A Perfect Day For Rail fanning. As I began to set my camera up for the upcoming morning traffic, the last bit of fog was lifting away from my spot. The spot that I had been rail fanning for more years than I care to remember. It was my secret spot. Like a fishing spot in a lake, whose location had been passed down from generation to generation. The path that leads to it could be passed by a thousand times from the main road, and not be taken as anything but a driveway to some abandoned shack in the woods. I come here to rail fan but sometimes just the solitude between the trains is mind healing too. 15 miles from the nearest civilization. My spot. My piece of mind. Rarely do I ever have any company here with the rare exception of an occasional M of W inspector or track gang. But this morning was different. About 1000 feet or so down the line just visible around the curve before the tunnel opening, I noticed a yellow box van leaning precariously off the roadbed. I had never seen a track gang work out of a Ryder rental truck before. But hey, there's a first time for everything right? From where I stood I observed three men moving busily around the van and as my curiosity got the better of me, I blindly reached into my camera bag for my "big" lens. As I zoomed in for a look, the first thing I realized was that these guys were obviously not a track gang. At least they were not dressed like any I had ever seen. No coveralls, no hardhat, no tools...These guys were rail fans? I've seen a lot of different vehicles used to rail fan but this was just weird. My first notion was to walk down the line and tell them to get their van the hell away from the right-of-way. But just as I was about to put the camera down, I noticed that what had first looked like a camera and tripod leaning against their truck was actually an assault rifle with more gadgets on it than I could have believed could hang on one gun. Hunters, I thought. But what were those boxes they were unloading? Zooming in even closer, the boxes were olive in color and had C-4 stenciled on them. C-4. Where have I heard of that before? Then I froze. My knees slowly and involuntarily buckled. Plastic explosives! Holy s**t! What was going on here? My sub-conscious mind was already answering this for me. Terrorists... Right here in River City.... As far as I could tell, the men were still not aware of my presence. I snapped a quick picture and then moved into the weeds along the drainage ditch. Slowly and quietly making for my truck. I breathed a sigh of relief as I quietly closed the driver’s door on my pick-up. I immediately grabbed my cell phone and dialed 911. Nothing... I re-dialed. Nothing.... Then I looked at the signal strength. Nothing.... Damn these mountains! Then I remembered just how far from any real help I was. At least 15 miles to the nearest town. Well, I've got to report this, I thought, and as I reached to turn the keys I glanced straight ahead, only to see my tripod still standing along the tracks. My eyes instinctively moved to the right. Down the line to see if the men had noticed it. They had. Two of them were moving my way. One was carrying the assault rifle, and there was no way they could have missed my bright red pick-up. I thought; what do I have to defend myself with? All I had was the hand turned billy club that had been with every vehicle I ever had owned, since I had made it in high school shop class. It had never been used in anger to this day. Not exactly a match for a Kalishnikov. As they came up to my truck, the one with the rifle had slung it over his shoulder. "Hi", I said. As they walked up. "What are you doing here?" The one with the rifle asked, with a very distinct Middle Eastern accent. "Rail fanning". I replied. Adding... "but I can't get this damn roll of film to load in my camera", (I lied). "Here let me help you". The one without the rifle replied, holding his hand out. Again, that accent... I had no choice. With my shaking hand, I handed the camera over to him, praying that he wouldn't open it and notice the partially exposed roll of film. Right then, the sound of an eastbound train laboring in the distance for the summit broke the silence. At that same moment, the two-way radio that the man with the gun was wearing, crackled to life. "Let's move". The two men looked at each other and I knew that I was nearing my last few breaths if I just sat here and let it happen. "Say, are you guys rail fans too?" I asked. "I got some sandwiches and sodas in the back there eh? Ya want some?" "Here, let me get you guys some", as I wildly threw the door open. Timing it so that the one with the rifle was the primary target of the blow, swinging the billy club up with my left hand at the other guy. Down went both of them along with the rifle. Crack! Ammo clip and rifle separated as they hit the ground. I lunged back into the cab and hit the starter while slamming the shifter into drive at the same time. Gravel and mud flew everywhere as I mashed the accelerator to the floor and ducked down, careening away from the scene. I raised my head up just in time to keep from driving out onto the tracks, but not before I took out my favorite tripod. Heading for the main road, trees branches and weeds punishing the sides and underside of my truck. I looked back just in time to see one of them running back toward their truck. As I reached the main road, I figured that they were to busy with what they were doing at the tunnel to chase me so I slowed the truck to a stop. What do I do now? I thought. My breathing finally slowing... They're going to blow up the tunnel...I'm a witness! I saw them... I know what they look like... Holy c**p... I looked down at the phone and was tempted to throw it out the window as there was still no signal for it. I can't call anyone! Damn! I've got to let the railroad know what's going on! At that moment, the sound of an ATV came up quickly from behind. Before I could think, my rear glass exploded as I caught a brief glimpse of an all terrain vehicle coming down the road after me. Again, I slammed the gas down as I swung out onto the main road. Whoa! I am dead man, I thought. They want no witnesses. POP! The truck weaved to the right. Flat tire. Good shot, I thought. I can't get too far away from him this way. Then I remembered. The eastbound... It'll be coming up this side of the mountain. "The Bridge is just up here about a mile or so!" I thought out loud. I mashed the gas again with renewed determination, attempting to preserve my hide by wildly swinging from lane to lane. As I neared the bridge over the tracks, I already knew what I was going to do. My truck was toast already as red lights were starting to appear one after the other, in the dash. I tightened the seatbelt and swung off the road taking one last look behind me. Yep. He’s still back there. Carefully but quickly I aimed down the steep embankment in a semi-controlled slide. Over rocks, debris, it didn't matter, slamming down just short of the tracks. Motor dead.... "The train won't stop for this. He's got to see me or better yet, hit me", I thought. I hit the key again and the motor caught but sounded very different. I drove my once prized, but now wrecked truck out onto the tracks and quickly bailed out of her. As I fled the truck, I could hear both the train and the ATV coming. Neither were very far off. I ran for the cover of the woods and then turned toward the eastbound. I literally ran for my life. I can't really tell you how far I ran before the eastbound rounded the curve in front of me. Ignoring any sense of self-preservation; I ran out onto the tracks and waved at the crew to stop. Yeah, right... With no other option and at the last second, I grabbed the handrail of the lead unit and swung myself onto the steps as it went by. A C44-9 wide cab. I climbed up the steps and went for the door on the nose of the unit. Locked... I jumped up and down waving at the crew over the hood of the loco to stop. They stared back at me like I was the devil himself. Again I jumped up, and this time pointed at the track ahead. They looked beyond me and pointed themselves. I heard the prime movers throttle down and immediately felt the train's momentum fade. They had seen my truck. A wide-eyed conductor opened the front door and before he could say a word... "TERRORISTS!" I shouted out of breath, "THEY ARE GOING TO BLOW UP THE TUNNEL... THEY GOT GUNS! ...THEY ARE COMING THIS WAY! ...YOU GOTTA BACK THIS THING UP QUICK OR WE ARE ALL DEAD!" "I can't just back up a train", he said as we entered the locomotive. As I stepped up next to the engineer and pointed out the window, I said, You'd better! "You see that ATV?" I pointed down the track about a quarter mile. "That's one of them and he's got the baddest looking assault rifle you ever seen. He's coming this way and trust me when I tell you, he's a really good aim." "Stop and back `er up quick Don, forget about the slack", the conductor said. "But Red..." "JUST DO IT, DON!". Slowly we came to a stop. At that moment. Nothing else in the world existed but the roaring diesels spooling up directly behind us as we slowly started to back up. WHAM! As the slack in the train quickly ground together. "We're still on the rails...I think", said Don the engineer. "We'll know soon enough if we aren't" Red the conductor replied, adding,"I'll get on the radio". The sound of a bullet impacting the laminated safety glass of the windshield drew our attention forward again. Glass splinters flew around the cab. I glanced at the speedometer. It was just edging up to 10. "Can we outrun him?" I asked. "Probably not", Don said."We can't go like this for much longer or we'll never get stopped". "Great", I said. "I escaped from terrorists trying to kill me, only to be killed on a runaway train", I thought out loud. "My first cab ride too..." "He's turned around!" Don yelled. We all rose up and looked out the windshield to see the terrorist on his ATV, heading away at a good clip. "He's out of ammo I think", I said. More to myself than to anyone else. "The cops are on their way!" Red yelled over the roaring engines from his seat by radio. I had forgotten about Red and the radio, in the excitement of the gunfire. "Here, they want to talk to you". He handed me the mike. "Stop the train Don...", he said. "I think were OK". And we were. The Highway Patrol caught up with the terrorists 40 miles or so from the tunnel. They tracked them by helicopter until a sufficient force could be assembled for the bust. I guess the terrorists thought that they had gotten away clean and the deed was done. But the bomb squad easily disarmed the powerful, but hastily made bomb inside the tunnel before it could go off. It had been set up to go off with a passage of a train at the very middle of the tunnel. As for me. Well... the railroad bought me a brand new truck. An `03. Red again. This time with 4 wheel drive. The media reported that no one had been hurt in the incident, but I know better. I know exactly where my trusty old billy club connected with that terrorist. Let's just say he could be one of the "Sopranos" now.