Train yards are dangerous places. alot of sh*t is going on and ya gotta be aware of whats around you. Before even thinking of painting trains, read these threads.
OK, here we go again, this stuff is worth the hassle of retyping for all you freight aspirants. Before you even consider the mission, lighting, and chillness aspects of your fr8 work you need to know what's up with yards so you don't get killed. I will post a bunch of sub-topics as I think of them.
HUMPING. No, not that kind. In the fr8 world humping is a process used to break up trains and sort, or "classify", the individual cars and get them to the right tracks in a yard. Basically, the train is driven backwards a short distance, and they slam on the brakes. At the same moment a brakeman jogs alongside the moving train and throws a lever that uncouples a car or group of cars at the end of the train. These cars fly off on their own momentum down the track that has been selected for them, with no brakes, and they don't stop till they run out of inertia, or until they hit other cars parked on that line (the BOOM!!! sound you may hear from your local yard). Freight cars can safely collide at 5mph or less, they just lock onto each other at the coupler; sometimes a crew that's in a hurry to hump off a train will send them faster than 5mph, though.
This raises several safety issues: One, a train that is backing up, or cars that have been humped off, can run you down without you ever hearing an engine. In a dark or foggy yard, those drifting cars (called "ramblers") can go a surprising distance, and sometimes are very quiet despite their size, so they can sneak up on you. The danger is magnified if you are standing in a noisy spot (near another locomotive, or one of those reefer cars with the loud compressor running all the time, or anything else) that could mask the sound of an approaching rambler.
Two, you might be on or painting a car that gets hit by a line of ramblers. It will slam them into motion suddenly. If you're climbing on a car and don't have a good handgrip, you could become the next photo at www.deadtrainbums.com
. When ramblers hit a motionless line, it's like a cueball hitting another ball in pool: the force gets transferred to the object ball, and when you're talking forty tons per car that translates into some serious slamming power even at low speeds.
So in general: assume EVERY track is live, that something may come at any time. NEVER climb underneath a freight car for any reason. If you have to cross a line, assume it could slam into motion any second. Don't climb over the coupler, cross using the handy ladders and walkways at the ends of most cars. If the car you want to cross doesn't have a walkway on the back, cross somewhere else. Don't stand in between cars in a line, or less than twenty feet from the last car in a line. Basically, don't stand ANYWHERE you could be hit if ALL the trains around you started moving at the same time. (This very thing has happened to me twice, once in Milwaukee and once in Pittsburgh.) Don't climb onto the tops of railcars. Don't attempt a big project involving ladders, like an e2e or wholecar, until you are a veteran of A) yards in general and the particular spot you want to try something ambitious at (and those projects are best reserved for chill, lonely layups, not yards).
A lot of this sounds pretty anal. You might already have prowled yards not knowing any of this and still not had a problem. The tricky thing is, 9 out of 10 times none of this sh*t will happen, but if you spend enough time in yards you will personally experience all of these things, and that 1 out of 10 can be fatal if you didn't know in advance. You can also get complacent after several uneventful trips. Don't do it. Be safe in the yards, and tell all your writer friends what you know about this.