Railway Preservation News

Railfanning from a Wheelchair
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Author:  steaminfo [ Mon Jun 10, 2013 9:52 am ]
Post subject:  Railfanning from a Wheelchair

See subject line: Mostly it [bad words deleted].
While I love the mobility the powered wheelchair provides, chasing and photographing trains is just not gonna happen.

Working on alternatives.

Author:  alcoguy1 [ Mon Jun 10, 2013 9:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Railfanning from a Wheelchair

Like it or not we all have strengths and weaknesses. Some more drastic than others, and while chasing trains at speed may not currently be your strength, steamlocomotive.info is an amazing website that many use on a daily basis. It's creation and maintainence is a strength that many of us wish we could possess!

On the other hand, maybe an ultralight would do the trick? I would think it would be good fun on it's own!

Author:  Becky Morgan [ Mon Jun 10, 2013 10:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Railfanning from a Wheelchair

Hm. Exactly what issues bother you the most about it? Is it the difficulty factor for getting around steep slopes, etc. (hard enough to do with a cane or crutches!) or something else?

If you feel comfortable giving details of what it won't do that you need done, I know a pretty good bunch of people with various disabilities and equipment who might be able to help.

Author:  steaminfo [ Tue Jun 11, 2013 8:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Railfanning from a Wheelchair

1. Uneven terrain, slopes, etc. While my powered wheelchair does a pretty good job on uneven surfaces like a park, my yard, etc. Anything more dramatic than my yard or a park can be outright terrifying. I'm getting better at it, but I've a ways to go. Three inches is the maximum bump it can cope with, and it makes a heartfelt attempt to throw you out of the chair each time you negotiate one of these.

2. Chasing trains. Hmmm. I can, of course do it. I have enough use of my legs left that I can still drive and negotiate up to about 20 feet or so before I have to stop. If I chase, and stop and will need to use the wheelchair upon arrival whereever, then first, you stop and find a parking space with enough open, even surface (about 8 feet or so) to the right of the Jeep that you can unload. Park. Waddle to the rear of the jeep. Unpin the ramp and manually lower it to the ground. Remove the two hold down straps from the wheelchair. (Cursing optional). Stow them in the Jeep. Carefully, and I do mean carefully back the wheel chair down the ramp. The ramp is narrow, and the chair can move quickly. You don't sit in the chair to do this. You stand next to it and use the joystick to back it down the ramp. Get the chair on the ground. Stow the ramp (I got a ticket from a policeman for occupying multiple parking spaces when I left it down). Drive wherever. Take picture. Repeat all of the above in reverse. It's possible. And I'm getting used to it. Just weird learning new processes like this.

3. Excursion trains. Pretty much nobody has the ability (nor would I expect them to) to load and accomodate a 243 pound wheelchair.

4. Pardon me for whining. Change is NOT bad, it is merely different and I'm learning to cope a little better a day at a time.

5. Thanks for the kind comments about steamlocomotive.info. It is both enormously rewarding and sometimes oddly frustrating. I've become a better researcher because of it, and a much more effective note taker and record keeper.

Author:  Bobharbison [ Tue Jun 11, 2013 12:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Railfanning from a Wheelchair

steaminfo wrote:

3. Excursion trains. Pretty much nobody has the ability (nor would I expect them to) to load and accomodate a 243 pound wheelchair.

Not sure I agree with you there. Due to ADA requirements and an aging population, many tourist railroads are making efforts to become wheelchair accessible. At Mount Rainier Scenic, we have wheelchair lifts and our concession car has a baggage door which means a wider than normal opening, and plenty of room to turn once you're on board. (Many power chairs are difficult to get into normal vestibules, and even if they fit, you can't always turn to go down the aisle.) I think we even have an accessible restroom if I recall correctly.

We're not alone in that by any means, so don't give up quite so easily.

Author:  Becky Morgan [ Tue Jun 11, 2013 11:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Railfanning from a Wheelchair

Those power chairs are great on level pavement or slight slopes, but when the ground is uneven...that reminds me of trying to drive a golf cart on the only course I have ever seen that could honestly be called hazardous because the cart paths were so awful.

I'll see what the gang has to say. Somebody surely has dealt with this.

Author:  LVRR2095 [ Fri Jun 14, 2013 1:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Railfanning from a Wheelchair

steaminfo wrote:
3. Excursion trains. Pretty much nobody has the ability (nor would I expect them to) to load and accomodate a 243 pound wheelchair.


The WW&F in Alna, Maine is ramped to the station platform and any time that a disabled person wishes, they will add the side door cabin car to the train to accommodate those in wheelchairs. They have also recently built ADA compliant bathrooms.


Author:  artschwartz [ Sun Jun 16, 2013 1:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Railfanning from a Wheelchair

Offhand, I recall that the Cumbres & Toltec and the Durango & Silverton are set up to handle someone in a wheelchair. Also, the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum has wheelchair capability. However, a powered chair may be too heavy for an Amtrak style hand cranked lift, which I think is most often used.

Author:  Becky Morgan [ Mon Jun 17, 2013 4:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Railfanning from a Wheelchair

I asked around and one of the members suggested this site:
http://www.usatechguide.org/reviews.php ... &catid=333
You may wind up with a second assist device of some kind for use beyoind smooth sidewalks. A lot of them were also complaining about their power chairs because of instability on anything that wasn't perfectly level.

When you want to take a train ride and have any kind of special need, it's always worth a phone call or an e-mail (okay, it often takes several e-mails for follow-up questions, so a call is usually easier and more efficient.) 99 percent of the time, somebody will find a way to make it work for you.

Author:  robertmacdowell [ Mon Jun 17, 2013 5:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Railfanning from a Wheelchair

Yeah, one recurring problem we get at WRM is people who bring strollers to our big October kid's event. But they don't bring just any stroller, they bring their Escalade of strollers, that's 4 feet wide and 100 pounds and has a Club Lounge on the upper deck (I exaggerate) and then they expect us to heft it onboard the train where there's really no room for it. We want 'em to bring the Trek racing stroller that weighs 4 pounds and folds up. After a point we made people leave the StruMMVV's behind, while continuing to allow the light strollers. That had an effect on the landscape the following year.

Anyway, to carry that over to handicap access, the same basic issues and incentives apply.

Hold on, need a (lengthy) sidebar on OUR responsibilities: (and here, I am NOT speaking for WRM in any capacity, and by "our" I mean any business which offers service to the public, and many other businesses as well.)

1. Railroad museums are exempt from having to modify historic railroad equipment to accommodate wheelchairs or any other ADA purpose, e.g. no need for grabs to be added to a historic men's lavatory.

2. The museum does not need to provide wheelchair lifts or external ramps*, unless they are an organ of the Government. (Steamtown might need to; IRM does not.)

3. Non-rail, architectural facilities must be upgraded for accessability only when they are remodeled or built new, unless they are government.

4. We MUST, ALWAYS, do what is readily achievable to assist you in using the facilities. Readily achievable means cheap AND easy (relative to your means generally)...
- If a shelving unit blocks wheelchair access to the bathroom, we have to move it.
- If we prop open a door with a 5-gallon pail, we have to use a normal doorstop.
- If a simple wedge cut out of a 2x8 can cure a gap, we need to do it.
- Let you drive right up to the boarding area to board.
- The bookstore clerk keeps an eye on your power chair.
Stuff like that. EXCEPT --->>>>

5. Hokey schemes do not count as legal access.
- Improvising a chair lift using forklifts or equipment not meant to lift wheelchairs.
- Having burly staff "man-lift" a disabled person over a barrier.
We can mutually, willingly agree to do that crazy stuff. But you can't demand it as "Readily Achievable". Even if we've done it 1000 times before for others.*

6. We cannot prohibit you from getting onboard with your own resources. As far as what to do with your wheelchair or power chair, "readily achievable" applies. If we can't accommodate your chair, we can bar it, but not you.

OK done with the sidebar.

Back to strollers, issues and incentives. It really helps to have a rather light wheelchair (perhaps aside from the power chair) when you visit a museum and be prepared to leave the power chair behind. Also, friends are real nice.** I'd also suggest a careful reconnoiter, to see what facilities exist for you, whether they are accommodating or hostile to access, and if there's anything worth bringing along a chair to disembark at the other end (e.g. If you're an antiquer considering SMRS's layover in Tecumseh, definitely; but Indiana Railroad Museum's little country store layover, maybe no.)

ADA accessible = wheelchair-friendly.

ADA compliant = NOT wheelchair friendly, but only because of train cars that are exempt or buildings that are grandfathered. You've done the bigger stuff the law requires. All of us are already ADA compliant, or we would be getting serious blowback from our local government: from fire inspectors, building inspectors, etc. and they wouldn't approve site plans or let us pull construction permits unless ADA compliance was part of the work.

The USS Pampanito is ADA compliant. It is not ADA accessible.

Edited to clarify.

* However once they have started providing such access willingly, they are obliged to continue providing it forever. "already doing it" is "readily achievable". So Don't Start unless you're ready to write the big check, and don't rely on borrowed or unobtanium equipment.

** Folks in wheelchairs tend to have lots of friends. That makes sense because it helps them beat barriers. Did I mention ticket sales? This tends to throw planners for a loop: most wheelchair accommodations are imagined for ONE wheelchair and ONE attendant. This overlooks Birds of a Feather: good chance their posse includes others that are differently abled. So you can accomodate a wheelchair, how about five? Is that going to create a choke point while your rickety lift cycles up and down?

Author:  Dennis Storzek [ Wed Jun 19, 2013 8:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Railfanning from a Wheelchair

These likely cost a pretty penny, but I wonder if anyone rents them for short term; day trips, vacation weeks, etc.

http://www.actiontrackchair.com/ActionT ... fault.aspx

Author:  robertmacdowell [ Fri Jun 21, 2013 11:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Railfanning from a Wheelchair

Another thing to consider if you're thinking of adventuring is a gadget called a PLB. Push a button and it transmits its serial number and your GPS coordinates to a satellite. Thirty minutes later there's a US Forest Service helicopter overhead, or Japanese Navy C-130, NYFD cruiser or whatever is appropriate to you.

The quality ones operate on the 406-MhZ network, same as the ones required by law on ships and planes. It's an open standard and you can buy anyone's PLB. Register the unit with your national authority.

There are also some cheesy proprietary ones that do not use the 406MhZ network or the government service. I would have said "they're junk" but some of them use the Iridium sat-phone network, which is not made for emergency location, but is able to communicate routinely. So the locator can transmit your location every 5-10 minutes on a continuing basis, which means the system is able to be aware of your signal "disappearing" or you stopping moving for ahile. Also your friends can follow along and see the same.

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