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There is a long trail in the mountains near where I live. It requires one to walk through a Railway tunnel which is roughly 1.2 miles long and is not straight.

Usually, there is a margin between the train and the walls of the tunnel. The worst margin I have seen is of 4 ft., but that was with two lines (2 tracks), I can simply go to the other track if the train comes on the track where I am walking. If two trains come, one from each direction, Trouble, I'll have to make sure that I stand still between the two tracks (fundamentally wrong and a bad bad idea) or safer lay down between the two tracks, or at the corner of the tunnel wall.

The bast case margin that I have seen in the same section is of 6-8 ft. And there are safety alcoves where the maintenance guys stand while the train passes. I am not sure if they are equidistant for all the tunnels.

enter image description here Picture courtesy: Ecotrails, Karnataka.

What are the precautions that one should be taking while using such a tunnel?

Obvious thing: A headlamp and/or a Flashlight is being carried along. Using the tunnel is not entirely legal, but that is not much of an issue either. Railway authorities know that people use the tunnels, but they have never taken an action since the terrain only allows that as a shortest possible way.

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    WALKING through a railway tunnel? I hope the railway is abandoned, if not, is there a special path along with it, or are you suicidal? – gerrit Oct 29 '15 at 15:28
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    I think this might be much more common in India than it is in Europe. In the UK for example, you would be trespassing and breaking the law – user2766 Oct 29 '15 at 15:38
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    Super fun! I want to go hike through a mile long tunnel! – ShemSeger Oct 30 '15 at 3:01
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    In India, do train tunnels have regular safety alcoves like they do in Europe? If so, this is much lower risk than it would otherwise be. Maintenance workers know to step into them when a train is approaching. – Rory Alsop Oct 30 '15 at 10:14
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    4 feet? In my country, clearances in tunnels can be 30 cm (1 foot) or less! Walking in an active tunnel is stupid - worst case, you die and some poor train driver is horribly traumatised for the rest of their life. – Greenstone Walker Nov 2 '15 at 10:30
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First of all, next time I'm in India I'm gunna give you a call so you can show me where that tunnel is. Second, the only real precaution you need to take is to ensure that in the event of a train encounter, that there is room for the train to pass by safely with you in the tunnel.

I've actually been caught in train tunnel with a train coming the other way. We just laid down beside the tracks against the tunnel wall and waited for the train to pass, then continued on without any problems.

A light would be a luxury, but it's unlikely you can get lost in a train tunnel, and it's not like you're going to be encountering any obstacles that you have to worry about tripping over, or large hole you can fall in. Even with a light I'd probably turn it off and see how far I could go just following the tracks in the dark. You certainly don't have to worry about light when train comes, those tunnels get really bright when a train rolls through.


Edit:

Another consideration you should probably make, is what side of the tunnel would be best to stand on if you encounter a train at a turn. You said the tunnel wasn't straight, train cars don't stay over the tracks when they round a corner, the ends hang over the outside of the turn, and the middles hang over the inside. On a sharp turn, you may want to retreat to where the tunnel straightens out again.

  • Sure thing, come here and I'll take you to places. Your way of handling the situation looks quite similar to what I'd do. :) – WedaPashi Oct 30 '15 at 5:02
  • @wedapashi When the kids are older maybe and begging me to take them up a +7000m peak. – ShemSeger Oct 30 '15 at 5:06
  • Perfect! 7000 m peak o_O I doubt my fitness. – WedaPashi Oct 30 '15 at 5:07
  • unless of course there are dragging equipment issues. trouble = death. – SkipBerne Oct 30 '15 at 17:56
  • @SkimpBerne - We weren't laying under the train, the only reason we laid down was because we didn't want to be seen. If there isn't room for the train to pass beside you, then you should probably rethink entering the tunnel. – ShemSeger Oct 31 '15 at 3:13
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In most parts of the world going through a working train tunnel on foot is illegal, in all parts of the world it verges on suicidal.

I can imagine there are places in the world where, there are no other reasonable options. In this case, in addition to common sense items required for walking in a dark tunnel.

  1. Get a rail schedule, and do research to determine if it is reliable.
  2. Get a tunnel map, there are likely safety areas where a person can get out of the trains path.
  3. Learn the speed the train will be travelling when it goes through the tunnel

I would expect there is an inverse relationship between the train schedules reliability and alternative options for through the area.

You need to be able to get to a point of safety, between your first awareness of the train and it reaching your position in the tunnel.

Lastly, get a guide. Someone who is familiar with the tunnel will know where the safety points are. In the event of train entering the tunnel, they will know which one is the best option.

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    I'd guess that in parts of the world where using an active railway tunnel is an option people are even considering, train schedules are probably not tremendously accurate... – fgysin reinstate Monica Nov 2 '15 at 9:53
  • Even when I've had reliable information (from the railway signaller) that there would be no traffic on a particular day, I still chose to walk round... – Toby Speight Feb 10 '17 at 13:23
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It's quite simple really. If the railway is abandoned, bring an LED headlamp and a set of backup batteries. Edit: Use the buddy system if you can.

If the railway is not abandoned, don't step foot into that tunnel. That's a sure way to risk being killed.

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    I would very much advise bringing a backup lamp. Extra batteries aren't going to help when you stumble and smash that lamp or its bulb/led decides to give out just then. – Michael Borgwardt Oct 30 '15 at 8:47
  • That or a full-size Maglite as backup. Those things are tough. I have dropped them forcefully against concrete with barely a scratch. – user7764 Oct 30 '15 at 17:33
  • I forgot to mention outright that the headlamp or flashlight you use should be of good quality and use an LED, i.e. not homemade, not cheap, not considerably old, able to withstand a typical drop, etc. Beyond that, the chances of an LED failure are so statistically insignificant that you'd have a higher chance of suffering an unpredictable medical emergency. – Scott Hillson Nov 2 '15 at 18:58
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Having been dumb enough to try this (albeit with a 500m tunnel), I will mention a few drawbacks:

  • Trains going downhill make very little noise, and tunnel rails are often specially damped, so you will have less warning than outside
  • A high speed train gives you very little time to react
  • In some cases, in a two line tunnel, you will have trains going in the same direction, meaning that retreating to the opposite track may expose you to getting killed by a second train that you could not see because it was hidden by the first one
  • A heavy freight train with multiple engines going uphill in a long tunnel can suck all of the oxygen out of a tunnel, so you can die without getting hit.

In general, the spots to hide in, in order from best to worst are:

  • Outside the tunnel
  • The maintenance alcoves
  • lying pressed up against the wall on a straightaway, below the rungs of the ladders
  • lying flat between the tracks

You will need to determine the loading gauge of the railway carriages as well as the profile of the tunnel to see if any of these suggestions will work.

Also, be aware that trains are often scheduled in groups, so once your first train passes, there may be more shortly thereafter.

Again, this is an extremely bad idea.

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This is the beginning of what WE in the rail industry call a "Trespasser Strike". It is their property and if they catch you in a tunnel they may be arrested and turn you over to the local authorities. Or perhaps you can be run down by a train, if they can't stop from getting you off the tracks. Stay off the tracks, stay out of the tunnels and stay off the bridges.

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