Self-defense (on train)?

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Devil's Advocate

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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.
I too have asthma and restricted airways so spraying me would probably end very badly, but I'm curious what you would recommend for someone who feels the need to carry protection? I don't consider traveling on Amtrak to be dangerous but I only know how the routes and locations I've personally visited are likely to treat someone who looks and acts like I do. If someone looks, behaves, or travels differently than I do they might experience a different outcome.

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.
An apparently well kept secret is that homeless people are much more likely to be the victims of violence rather than perpetrators. Learning how to deal with panhandling is a good skill to have but for most encounters it's as simple as looking busy or distracted while being polite but firm without escalation.
 

me_little_me

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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!
Stop complaining and start cleaning the train! Where's your mask and gloves that were issued to you when you joined this forum? And stop dressing in pajamas. You're not at home now. Your train leaves in 10 minute (unless delayed by a freight).
:)

Besides, if you look, I'm a conductor so I can throw you off the train - while it's still moving. And at my rate of posting inane comments, I'll soon be promoted to executive - not only for the number of posts but because my posts are often as useless as Amtrak executive decisions.
 
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stx

Train Attendant
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I too have asthma and restricted airways so spraying me would probably end very badly, but I'm curious what you would recommend for someone who feels the need to carry protection?
A tactical pen. Very discreet and very effective. I also carry a centerpunch in case I need to help someone escape through a window that is submerged or in case the latch is obstructed with wreckage, and centerpunches can double as weapons. That probably seems extreme, but as a retired first responder I tend to think of how I would handle a potential life-threatening situation wherever I am and to then prepare for it. Once I’ve got a plan, I don’t give it another thought and just enjoy the ride. I’m sorry you feel like more of a target and have respiratory issues, and I hope you have some great train adventures despite that!
 

Devil's Advocate

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I’m sorry you feel like more of a target and have respiratory issues, and I hope you have some great train adventures despite that!
I do not personally feel like a target. In fact I consider traveling on Amtrak to be relatively safe when all factors are considered. The reason for my inquiry is that I simply wondered what you felt was a more appropriate device for someone who felt they may need to defend themselves. I'm unfamiliar with purpose built defense pens but I do travel with a conventional metal pen that is sturdy enough to puncture skin and softer organs if used as a weapon.
 

WWW

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Ah way too much of the Macgyver knife stuff - Bowie knife - Crocodile Dundee "Now that's a kenife !"
Weapons of mass destruction don't belong on airplanes in the cabin and same for Amtrak trains !

Oh OK one of the posters likes to have his Swiss orange peeler knife - that's not an issue - even car keys
could do more damage - plan on using your bare fingers on an airplane - Amtrak should not be a problem.

Bear spray does not belong anywhere there is going to be a dramatic temperature atmosphere change.
In a non pressurized cargo compartment of airplane bad news - even shaving cans have exploded - a clean
mess to clean up - but that bear spary will require an airing out big time !
Now as for trains going over the Rockies Sierras Cascades etc. not that much a problem;
but don't be that darn fool putting it into a micro-wave oven to see if it makes a more lubricant spray.
An old fashion bear alarm is a string of cans on the end of that string and tossed at the bear like lasso -
works well on the black bears not so much on grizzlys as for Brown (Kodiak) don't interrupt his salmon
dinner - back off.


Most everyone has a cell phone these days - have Hey Google - Siri - Alexa programed to voice command
911 - no futzing with using an inferno outdated rolodex dialing implement - when the 911 service is answered
tell the folks where you are and nature of the call.

For defensive weapons - as noted a pen will work - so will car keys if angled just right threw the knuckles.
Using that sound device - yelling screaming - don't give up passively this is bloody murder - - -
And in the day and age draw some blood DNA samples if you can.

Now return with us the thrilling days of yesteryear train travel - I guess the worse that someone has to put
up with is LATE trains and impossible connections with 3 LD trains weekly on some routes and dining en-mask !
 

jloewen

Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 10, 2009
Messages
112
Ah way too much of the Macgyver knife stuff - Bowie knife - Crocodile Dundee "Now that's a kenife !"
Weapons of mass destruction don't belong on airplanes in the cabin and same for Amtrak trains !

Oh OK one of the posters likes to have his Swiss orange peeler knife - that's not an issue - even car keys
could do more damage - plan on using your bare fingers on an airplane - Amtrak should not be a problem.

Bear spray does not belong anywhere there is going to be a dramatic temperature atmosphere change.
In a non pressurized cargo compartment of airplane bad news - even shaving cans have exploded - a clean
mess to clean up - but that bear spary will require an airing out big time !
Now as for trains going over the Rockies Sierras Cascades etc. not that much a problem;
but don't be that darn fool putting it into a micro-wave oven to see if it makes a more lubricant spray.
An old fashion bear alarm is a string of cans on the end of that string and tossed at the bear like lasso -
works well on the black bears not so much on grizzlys as for Brown (Kodiak) don't interrupt his salmon
dinner - back off.


Most everyone has a cell phone these days - have Hey Google - Siri - Alexa programed to voice command
911 - no futzing with using an inferno outdated rolodex dialing implement - when the 911 service is answered
tell the folks where you are and nature of the call.

For defensive weapons - as noted a pen will work - so will car keys if angled just right threw the knuckles.
Using that sound device - yelling screaming - don't give up passively this is bloody murder - - -
And in the day and age draw some blood DNA samples if you can.

Now return with us the thrilling days of yesteryear train travel - I guess the worse that someone has to put
up with is LATE trains and impossible connections with 3 LD trains weekly on some routes and dining en-mask !
Years ago a Native American told me how to tell a grizzly bear from a black bear. It's not easy. They are variants of the same species. The best way is through their poop. Grizzly poop smells like pepper and has little bells in it ....
 

basketmaker

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Some Amtrak Thruway services are Greyhound codeshares. Some are codeshares with other bus lines. Some are contracted as exclusive Amtrak operations.

It is possible that the codeshare status is reflected in the numbering system, if so, I don't have the magic decoder ring.

Most Thruway services in California are Amtrak only. Thruway services in conjunction with the Amtrak Cascades services are Amtrak only.
Some Amtrak Thruway services are Greyhound codeshares. Some are codeshares with other bus lines. Some are contracted as exclusive Amtrak operations.

It is possible that the codeshare status is reflected in the numbering system, if so, I don't have the magic decoder ring.

Most Thruway services in California are Amtrak only. Thruway services in conjunction with the Amtrak Cascades services are Amtrak only.
At DEN bus service south to Pueblo is operated by Greyhound (regular scheduled route) and does not depart from Union Station. It's a 15 minute 7/10th mile walk (some thru homeless encampments).

Northbound to Wyoming is operated by Express Arrow and they do depart from inside Union Station.
 

Ziv

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I went hiking in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana a couple years ago and took along a 45 and bought pepper spray and a bell when I got there. And I got the pepper spray joke when I bought them in Augusta but I still bought both the pepper spray and the bell. (I think grizzly bear/horribilis are a type of brown bear, though.)
Nothing like getting woken up at 3am to the sound of bears trying to figure out how to get to your food cache. It looked like it was 300 yards away when I tied the tie down rope to the base of a tree but it sounded like the bears were right outside my tent. :oops:
Still better than the time I threw the dregs of my blueberry tea in the dirt next to my tent in Glacier Park, though...
But I don't think bear spray, the 45 or the bell would be welcome on any Amtrak trains. :cool:
Years ago a Native American told me how to tell a grizzly bear from a black bear. It's not easy. They are variants of the same species. The best way is through their poop. Grizzly poop smells like pepper and has little bells in it ....
 

tricia

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Years ago a Native American told me how to tell a grizzly bear from a black bear. It's not easy. They are variants of the same species. The best way is through their poop. Grizzly poop smells like pepper and has little bells in it ....
Talking with a park ranger years ago, he called those bells sold to warn off bears "dinner bells." Grizzlies hear them and come closer to see what the sound's about. Better to just make noises like a human (clap, sing, talk...), to let them know you're nearby so you don't startle them.

Grizzlies and black bears are different species, BTW.
 

Skyline

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In case it wasn't obvious in my initial post re: bear spray, I only brought it on #8, securely stored in a puncture-proof bear canister, because bear spray is required while hiking/backpacking at my destination -- Glacier National Park. As I was de-training at the Izaak Walton Inn, I was not confident that I could obtain bear spray there.

I did not have bear spray on board as a weapon to use aboard #8. In fact the idea that might even be effective -- stored so securely -- is ludicrous.
 
Joined
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I’m not sure why nobody has brought this up, but if you are riding in coach, talking to strangers, starting your trip in crowded NYP, and going through states out west where people are not social distancing or wearing masks, and possibly screaming in your face because you are wearing one, you are much, much more likely to get sick from the virus than attacked on Amtrak.

My nearest station—TRE—is, unfortunately, one of the creepiest in the network, but even there I do not feel unsafe. I go down to the platform, where the passengers are, instead of waiting in the station, where the vagrants live. And of course never go there at night. (I am a 5’1” woman and, one plus of being in my 60s is that nobody notices me!😊.)

To be safer from the virus, I would suggest springing for a roomette when possible, not talking to anyone except the SCA or conductor, staying 6 feet away from everyone, and not getting out for breaks when the train stops in states where people are not wearing masks or social distancing.

Also, is there any way you can leave from somewhere less crowded than NYP? Even though people in New York seem to be trying to do the right thing, it is still a crowded city and probably impossible to keep a 6-foot distance from everyone. (For example, I am planning a tentative trip from NJ to NYS in October and am going up through New England and out through Boston so I do not have to be in NYP.)
 

daybeers

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I’m not sure why nobody has brought this up, but if you are riding in coach, talking to strangers, starting your trip in crowded NYP, and going through states out west where people are not social distancing or wearing masks, and possibly screaming in your face because you are wearing one, you are much, much more likely to get sick from the virus than attacked on Amtrak.

My nearest station—TRE—is, unfortunately, one of the creepiest in the network, but even there I do not feel unsafe. I go down to the platform, where the passengers are, instead of waiting in the station, where the vagrants live. And of course never go there at night. (I am a 5’1” woman and, one plus of being in my 60s is that nobody notices me!😊.)

To be safer from the virus, I would suggest springing for a roomette when possible, not talking to anyone except the SCA or conductor, staying 6 feet away from everyone, and not getting out for breaks when the train stops in states where people are not wearing masks or social distancing.

Also, is there any way you can leave from somewhere less crowded than NYP? Even though people in New York seem to be trying to do the right thing, it is still a crowded city and probably impossible to keep a 6-foot distance from everyone. (For example, I am planning a tentative trip from NJ to NYS in October and am going up through New England and out through Boston so I do not have to be in NYP.)
I agree that you're more likely to get the virus than be physically attacked to warrant self-defense on Amtrak. I also agree Trenton is one of the creepiest in the network 🤣

NYC has been doing quite well for a while now and everyone wears a mask. It hasn't been a hotspot for some time. The crowded argument gets thrown out the window if most are wearing masks and following other guidelines. I'm confused, you're going from New Jersey to New York State but are scared of NYC so you're willing to spend more time in an enclosed environment to go to another large city before traveling back to NYS on the LSL in another enclosed environment?
 
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Good points, daybeers. It’s partly that I have always avoided NYC and NYP—I find them confusing and too hectic for me at the best of times.

I am planning on stopping at Mystic for a couple of nights, getting a roomette on the LSL, and using the BOS lounge —South Station is much easier for me to navigate and the lounge is friendlier and more spacious. Also doing BC when a roomette isn’t available.

I had not really thought of the extra time on the trains—I was just trying to avoid NYP—thanks for pointing it out—it is something more to think about.

If the virus numbers are going up again before the trip, I will certainly cancel.
 

Siegmund

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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.
Wrapping it in bubble wrap is a good precaution, and one most people don't take. A lot of the accidental discharges happen when it tips over, gets knocked off a table, that sort of thing, and the wimpy little plastic trigger bites the dust.

As for the locked bear canister -- that works well for making sure nobody sees it or tampers with it. I suspect however that IF it discharged inside the canister, gas would still escape. While they are airtight to keep food smells in, they aren't designed to resist strong outward pressure, only inward.

In case it wasn't obvious in my initial post re: bear spray, I only brought it on #8, securely stored in a puncture-proof bear canister, because bear spray is required while hiking/backpacking at my destination -- Glacier National Park.
Bear spray is not required to hike in Glacier or any other US national park.

It is commonly recommended.

I personally do not carry it, and would discourage anyone who hasn't done a fair bit of practicing its use from carrying it.
 

Sauve850

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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.
You know what I meant. Newly renovated. That work for you? "Pretty much" harmless can still be problematic.
 

Sauve850

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I too have asthma and restricted airways so spraying me would probably end very badly, but I'm curious what you would recommend for someone who feels the need to carry protection? I don't consider traveling on Amtrak to be dangerous but I only know how the routes and locations I've personally visited are likely to treat someone who looks and acts like I do. If someone looks, behaves, or travels differently than I do they might experience a different outcome.


An apparently well kept secret is that homeless people are much more likely to be the victims of violence rather than perpetrators. Learning how to deal with panhandling is a good skill to have but for most encounters it's as simple as looking busy or distracted while being polite but firm without escalation.
Again, "most encounters" it is as simple as.... True but not all encounters are simple. The last two times in the Sea station many people were a bit unnerved as homesless people kept walking up and down the seating areas. They werent asking for anything just surveying folks. Perhaps if there actually was a security patrol here and there it would help the situation. Havent been there in a year so maybe situation has changed.
 

zephyr17

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You know what I meant. Newly renovated. That work for you? "Pretty much" harmless can still be problematic.
Words have meaning. New means new. Saying King Street is new just sounds like you don't know where you are. So yes, renovated works better, since it is actually an accurate description.

That area has been a center for the homeless population for a long, long time. Well before the current homeless crisis, so it really is nothing new. Pretty much harmless means about the worst you can expect is smelling some pee or being subjected to some panhandling. No worse (or better) than most large cities.
 

caravanman

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The thing about homeless people is that they are homeless. Is walking around in a train station, when you have no home, such a surprising or worrying thing to do?
Let's face it, we don't refuse to drive ever again, just because we got a flat tyre one time, nor expect it to rain every time we leave the house, just because it did one day. Why expect trouble from strangers all the time? Maybe once you encountered an awkward beggar, etc, but don't let that cloud your opinion of all beggars?
We all have different comfort levels, all activities carry some element of risk, it is probably up to the individual to make themselves feel comfortable, more than for society to remove our every irritation.
 

JayPea

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I was just at King Street Station Friday and they are no longer allowing anyone inside without a ticket. The doors are locked, and in order to enter the station one needs to show a ticket. And that also seemed to have an effect in the area immediately surrounding the station as there were no homeless around it either.
 

AmtrakBlue

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I was just at King Street Station Friday and they are no longer allowing anyone inside without a ticket. The doors are locked, and in order to enter the station one needs to show a ticket. And that also seemed to have an effect in the area immediately surrounding the station as there were no homeless around it either.
Same at Wilm DE station, at least the “must have a ticket”. There were still people in the nearby park...which doesn’t bother me.
 

Skyline

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Bear spray is not required to hike in Glacier or any other US national park.

It is commonly recommended.

I personally do not carry it, and would discourage anyone who hasn't done a fair bit of practicing its use from carrying it.
In 2017, when I made this train-and-trails trip, I was under the impression that bear spray was indeed required. My source was a backpacking website. I have since learned bear spray is not required in GNP by law but as you say, is (highly) recommended.

Having said that, as I entered the Park near Essex via a road that passes a ranger station, a ranger intercepted me to ask if I had bear spray. I showed him; it was holstered on my belt. He insisted that I keep it there, and even made me show that I knew how to use it. He also showed me a technique about where to aim the spray that I had not previously learned.

I was in GNP for three days. Never saw a grizzly nor any bear sign. Before I got back on #8 to finish my trip eastbound, I left my bear spray and holster at the Izaak Walton Inn so it could be offered to others who might need to borrow it.
 

toddinde

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I have ridden tens of thousands of miles by rail and have never even considered the thought of having a weapon of any kind. If you’re in a coach, there are people around and if you’re in a sleeper, you can latch the door. That said, I’m a guy. My girlfriend got groped one time on the Hoosier. I still think carrying a weapon of any kind is unecessary.
 

flitcraft

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I still think carrying a weapon of any kind is unnecessary.
Not just unnecessary but affirmatively unwise. In the extremely unlikely event that a weapon is useful, it is as likely that it will be used against you as used effectively, unless you have good self-defense training. As a 5 foot 1 woman, I sympathize with your inclination for protection, but weapons aren't likely to protect you. Common sense and good judgment are the best weapons you can have, and they can't be turned against you.

As has been noted in this thread, the train and train station are probably the safest places you could be, in terms of threats from aggressive passengers. On the other hand, your plans do worry me. Talking to lots of people, staying at AirBnB's, etc. are a recipe for contracting COVID 19. And even if you are lucky and don't get sick, you could spread the virus to others that might be more vulnerable. I would rethink the nature of the trip, if I were in your shoes. Instead of one where you contact lots of folks, I'd think about a trip at this time focusing on the beauty and majesty of the countryside--something Amtrak features exceptionally well. Once the pandemic is in our rearview mirror, there will be time for a trip that focuses on interacting with people. Just my thoughts...
 
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