The reality is that whether apocalyptic in nature or not, many disasters and emergency situations result in closed roads, battered bridges and tunnels, and clogged/blocked streets among other obstacles and impassable avenues once meant for departure. These once important avenues and through-ways will become monuments to the unlucky and under-prepared, as a sea of abandoned vehicles marks the loss of millions of lives.
So what are we to do? If the roadways aren’t safe, then where are we to go and what options do we really have? Well, when all else fails or is too dangerous to pursue, maybe it’s time to take to the rails.
WHAT YOU NEED:
- Sturdy Shoes. A sturdy pair of shoes is key to walking the rails. These sometimes uneven, gravely and eventually poorly maintained pathways aren’t overly hard on your feet, but they aren’t easy on them either. A sturdy pair of shoes or boots with good ankle support and thick soles would suit you well for this apocalyptic adventure.
- Railway Map. A simple search online for railway maps local to your area can provide links to both passenger and freight systems. You can also take a look at Mapsoftheworld.com for printable and purchasable versions. We recommend printing out at least 1 copy of your immediate and surrounding area maps and storing them in your B.O.B. in a waterproof baggy or map case.
- Directional Guide. General knowledge and understanding of direction is a must when you’re traveling, railway or not. Use of a compass, knowledge of the stars and even simple landmarks can make a big difference when you’re trying to choose which fork in the rails to ride.
- Food/Water. Although many railways cross through villages, towns, cities and even farmland, there is no promise of when or where your next meal or drink of water is coming from. Always pack enough supplies to keep yourself fed and hydrated for no less than 48 hours.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
- Bandits/Rogue Survivors/Zombies. Even though the rails are likely to be a lonely place for most survivors, there’s always a chance that you’ll run into someone or something along the way… and chances are 50/50 whether they’re on your side or not.
- Railroad Crossings. Potentially blocked by stalled vehicles and/or wrecks, these open-air in-town locations can be a beacon of hazards yet to come. Be on the lookout for hazardous/explosive/corrosive materials and warning signs of contaminate threats, especially if there is a downed tanker or other similar vehicle.
- Train Stations. These fantastic way-points and potential supply depots might also be a bug-out location for other survivors. Always approach train stations with caution (as you should any building or site). Check for signs of life before you enter them and while you’re there. If the coast seems clear, load up on whatever you can find from abandoned luggage, vending machines, lost and found and even behind the ticket counter.
- Rail Cars. No matter where you are or what railway you find yourself on, you’re bound to come across a train or two if you’re out there long enough. Rail cars have the potential of being filled with both life-saving and life-taking contents, though not often at the same time.
Explore both passenger and freight trains, but always do so with caution. Passenger trains could offer a temporary or even long-term home full of baggage, medical kits, meals from the dining car and even a bathroom… but only if it isn’t occupied by the undead or other survivors.
Freight trains, while potentially home to a life-time of food, medical, lumber and other supplies, can also be the bearer of very bad news. Pay close attention to warning/hazardous materials signs on the outside of each car. Approach every door you open with extreme caution and always be ready to run the other way.
WALKING THE RAILS:
The railway may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to traveling through an apocalyptic wasteland or disaster zone, but when it comes down to it, sometimes it’s the best bet to getting out of town, relocating your survivor post or finding your way back home. This once primary form of transportation for people, goods, materials and supplies, criss-crosses the land in almost every part of the world. They cut through almost every major city, most industrial areas, many smaller towns and farming communities and across great stretches of otherwise unnavigable land.
Most often built along the path of least resistance, railways cross rivers, lakes and streams. They charge through mountains, hills, deserts, forests and wintry wastelands, winding around or plowing through every obstacle along the way… creating what might be the most direct route in and out of town in an apocalyptic world.
Often running just off of the beaten path, these rivers of steel and railroad ties can offer a fairly safe, secluded and substantial route for survivors on the move, no matter where they’re headed in the world.
From an outside view, this spider’s web of transport can be hard to decipher at first. But, when pulled apart and examined closely, it becomes clear that whether you’re traveling north, south, east or west, there’s a railway out there for just about everyone. And, if you’re lucky, you might even come across a place you can call home or an abandoned carriage full of supplies.
So the next time you find yourself out and about in the world, listen closely for a train whistle in the distance… it just might be your salvation someday.