America’s railway system has a storied past, often romanticized by travelers dreaming of adventure and intrigue. Authors, film directors, playwrights, musicians and artists of all stripes have used trains and rail travel for inspiration over the years, with many works touting the joys of freedom that come with life traveling by train.
Today’s rail system in America is certainly more sophisticated and complex than it was in the early days of rail travel, and government intervention in railroad dealings has made travel by rail safer than ever. Even still, there are some considerations you need to keep in mind before hopping on a train in the modern era. Below are some safety tips for the savvy traveler who wants to see the country in style:
Know Your Change-Over Stations
One of the unique things about traveling by rail is the need to change trains mid-journey. Of course, this isn’t always necessary, but depending on your departure location and destination, you may be required to change trains several times during a trip. While the change-over process is usually relatively straightforward and safe, it pays to know the location of each change-over station and the time of day each change-over will occur.
If possible, avoid changing trains at night. Train stations tend to be less populated during the late evening hours, which can raise the potential for criminal activity. In addition, thieves and robbers may be more likely to hang around sparsely populated train stations overnight, which can cause you to become a victim. While it may not be possible to choose when and where you change over to a different train, knowing the location of each station ahead of time can help you to be better prepared.
Be Mindful Of Train Movements
Another unique consideration when traveling by rail involves the movement of trains. You can usually alert the driver to potentially dangerous situations when traveling by bus or taxi. This allows the driver to safely stop the vehicle before an accident or injury occurs; however, your options to alert the conductor in an emergency are limited when traveling by train. Most train cars are equipped with emergency communications devices, but if these are out of reach, you may not be able to contact the conductor in time.
Always be mindful of a train’s movements to avoid accidents and injuries. Stay off the tracks if you are outside of your train, and listen and watch for warning signs of movement like bells and flashing lights. When exiting a train, only do so when an attendant has given you clearance. Additionally, pay attention to the gap between a train’s steps and the platform. It can be easy to trip in this area, and if the train begins to move, you may not have time to signal for help.
Have Emergency Contacts And A Safety Schedule
Whenever you travel by rail, have an emergency contact or contacts in your phone and written on a piece of paper that you keep on your person. The reason for keeping a paper copy of your emergency contacts is so first responders can reach your contacts if you become incapacitated and your phone’s battery is dead.
It would be best if you also created a safety schedule to share with your emergency contacts. You can plan to get in touch on a time-based schedule or once daily. However you decide to set up your schedule, make sure someone knows where you are at all times. If you fail to check in according to your safety schedule, your emergency contact can reach out to the authorities on your behalf.
Avoid Accepting Food And Drinks From Strangers
One of the exciting things about rail travel is the potential to meet new and interesting people. Unfortunately, you may also run into individuals who have bad intentions. As a result, never accept food or drinks from strangers.
Only consume items that you have brought with you or that have been purchased in your presence. Additionally, be mindful of your surroundings if you set food or drinks down. Never leave food in an area unaccompanied as it only takes a second for someone to inject a harmful substance into an unattended piece of food or beverage.