To vest, or not to vest

Posted by Brian Schmidt
on Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Members of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland chat with passengers during a service stop on the May 14 excursion from Dublin Connolly to Westport. Photo by Brian Schmidt
 You wouldn't think something as fundamental as safety would be so controversial, but here we are. Just about every railfan has an opinion on wearing brightly colored safety vests when trackside. In a recent blog post, contributor Dave Crosby makes an appeal to railfans chasing former Norfolk & Western J Class 4-8-4 No. 611 to leave the vests at home:

"Leave the safety vests at home. You’d be surprised how the general public assumes anyone in a yellow vest is employed by the railroad in some capacity," Crosby says. "Besides looking ridiculous, 'safety yellow' (or orange) sticks out like a sore thumb in other people’s photographs."

A similar appeal was made by the representatives of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland last month, on its steam-powered excursions to Westport. The staff said, in essence, that passengers should not wear such vests on the platforms for photo stops because it is too confusing to know who is working and who is not. It was, indeed, chaos at some photo stops as the "trainspotters" descended on the station platforms at each stop, from the train and the surrounding communities.

Yours truly in the cab of Union Pacific 4-8-8-4 Big Boy No. 4014 at Yermo, Calif., in April 2014 wearing my TRAINS logo vest. Photo by Elrond Lawrence
 I keep a safety yellow TRAINS-branded vest with me when I travel, for situations when I'm on railroad property. Railroads always appreciate when invited guests can bring their own safety gear, which also includes eye protection, gloves, and steel toe footwear.

I don't wear it, however, when I'm out trackside on my own time, because I appreciate just a little more anonymity when I can get away with it.

So where do you fall on the issue of safety vests when train watching? Sound off, respectfully, in the comments below.

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