and get tossed within minites.
> Nothing crazy or violent, just get out.  
>
Yeah, Oak Island (LV era) was the one place in North Jersey where I ever had any (AND multiple) issues.

Never had any issues on the B&M in Mechanicville, and I believe I may have done some night work there too.



Date: 12/13/19 10:04
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: WAF

jcaestecker Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Back in the early '90s, I was making sales calls
> at printing companies in southern Idaho and
> stopped on the shoulder of a country road to shoot
> a UP local around lunchtime.  As soon as the
> train passed, a black sedan pulled up behind me
> and a nicely dressed older man idetified himself
> as UP Police.  After telling him about my
> interest trains, he looked at my clothing -- shirt
> and tie -- and asked me if I worked for the
> government.  I smiled and simply said "No."  He
> smailed as well and replied, "Well, then I guess I
> could like ya."  And off he went.
>
> -John

RRs hated the FRA showing up unannounced and crawling over everything



Date: 12/13/19 10:48
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: EL833

Bill, we all have stories about run ins and such, but yes, the Union was one to stay clear of. I did attend a WGRF weekend years ago that actually did a stop at the shop building in your last photo. Several switchers (the buffalos were long gone by then) had been spotted up with most having been washed and a couple in fresh paint. That was a real treat, even if it was just engine portraits. I'm going to say the strangest "boot" I ever got was at the BRC Clearing engine house area back in the late 70s. There were 3 of us on that trip. We stopped in the office to see if we could get any permission to take a few photos and recieved a verbal ok, just don't cross any tracks or go near the hump. The few units we wanted to photograph were nowhere near the hump and didn't require crossing anything. We spread out, each heading to a different unit to take our shots. Barely had the camera raised when three guys came screaming up in three different vehicles and started yelling at us to get out. They didn't want to hear about so and so giving us an ok- just get out-now! Of course we did , but we still think to this day we were "set up".

Roger Durfee
Akron, OH



Date: 12/13/19 12:02
Re: Hostile railfanning...Put this road at the top.
Author: gcm

Great shots and story.
Back in the 70's in Houston, the SP Hardy St Shops. Englewood and Misoouri Pacific Stettagast Yard were well known to fans not to trespass on.
Luckily a few public roads were close by.
MKT at Eureka Yard were very tolerant of railfans, I never had a problem there likewise at the HB&T Milby Shops.

Gary



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