It doesn't get much closer than this. Tragedy was narrowly avoided this past week when a photographer got so close to a passing train that it tore a hole in her coat as it sped by.
The incident occurred while photographing the steam locomotive Pere Marquette 1225, also known as the North Pole Express. If the name sounds familiar, the North Pole Express is renowned for its role in the 2004 Warner Bros. Christmas Classic movie, "The Polar Express."
As the video shows at about the 53-second mark, the photographer's coat was ripped open as the train sped past her. Another inch or two closer would have spelled disaster.
We are very fortunate to have the legendary Pere Marquette 1225 steam locomotive here in Shiawassee County. This...Posted by Shiawassee County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, December 5, 2019
From studying the video and watching the photographer's reaction when she lowers her camera, I believe the main cause of this (beyond just being too close) was that she was probably using a wide-angle lens and did not realize that the train was as close as it was. She only moved out of the way when the train was just about 10 feet from her. That's less than a second from death.
I've previously photographed this train (see my lead image, taken at over 450 feet away at 188mm) and know the area reasonably well. This train normally travels at about 55 mph as it passes by the Carland Elevator and crosses the road. As with all trains, their large size makes their perceived speed tricky to guess, especially when looking through a viewfinder and when it is coming straight at you.
As seen in the video, she is actually standing on the railroad tie as the train approaches. Trains overhang the tracks by about 3 feet on each side. Shiawassee County Sheriff Brian BeGole reminds everyone that "...standing in the railroad right of way outside of a designated crossing is considered criminal trespassing."
If you aren't already aware, stay alive, and stay off the tracks!