Self-defense (on train)?

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Rasputin

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An item from the Flathead Beacon from 2019 to follow up on my recent post:

 

mitako

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I understand the OPs concern, which is about neighborhood, not about safety on the train. Some Amtrak stations are not located in the greatest neighborhoods, sometimes arrival/departure times are in the middle of the night, and if OP is like me, she intends to walk from station to hotel and vice versa. I've actually considered carrying a very small pepper spray in my purse, but I see that's against Amtrak rules. So next best is an alarm keychain or super loud whistle. Also, of course, one should always be observant and keep belongings close at hand when walking through any strange city, especially if female and alone.
 

caravanman

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I understand the OPs concern, which is about neighborhood, not about safety on the train. Some Amtrak stations are not located in the greatest neighborhoods, sometimes arrival/departure times are in the middle of the night, and if OP is like me, she intends to walk from station to hotel and vice versa. I've actually considered carrying a very small pepper spray in my purse, but I see that's against Amtrak rules. So next best is an alarm keychain or super loud whistle. Also, of course, one should always be observant and keep belongings close at hand when walking through any strange city, especially if female and alone.
There is the adventure of travelling, and then there is doing things that are simply asking for trouble... I fully accept that we should all be treated equally, male and female, but anyone alone in a bad area after dark does not fall into my "adventure" category. Why not grab a taxi to get to or from that station in a dodgy area?
 

John Santos

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I agree with this, and this had been my experience, too. And I live in Baltimore, the alleged "murder capital of the universe," or something. :)

If I actually had to go to a place where weapons were needed, I would make it my business to get formal training in self-defense from somebody who knew what they were talking about.

But weapons aren't needed on Amtrak or in its stations.
Are you claiming the Hole in the Wall Gang and the James Brothers are in retirement and no longer robbing the western trains at every opportunity? That the passengers won't be called upon to defend themselves with six-shooters and Winchesters at a moment's notice? Maybe I've been watching too many John Wayne movies?

Seriously, trains are very safe places. For one thing, there is no where for a malefactor to escape to, and there are lots of on-board crew and other passengers to see anyone who tries anything. (BTW, a train with a contingent of released prisoners is probably even safer because very few of them would want to go back when they had just been released and especially not because one of the other former prisoners lost it.)
 

bms

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I definitely wouldn't recommend taking any weapons on the train. I recently had my bag searched in May when I boarded #5 in Chicago. Not only could they put you off the train and file charges, they also might ban you from future travel.

I believe the Thruway bus from Denver to Cheyenne is codeshared with Greyhound. I took it two summers ago, there were fewer than ten people on it each way and nobody said a word. It was a short ride but the stop in Cheyenne was not walkable from the downtown area.
 
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zephyr17

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An item from the Flathead Beacon from 2019 to follow up on my recent post:

Bear spray in a warming oven?????

No sir, nothing can possibly go wrong with that. 🙄.

On a serious side, Per the TSA, bear spray is entirely forbidden on flights, both checked and carry on. One 4 oz container of personal defense spray is allowed in checked bags only by TSA, but TSA also warns that individual airlines may prohibit it.

In any case, TSA's stance on air travel permission is probably immaterial, as Amtrak appears to prohibit personal defense sprays entirely. Although not specifically called out as such, they logically fall under the both the categories of "Martial Arts and Self Defense Items" and "Corrosive or dangerous chemicals or materials". Both categories are forbidden in both carry on AND checked baggage.
 
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Does anyone know why Amtrak banned pepper spray? I can see why knives are banned (but not guns because 'murica) and I can understand why bear spray is not allowed, but why would a small pepper spray device be a problem? Seems like some people would feel better to have it and the threat of offensive misuse seems relatively minor. Am I missing something or forgetting a prior event that would help explain this?
 
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MARC Rider

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I understand that some people have been subject to a significant amount of unpleasantness when their bear spray accidently discharged in their pocket. I believe discharging it on Amtrak would cause a rapid evacuation of the car.

I believe it is against the Amtrak and airline policies to carry bear spray on Amtrak or in a commercial airliner, whether in carry-on or in checked luggage. I naively violated the policy on a plane once in 2001 (before 9/11) with no bad consequences.
So if you're planning to travel by train or plane to a wilderness trip, you should buy your bear spray after you get off the train and, when the trip is over, discard whatever's left before you board for the trip home.

I've taken a couple of wilderness trips into the Sierra Nevada, which is infested with black bears, and I was never advised by the trip leaders to bring bear spray. We dealt with the bears by sleeping well away from the cooking area and hanging our food and other odoriferous stuff (like toothpaste) that attracts bears. Then there was a family car camping trip at Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia in the days before they installed bearproof trashcans where we spent the night cowering in our tent while a bear ransacked the trash can at our site. Fortunately our food was locked up in the car, and West Virginia bears (unlike California bears) can't seem to figure out how to take apart car doors.
 

MARC Rider

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Question about knife policy. I always carry a Swiss Army knife with me when I travel. When I fly, I make sure it's in my checked luggage, but I carry it on the train, because it's very useful for slicing cheese and fancy salami to go with the happy hour wine or whisky in my room. I wouldn't consider it much of a weapon, one, the bade is nothing to speak of, and two, it would take me so long to fish it out of my pack and open the blade, that if I needed it as a weapon, I'd be dead first. I hope I'm not in violation of some kind of Amtrak policy. If I am, I guess I'll have to bring a cheese plane and forget about the salami on my next trip.

Also, if your taking the train to go on, say, a hunting trip, by policy, you can pack your rifle and send it through as checked baggage, but does this mean that the big K-Bar hunting knife that you use to dress the animals you bag is forbidden, even in checked baggage? I guess that's no crazier than the fact that Bowie knives, made famous by the Texan Jim Bowie of the Alamo, are banned in Texas. (But of course, it perfectly legal to run around Texas will all kinds of guns on your person.)
 

zephyr17

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Does anyone know why Amtrak banned pepper spray? I can see why knives are banned completely (but not guns because 'murica) and I can understand why bear spray is not allowed, but why would a small pepper spray device be a problem? Seems like some people would feel better to have it and the threat of offensive misuse seems relatively minor. Am I missing something or forgetting a prior event that would help explain this?
My own personal opinion is it basically an oversight, consistent with the general competency level of Amtrak management. The fact that personal defense spray is, by omission, lumped in with nunchucks under one category, or chlorine in the other, speaks to that.

It would have taken very little effort to look up and copy TSA's rational (in this case) personal defense spray specific policy. They didn't bother.

Bottom line, I don't think there isn't a rationally thought out policy. There is a default state that fell out because it was not considered on its own.
 

Sauve850

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Amtrak stations are safe and well patrolled! Amtrak trains are safe! There is an attendant in every car... and they have an ongoing promo... 'If you see something, say something!' With all the priorities being so geared on safety, you will be safe on Amtrak... Bolstered by random security checks of carry on bags, police walk throughs at stations... sometimes with dogs... all in the interest of safety. Illegal substances are probably the biggest concern... especially near international boarders. LD trains are safe!

Walking around large cities like Phoenix is a completely different issue. Use common sense. Do bring a whistle and mace; check with hotel concierge re ok places to be strolling.
Correct. Especially walking around big cities. However, Ive been to the new Seattle station a couple of times with some shady looking homeless folks and not a sign of security anywhere. And the incident outside the EMY station a few years ago also comes to mind. All in all I think the stations are pretty safe and incidents are rare. As others state common sense is your best defense.
 

zephyr17

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Correct. Especially walking around big cities. However, Ive been to the new Seattle station a couple of times with some shady looking homeless folks and not a sign of security anywhere. And the incident outside the EMY station a few years ago also comes to mind. All in all I think the stations are pretty safe and incidents are rare. As others state common sense is your best defense.
Um, "new Seattle station"? You mean the one that opened in 1906, King Street Station? The only Seattle Amtrak station?

That part of town has had a homeless issue for decades. They are pretty much harmless. But I would not wander aimlessly after dark in the immediate area.
 
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I definitely wouldn't recommend taking any weapons on the train. I recently had my bag searched in May when I boarded #5 in Chicago. Not only could they put you off the train and file charges, they also might ban you from future travel.

I believe the Thruway bus from Denver to Cheyenne is codeshared with Greyhound. I took it two summers ago, there were fewer than ten people on it each way and nobody said a word. It was a short ride but the stop in Cheyenne was not walkable from the downtown area.
That's good to know, thanks. From Google images the station seems to be near a truck stop, very industrial area. Uber from there to my Airbnbn is about only about $15 for a short drive, and most likely they're used to going there to pick up passengers.
 

Barb Stout

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I'm shorter and just a bit stouter than you are and probably older and very physically weak and have traveled alone on Amtrak. The 2 stations that I got off on or arrived at night are Oakland, CA and Cincinnati OH. I took a Lyft at Oakland to my AirBnB in Berkeley and a Lyft between the Greyhound bus station and train station in Cin. There were a lot of people at the Oakland station, so one can feel safe there. When inquiring at the Cin Greyhound about the safety in walking around the area, I was told to probably stay at the station instead while waiting for the Cin train station to open (it opens at midnight), so I did. I figure there is very little hope of me ever being able to defend myself as I'm also somewhat clumsy and have very poor vision, so I pretty much rely on friendliness and a gentle demeanor. So far I have been lucky.

I live in Albuquerque and though you are not coming here, the Amtrak station is in the downtown area along with some homeless people who may very well ask you for money. And there are the occasional riots downtown, but those are pretty easy to avoid. They only happen at night and Amtrak's regular stops in ABQ are during the day.
 

caravanman

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Question about knife policy. I always carry a Swiss Army knife with me when I travel.
I used to carry my swiss army knife, a present from my girlfriend, all the time. When in line to board the ferry to view the Statue of Liberty, I had to dump it in their bin. I miss it now when I need that tool to remove stones from horses hooves... :)

I guess the thinking about banning pepper spray is that these items could be used against Amtrak staff just as easily as any other target?
 

jloewen

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Buy bear spray in WY. Works on people too. Check a bag on the flight and pu the bear spray therein.
How did I get to be "train attendant"?? How can I get to UN-be a train attendant? I looked and looked and could not reach a profile page or anything like it, except to change my photo. My photo is fine. If managers of this site can change "train attendant" to "sociologist" I'd be grateful. If not, kindly tell me how I can do so! Thanks!
 

stx

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I have COPD and asthma. Please keep in mind thst if your illegal pepper spray, mace or bear spray were to unintentionally or intentionally be discharged on the train or near me in the station, I will probably die. Literally. No inhaler will be able to counteract it. Rules are there for a reason. I don’t always agree with them, but this one can save lives.
 

joelkfla

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How did I get to be "train attendant"?? How can I get to UN-be a train attendant? I looked and looked and could not reach a profile page or anything like it, except to change my photo. My photo is fine. If managers of this site can change "train attendant" to "sociologist" I'd be grateful. If not, kindly tell me how I can do so! Thanks!
:D It's not your occupation, it's an honorary "badge" based on how many times you've posted. Everybody gets one.
 

stx

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While we’re on the subject of self-defense: know how to open the emertency windows on Amtrak, and know where they are in relation to your seat, on both sides of the car. If the train is stopped and you need to evacuate due to any onboard threat (which, I agree with others, is extremely unlikely), you should be able to make your way through darkness or thick smoke to the window, feel around for the latch, and open the window to escape. Bonus life points if you choose a window that’s not next to another live track.
 

Skyline

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I understand that some people have been subject to a significant amount of unpleasantness when their bear spray accidently discharged in their pocket. I believe discharging it on Amtrak would cause a rapid evacuation of the car.

I believe it is against the Amtrak and airline policies to carry bear spray on Amtrak or in a commercial airliner, whether in carry-on or in checked luggage. I naively violated the policy on a plane once in 2001 (before 9/11) with no bad consequences.
Rightly or wrongly, I felt keeping the bear spray in the locked bear canister made accidental discharge very unlikely. These bear canisters are used to store food in the backcountry at campsites and are built to withstand violent attacks by large grizzly bears. The bear spray was wrapped with lots of bubble wrap and duct-taped in position so it would not shift during transit.
 
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tricia

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Rightly or wrongly, I felt keeping the bear spray in the locked bear canister made accidental discharge very unlikely. These bear canisters are used to store food in the backcountry at campsites and are built to withstand violent attacks by large grizzly bears. The bear spray was wrapped with lots of bubble wrap and duct-taped in position so it would not shift during transit.
How sensitive are those cannisters to altitude/air pressure changes? That's the only situation I can think of when your thoughtful packaging might fail.
 
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Skyline

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How sensitive are those cannisters to altitude/air pressure changes? That's the only situation I can think of when your thoughtful packaging might fail.
I was on EB #8, not a plane. I haven't flown since 1976. I can't imagine the altitude changes on the EB route would have any effect like that.
 

Barb Stout

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Does anyone know why Amtrak banned pepper spray? I can see why knives are banned completely (but not guns because 'murica) and I can understand why bear spray is not allowed, but why would a small pepper spray device be a problem? Seems like some people would feel better to have it and the threat of offensive misuse seems relatively minor. Am I missing something or forgetting a prior event that would help explain this?
I would guess it's because the cans are pressurized (at least I'm assuming they're pressurized), so if there is an accident with the canister getting punctured, then that could be bad.
 
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