Sunday, June 2, 2013

Train Track Sessions are Illegal? UPDATED!

What??? But I see friends' family, senior and even wedding pictures on the tracks all the time!?!

I get asked several times a year to have portrait sessions on Railroad Tracks. In fact, I have done them a handful times in the past, and they were among some of my most popular images to date. I mean look at these for example. You not only get a great perspective shot, but it is a cute theme that represents you are headed somewhere in your life. A new beginning maybe? But both of these images within this post, could have actually gotten me arrested! This location idea has been extremely popular nationwide, especially for HS Seniors, for several years, but now when I am asked to have a session at one of the many track locations in our area, I say, "no", and here's why.

First of all, it's dangerous. Not just the fact that people twist their ankles or get caught in the rails all the time, but yes, what seems obvious to me, and I'm sure to you as well, is that you don't stand on the tracks to have your picture taken with a train barreling down on you.  But here's the problem, most trains do not run on straight, completely visible tracks. There are bends, trees, hills, etc that obstruct the conductors view of you as well as your view and the sound of the train quickly coming your way. In fact, just late last year, a teacher who taught art and photography was struck and killed by a train while taking photos on the tracks.

Roughly every three hours in the U.S., a person or vehicle is hit by a train. -Operation Lifesaver

That's not enough of a reason? How about this? Here are 6 reasons the FRA's "Operation Lifesaver" lists as to why you should never have a Portrait Session on the Train Tracks.
  1. Trains can’t stop quickly to avoid people or vehicles on the tracks.
  2. An optical illusion makes it hard to determine a train's distance from you - and its speed. 
  3. The average train overhangs the track by at least three feet.
  4. Railroad tracks, trestles, yards and rights-of-way are private property.
  5. No tracks should be assumed to be abandoned or inactive.
  6. People in your community mimic your behavior.


"Well, what about those tracks that aren't being used by trains often or at all?"
Those are called DEAD tracks. And as it states on the FRA's (Federal Railway Association) website, ALL tracks, live or dead, are PRIVATE PROPERTY and you are ILLEGALLY TRESPASSING by doing anything other than legally crossing tracks via a marked roadway, etc.
So you say you are willing to take your chances on a dead track since they are "safe". Then I guess you won't mind taking the risk to you AND your clients of each being fined "up to $10,000, and even possible arrest." So now think again.... is that image really worth the risk?

Lets backtrack (no pun intended)...
If there are so many photos out there of people on the tracks, then they must not be enforcing it, right? Wrong!
Before I knew it was illegal, I actually had a police officer pull up next to me at my last session at the RR tracks, and nicely say, "You know I can not only fine you, but actually take you in for doing that, right?" 

WOW! Not only was I surprised, but I WAS LUCKY that he was so nice to me about it. I had no idea! After a short chat with the officer, I started looking into it more online. These property owners actually do call the police when they see trespassers. So you really are taking a big chance, just for an unoriginal, cliche of a portrait that has become no more creative than spot color. (But that's another topic all together.)
"We understand the passion that photographers have for their work; however, they may not realize that using train tracks as a backdrop for portraits of high school seniors, wedding parties, and families is not only dangerous, it is illegal trespassing,” -Operation Lifesaver President Helen M. Sramek

Top priority is safety, true, but as Professional Photographers, I would also think that each and every TRUE PROFESSIONAL should be offering our clients more CREATIVE and ORIGINAL options by now anyway, without the risk of a $10,000 fine and possible arrest to the photographer AND their clients.

So now, the hard part, (or easy, depending on how you look at it.):
Educating not only our potential clients, but also our friends, families, fellow photographers and especially HS seniors, that taking pictures on the tracks is not only terribly dangerous, but also illegal! It's time to think outside the box.

__________________________________________________________________________
About Operation Lifesaver...

Operation Lifesaver's mission is to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and along railroad rights of way. A national network of trained volunteers provides free presentations on rail safety. For more information or to request a free safety presentation, visit www.oli.org ;
follow OLI on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and Instagram!

We also invite you to visit the Federal Railway Association's websitat http://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0001
and follow the FRA on Facebook and Twitter
__________________________________________________________________________




UPDATE!!!

Since posting this article 8 months ago, not only have I received countless comments, questions, emails, facebook messages and over 128,000 views, and thousands of shares. Some of the responses I've received have been positive and grateful, and plenty who, lets just say were not. Awareness is education and education is power.
The most comment question I get asked is this one that I received from a fellow professional photographer in North Carolina just last week....
"... I see these photos online in Facebook, Instagram, Google and Pinterest all the time. I have shared your blog post and information, but not everyone is happy to receive it. They get defensive and claim that they will continue to do it. What is the next step when education isn't working? Is there anything I can do to curb this kind of behavior?"

YES! TAKE ACTION!
Anyone can anonymously REPORT IT and here's how...

  • Start by locating your OLI State Coordinator for where the offending photo is from, by going to this page http://oli.org/state_coordinators/ 
  • If your state's OLI has a facebook page, then send a private message asking them how they prefer to be notified of a photographer who is shooting on the tracks. 
  • Send the state coordinator a direct link to the photo's location and any contact information you may have on the photographer or organization using the image. If your state coordinator does not have a Facebook page, then send an email as that should also be listed in the OLI link above. (Some coordinators prefer email, others don't have a preference.)
  • OLI will NOT reveal how or who reported the image. They will contact the photographer or organization directly, fully educate them of the dangers, legal issues and how displaying such images encourages this behavior in others, and they may even choose to contact the railway company to let them make the decision on any action they would also like to take.

Prefer to APPROACH & EDUCATE them yourself?
Here are a few links that are easy for you to copy and paste to share with them and help back up your statement and reasons for concern.


---> Ok... So you think "REPORT IT" sounds bad.
Read my post again, carefully this time...  You will see that I am in no way telling people to call the police or federal government on those who shoot on tracks. That would be ridiculous. It is simply a choice between personally educating these people, or have OLI (Operation Lifesaver) educate them. That is what they do. Educate. Nothing more.  OLI would make the decision if the individual has done anything extreme enough to warrant any further action.


Thank you, and keep spreading the word!

108 comments:

  1. My husband works for BNSF Railway (they own a very large portion of the railroads in the US) and has warned be several time that pictures on RR tracks are a no go. He works on these tracks everyday and knows how extremely dangerous they are! He also told me that if they see ANYONE on the tracks that's not supposed to be there, they are contractually obligated to report them to their supervisor, who then contacts law enforcement. So any railways employee WILL report you. The chances of someone seeing you are very likely. Good information here!!!

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  2. 3 of my international students got arrested for this. It was a big headache, and ignorance of the law is never considered an excuse, though I felt sorry for them. This is good writing, Juli!

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  3. Thank you so much for posting this I have as well had to tell several clients that we could not use RR tracks for a location. My husband is an engineer for the CP and father is retired from the CN. Growing up in a railroad family my entire life has made me respect,fear,and educate others about the rails. Yes my children, niece, and newphew have pictures taken on the tracks. We also had permission from the RR and had RR personal with us at the time. Maybe one of the perks being a RR family

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    1. So basically what you are saying "anonymous" is that it is ok, and more safe as long as you have family who work for the RR? Come on. Get real.

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    2. I believe what they said was they had PERMISSION to be there and RR personal with them, so between the lines, they probably also had inside information to what time of day that track would be in use...Permission given means no trespassing and personal for safety.

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    3. even though I TOTALLY agree with the safty measure here,, but there are ALOT of tracks that are NEVER used,, yes NEVER so the safty factor isn't a issue, as for the private property mentioned OUR SMALL town doesn't have that problem, but good info for the most part thank u

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    4. You should try and find a nearby museum if you want pictures like this, most will accommodate. And museum equipment looks good in photos, too.

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    5. Actually, "anonymous", what "anonymous" said is THEY HAD PERMISSION from the RR. Anyone can write and request permission. It is a little time consuming and you are not guaranteed that your request will be granted, but you can always ask and do it safely and legally.

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    6. I would offer that even if it is a museum, green screen, or mock-up in a rail fan's back yard it is still never a good idea. Ask any crew member who has had to participate in someone's fatality. Those images are cruel reminders of the last thing a train crews see before someone is killed or maimed. Please don't do this- the people seeing the photos don't understand you had permission. I would also offer that in most cases, only railroad police special agents are authorized to give permission to be on tracks. Just being an employee does NOT give a person the right to say "yes" to a photo shoot. We do hear that photogs thought they had permission but it turned out to be a railroad employee who does not have legal authority to grant permission to be there. Just don't do it.

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    7. No, she's saying that if the railroad gives permission, then it is acceptable. Several years ago I wanted to take some photos of railroad equipment in the railyard in my town. I wrote a letter to the person in charge of this division. He wrote me a letter back and told me to meet police officer so-and-so of the CSX railroad police and he would accompany me and I could take all the pictures I wanted.

      Trespassing is only trespassing if it's done without the permission of the property owner. Exactly who was going to arrest me when I had the captain of the CSX railroad police walking thru the yard with me "helping" me take pictures?

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  4. What about taking pictures of the trains, when your a safe distance off and away from the tracks?????

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    1. There IS a certain amount of distance from the tracks that appears to be legal, but I do not recall what it is. 100 feet maybe? I do know that I read it on their site. I would suggest clicking through the link to find out.
      At the same time, in these days, I would also encourage you contact the train station you're interested in photographing, simply for Homeland Security reasons. I know that sounds rediculous, but you certainly don't want that kind of problem either.

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    2. I was told that if you look at a railroad crossing and the gates, it's the distance away from the tracks that the gates are placed is the distance along the entire tracks you could be considered trespassing. Or unless otherwise posted. I suppose you could be fined if on railroad territory where it was a road or something owned by the company. But the gates show the right of way which is private property and fine-able. I myself take caution when filming and photographing trains. I be sure to keep my distance, sometimes only about 15 to 20 feet but I make sure that the engineer and other crew members can see me and know I am not doing anything stupid or unsafe. Also, I be polite and give a friendly wave, but that will do you no good if you are inside the safe limits of railroad tracks.

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    3. 50 ft either side of the nearest rail.

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    4. I'm a conductor for Norfolk Southern and there is no "Minimum safe distance" While it is true that it is illegal to trespass on Railroad property. That can be 10 feet it can be 150 FT where ever it is posted that its Railway property you should not be. Also something else to bare in mind just because the rail cars over hang by a few feet does not mean that you are safe. I have seen so many times when metal band hold wood and such have become undone or loose and flap about all over the place, now you can only imagine what a metal strap waving around at 50 miles an hour will do to you if you happen to be anywhere near the tracks, even standing at what you presume to be a safe distance.

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    5. I used to live in a house that was right by railroad tracks. The edge of my property was probably less than 10 feet away from the tracks. So, if I stood on the edge of my property and took photos of a train going by my house, that is ok? Just trying to clarify things.

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    6. As long as you are on public property or have permission to be on private property, taking pictures of trains is ok. If you stand in somebody's yard for example the railroad can't do anything about it, but the homeowner whose yard you're in can.

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    7. I'm a locomotive engineer for the Canadian National in Wisconsin and Illinois. ANYTIME I see people near the tracks it makes me nervous. I would stay no less than 250 feet away from the tracks. If you are near a mainline track when a train goes by at speed, the potential for injury is very great if lading, banding, or anything else becomes unsecured and makes it to the right-of-way. These objects become deadly missiles, and can seriously injure you or even kill you.

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    8. 20 feet from the edge of the ties is the railroads right of way. It does not matter if you are on railroad property or your own. If you're within 20 feet of my train, I will call the police and press charges. I have been an unwilling participant in too many deaths. This morning I had a near miss with a five and three year old. It's not the trespassers that has to live with their death etched in their head. Also, we hate you people that take our picture. I'm going to come to your work and take pics of you flipping burgers and post that shit online for your boss to see that you're doing it wrong. Just stay away from my tracks and my train. I will have no mercy in ensuring you are charged and punished to the full extent of the law. For the rest of my life, I will have a vision of a wife and her kids falling to pieces after I hit and killed their father and husband as they watched. Just stay the hell away so I can do my job and go home to my family without scars.

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    9. Who cares, I will take photos where ever I want. Poster of Nov. 5/13,what a drama qreen. You do not know if i flip burgers and what if I did? A monkey could do your job and would not be drunk or high. Correct me if I am wrong but I think the UTU lost 1/2 of there membership in the mid 80s to the rear of train device. You stupid smelly fool.

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    10. Poster of 11/5/13 have you ever heard of the old saying "it's better to keep your mouth shut and not look like a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt"? Well, lets just say should have kept you mouth shut!

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    11. Poster of Nov. 5/13 @ 5:32 PM.

      Obviously you have no respect for the people who work for the railroads. When someone is on the tracks, trespassing, and they get killed by the train that takes over a mile to stop; do you really think its fine. Those employees have to live the rest of there life knowing they're train killed someone, and all they did was just do they're job moving freight that caters to YOU. I doubt you can say that they're is nothing in your house that was not once on a train. You need to do some research, and not just any monkey can operate a train. It takes special training to operate these trains that deliver coal to power your house, deliver the food that feeds you, and delivers the appliances/furniture you use.

      I don't even work for the railroad, but being a railfan and going and photographing trains I've learned a lot and met lots of nice people. When a train is stopped, sometimes I go and chat with the crew because I hope to someday join the railroad and help build America.

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    12. ENOUGH!
      Quit acting like children and reacting to what people are saying as if they were directing it at you personally.
      I wrote this blog post in hopes of bringing a little awareness to a highly dangerous and illegal fad in photography. I will no longer allow posts that insult others, nor those that give excuses to continue doing something that obviously not a smart or safe idea. From here on I will DELETE future comments that do this from this blog.

      I am thrilled at the attention this blog posting has brought, but I am also not an expert nor do I have all the answers. Please direct all your questions by calling your local railroad company PRIOR to arriving on the site.

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    13. Thank you for finally setting that commenter straight. There is always a handful of people who push the envelope and think rules dont apply to them. Photos near or on RR tracks should not be a practice that anyone should undertake. Its flat out dangerous whether people get permission or not. If I got permission to take pics of an unguarded pride of lions, doesnt mean i would do it! Respect RR tracks, period!

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    14. Bottom line, stay away from the tracks. Unless you work for the railroad, keep away from my tracks!

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  5. So if I stand in the middle of the roadway and take the picture.... LOL just kidding... Great information and advice. I was with a group in a railyard and the railroad police were very friendly, and equally firm, about leaving the area. Thank you for taking the time to share this with us.

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  6. Very well written. I'm a railroad employee and a photographer. I preach railroad safety as much as I can. Thanks for writing this. I have seen someone who has been hit by a train. Its not pretty..

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  7. What about just a piece of track? We have a real train station that has cute colorful train cars on a piece of track that isn't connected to anything. It is just for kids to climb on and play on the train cars! I do shoots there every year.

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    1. a piece of track that is unattached and that you have permission to be on is different from trespassing on private property where a vehicle may come barreling down on you at any moment.

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    2. and I can only assume if its purpose is for children to climb and play on then there would be nothing wrong with using it as a photo prop.
      Let's use our common sense!

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    3. STAY AWAY FROM THOSE!!! Those are FAR more dangerous than actual tracks! Trust me. I've seen a lot of scary accidents from those. They are not pretty.... all the skinned knees and scraped elbows.... They haunt my dreams every night....

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  8. Oh yes. I have quite the story pertaining to this. A railroad supervisor saw me near the tracks with a camera in hand. I was reported and a full FBI investigation ensued. I was stalked and followed and investigated as a terrorist! Anything pertaining to airline, railroad, etc they do not take lightly! It is a felony offense. Lesson learned!

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    1. It is not a felony offense to take pictures of trains from public property.

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  9. You are within your rights to photograph trains if you are off of railroad property. That doesn't mean just off the tracks - it means off of what they own (generally known as the right of way), whether it's 15 feet or a mile. Rail enthusiast photographers tend to know the limits. If you're shooting a commercial or retail job, stay away unless you have permission. If your client HAS to have a shot, find a museum (if there is one nearby), knowing that there might be a fee. Never trespass on railroad property for a shot, because (as has already been noted), it's dangerous and illegal.

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    1. I myself do everything in my power to safely photograph and film trains myself. Keeping a good distance off the main line, weather I'm supposed to be there or not. Although I probably shouldn't, I walk home along the railroad tracks in my town (an entire 2 miles) but I make sure I have someone at home on the computer who can tell me where trains are and as soon as I know there is one within 5 miles of me I get at least 20 feet away from the tracks. Still illegal, I at least make it safe, and haven't ever been called in myself.

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    2. Youre still being foolish and perpetuating the problem.

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  10. Thank you very much for sharing this. I hope you don't mind but I also shared this blog in a photography group on FB
    https://m.facebook.com/groups/540486705987262?ref=bookmark&__user=1131441186

    This is a great share to other newbies out there or those that didn't know. Thanks for posting!

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    1. Also called Photo Mojo if link doesn't work and interested in joining that likes to share and learn. Information like above is a great share for newbies to professionals.

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  11. Sharing this for sure! Great post!

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  12. What about previously taken photos can the law come after you from past pictures taken?

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  13. I work for CSX, and yes it is illegal. We hate to come around a curve and see people standing in the tracks posing. For those that choose to ignore the no trespassing signs, just remember,we are not to slam the train brakes on until impact.

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    1. Why bother with the brakes at all, then. Does that hold true for school buses too? If I'm a railroad engineer and a tanker truck is on the tracks ahead, and not moving, you can bet your sweet ass I would be on the brakes before impact. At 62, I am a life long fan of railroads and lived in a small town where we (the fire department) dealt with a two track main line that had 50 trains a day and I say that railroads also have responsibilities to the public, which is even more compelling since they are specifically in business to make money. As an amateur photographer who's favorite subject is trains, especially signals, I make it a habit to take photos from safe locations and public ways wearing high visibility clothing...it is my responsibility. But that doesn't let the railroad off the hook for negligent behavior.

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. I'm a professional locomotive engineer. When hitting a tank truck (and I never have, but have heard from those that have survived) you want to get through it as fast as possible. Putting the train in emergency might be putting you right in the middle of the inferno that you are trying to avoid!

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    4. To answer your question about waiting to place the train into emergency brake application what many do not relies is trains have varying lengths and amount of tonnage not pounds tonnage. To place a train in the emergency can and has caused other problems far greater that could cause a derailment. Now take some of the Hazmat we haul if this were to happen it could cause many more deaths than someone or something that steps or moves off the track just before impact. Being on the fire department like you indicate in your post would you rather have to pick up 100's or even thousands of bodies? So until you understand what all the ramifications of our decisions we have much more to consider when we have to place a train into an emergency brake application. Some of the products we haul require a 2 mile radius for evacuation. Not many fire departments have the ability to take care of those they serve when a killer cloud of toxic gas is rolling through town at what ever the wind speed happens to be at the time. Julie thank you for posting this important information........

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  14. Excellent article. While your images are wonderful, thank you for not continuing this activity. I wish more photographers would understand the dangers of shooting on railroad rights of way.

    Would you consider putting an "X" through the attached images so at first glance readers would understand the intent of the article and not promote this type of activity?

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  15. 90%+ of people hit or killed by trains are under the influence of some substance! Check with operation livesaver.

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  16. What about decommissioned tracks? I'm sure you could use those?

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  17. Hummm... I walk the railroad tracks all summer long, and never once seen a train. Lucky for me I guess.

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  18. been using and had not problem of course the one's I use are not longer in commission and are now on private property that I have permission to shoot at.

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  19. I find it funny that so many so-called creative professionals, take the time to comment on this important information (anonymously) just to state their excuse that they have "permission" or to find a loophole to continue photographing on their local tracks, when in reality, all any of you are doing is encouraging uneducated others to continue acting foolishly, dangerously and illegally with an overdone, fad that has also now become uncreative and boring.
    Instead of taking the time to excuse your actions, take this bloggers information and realize that it is NO LONGER a good idea!
    Get an original thought in your head!
    ADMIT that maybe, you might just be wrong in what you're doing.
    Quit being sheep, and be creative for once! That is what a true artist does.

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    1. Funny how you leave yourself anonymous.........

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  20. As a locomotive engineer I congratulate you for the courage and foresight in posting this message. I've had far too many close calls with pedestrians trespassing on the rails. I've also had collisions with motor vehicles and struck a pedestrian. I have posted your message on my FB page congratulating you for your message and also endorsed you and your business. As a 35 year railroader and on behalf of railroaders everywhere, thank you for taking the time to thoroughly explain this to prospective customers.

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    1. Thank you so much! I truly appreciate it. Your comment really means a lot to me.

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  21. railroad companies are still responsible for the unused and abandoned lines they own making them liable for any injuries suffered on their property. if somebody rolls their ankle or trips and falls they could file a lawsuit. its easier just to tell everyone to stay off.

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  22. My suggestion would be to make a safe way to have these shots. Maybe a railroad company would be willing to sell an abandoned line they never plan to use again (or a portion of it) to a photography company for these types of photos. This way, there would be no trains running through those tracks, and the land becomes owned by a company that does railroad background photos. They could make a mock-up of a railroad line using real tracks, signs, switches, signals, etc and taking photos in this spot would be perfectly safe. The railroad company could even put up a sign "railroad photo zone area" - You are allowed to take on-track photos on this inactive line.

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  23. As a Regional Coordinator for Operation Lifesaver in Southern Nevada, just like to say Thank you for bringing this to the attention of others. Numerous times we have had incidents involving photographers some of them leading to tragic results, especially for the models or persons on the track. Thank you

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  24. There are several factors at work with something like this.
    There are folks who get complacent with their "trains only run here at night" mentality, "I've never seen a train on this line so it's abandoned," or whatever. Those people tend to either get hit or get the stuffing scared out of them as they're missed by inches.
    Then there are the folks that obviously believe themselves invincible or whatnot, who further think that all the railroad lines are public property, owned by the taxpayers. (No, really. I've had that spouted to me many times.)
    I volunteer with a local railroad museum which owns and operates about two miles of track. We had a photography professor from a nearby university who would bring photography classes down on field trips, unannounced and without prior arrangement, where they were obviously encouraged to swarm all over the property, including into derelict equipment in storage and atop outside equipment. A few rounds of talkings-to by museum officials didn't dissuade her or her students. However, she later took a swarm up to a city highway department depot up the road, housed in a historic stone building, and tried to get them to do artsy photography while the city workers were frantically loading up salt trucks for an incoming ice storm. The foreman attempted to throw them off loudly, and she resisted; the police ended up handling the issue.
    Many small railroads, railroad museums, and the like would be more than happy to "work with" photographers as long as they obey common sense rules, ask permission, sign waivers, etc. Nobody likes being that difficult and obnoxious, but the fact that litigation has replaced baseball as "the national pastime" forces such a mentality. Unfortunately, far too often, the mindset at work with "artists" like this appears to be the same as graffiti artists--a sense of entitlement simply because they have a vision or whatnot.

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  25. It was not a question of safety as much as a decision to pay attention.. My father worked in the EJ&E and we lived in Barrington IL were the EJ&E shared a diamond with CNW.. Many a day I would be on, near the tracks. Would go into the switch tower and when told to would throw switches, the other side of the depot was the turntable, which I learned to operate with the guidance of the yard engineer. Was this a problem when your ten years old, NA.. Not really, my father refused to raise stupid kids.. It is too bad I did not have a camera, they would have been great pictures.. I was ten in 1949 by the way...

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  26. Some of the smaller railroads will give you permission or they gave me permission to use it at certain times as long as I let them know. However, I see the problem as a safety issue. I realize it is a huge problem of people being exposed to dangerous situations.

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  27. View the railroads as any other land owner. Do not enter their property without permission. If you are on any portion of the property without permission, regardless of the distance from the center of track, you are trespassing. Additionaly, by presenting photos of people on the track you actually can condition people to presume it is allowable to enter those spaces. Would you encourage people to take photos from the middle of an interstate highway? Of course not. Well, railroads are the nation's interstate highways for freight.
    If you are not authorized to be on the property, then stay away. Even if you think it is "dead". You may end up that way because of an assumption.

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  28. AnonymousNovember 4, 2013 at 2:57 PM
    wrote
    "I myself take caution when filming and photographing trains. I be sure to keep my distance, sometimes only about 15 to 20 feet but I make sure that the engineer and other crew members can see me"

    doesn't matter they can't read your mind. By the time they see you it maybe to late

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  29. Walk on rail, slip, fall, head and arm injuries! Torn ligiments turned ankles due to unstable rocks, etc. As an RR employee I've lost count of the trespassers who have died under my wheels but in 30 years I'd guess 15! Railroads are industrial property and should be considered such.

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  30. You are statistically 200x more likely to die on your way to the tracks than on the tracks themselves.

    I'm all about keeping safe, but let's keep things in perspective. There is hardly a rash of photography-related deaths on train tracks...

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    1. Everything in life can kill you. But you are making an excuse to put someone's life in danger whether it is your own or someone elses'. Besides the fact that it is ILLEGAL and can get you arrested and/or slapped with a $10,000 fine and court costs, etc. Is that really worth a few photos on the RR tracks?

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  31. Thank you for posting this! Another photog friend of mine was fined when he took his clients to the tracks and it upset him so bad that he couldn't finish the session, AND he had to call in another photog to take his next session! There is another solution to the track problem and your client wants the tracks. If you are proficient in photoshop, use the tracks as a digital background. Other than that, please stay off the tracks. I am also a Firefighter and we have had to respond to emergencies on the tracks and it's not pretty. Photography is about life, but not at the risk of injury or life.

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  32. Trespassing on private property is very illegal. And railroads are going after anyone doing it. I just retired after 40 years as a locomotive engineer and in my time managed to hit six people on the tracks.

    Stay Off, Stay Away, Stay Alive (and stay out of jail)

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  33. Posting photos of beautiful women on RR tracks is not setting a good example for your written message, it conflicts with it. So you were in on the fad early when it was still "creative" and now all the wannbe's out there shouldn't do it because it isn't. Take down the photos and make your message congruent.

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    1. Sorry. I will not remove my images. A big part of my article is that I am admitting that I have done this as well. It also gets my message out there to more photographers and potential models because often they have found this article while they were googling image examples of RR images/poses, and have since thanked me for bringing the issue to light.
      I appreciate your point, but I posted them for a reason, and that reason is obviously working.

      Delete
  34. Very good information here. I'd like to comment that I work for a company who manufactures, leases, and maintains tank cars for various shippers. I know what is traveling in those cars. STAY AWAY! Train cars may be loaded with VERY nasty commodities and if one were to leak, derail, etc. you are in great danger if you're close to the tracks.

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  35. Thanks for sharing, I agree that all should stay off of RR tracks. But they to do make great pictures. The good news for some of us RR-track-loving-photographers is... not all tracks are owned by the railroad. Our city railroad museum owns sections of track that can be used for photographic purposes. So don't be a hater of all RR pictures, because some of us had permission to take the photos we did.

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  36. well,when your at a RR crossing and the gates come down id say its about 12 ft. from the train.

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  37. If you cant get out of the way of a train or hear the train coming there is something wrong with you.. Get real

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    1. Something is wrong with you, today's trains are much quieter then they were 10-20 years ago

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    2. My Uncle's wife was KILLED by a TRAIN---This is VERY REAL & VERY DANGEROUS!!! I don't know HOW it HAPPENED---But they were crossing a train track in a car on the way home from church on a Sunday. My Uncle was a Preacher. All of a Sudden, the train came and hit the car. In One Second, my uncle lost his wife and his two kids lost their mother Rorever---even though they were not injured badly........they will NEVER forget these HORRIBLE MEMORIES and the Loss of Their Loving Mother for the Rest Of their Lives. My Uncle was Hospitalized with a Nervous Breakdown for weeks.

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  38. Aside from the dangers of the track and train itself and the concept of it being illegal meandering on the tracks, you also must consider the dangers of wildlife too! I live right beside a railroad track, with the other side composed up of Weyerhauser land. With this said, I have witnessed bears, coyote, deer, bobcats, and even heard stores of mountain lions following the tracks.

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  39. I think one of the real issues here is that most photographers think they can go anywhere they like and take pictures. I am a photographer and always ASK the owner of the barn or the vintage cars etc. if I may take a picture. Most every time I am given permission and thanked because I am the only person who has ever bothered to ask. Even if you stand off the property to take the image you are invading someone else's life. Please consider this next time you take what you think is a perfect shot.

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  40. The only way to LEGALLY get portraits done on a railroad is to get WRITTEN PERMISSION and have trained personal with you the entire time you are there. Not to long ago, a photographer and his client were taking portraits on the tracks of the BNSF Cuba Subdivision outside St. Louis. Needless to say, the traffic on this line is 4-6 trains a day. The photographer and client were arrested by BNSF Police (Yes, railroads do have their own Police Departments) for trespassing.

    People do not think.

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  41. A friend was watching train from a public road and got hassled by the RR police of a short line,who was also on the public road. He said that the engineer griped that he was pacing the train and got nervous. "Would you want a camera in your face all day"? He said that he used to work for TV news and people followed him around with a camera all day. I do realize the problem, and try to stay back. My ultra-wide angle lens is much too dangerous for RR photography unless everything is idle, preferably at a station. Two honks and I'm out of there. -- John Foster

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  42. I was stopped by a policeman for taking photos of tracks FROM THE SIDEWALK, which is a public right of way. He said that it was because I was photographing utilities and he was afraid I might be a terrorist. The tracks are pretty dormant and are rumored to be removed soon, so I wanted to get some shots before they took them out.

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  43. Who wants a cliche pic anyway? Come up with something new and unique. And SAFE!

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  44. I want to thank everyone for taking the time to read and share this blog post. I wrote this article in hopes of bringing a little awareness to a highly dangerous and illegal fad in photography.

    I ask that you all please be RESPECTFUL to each other. I am disappointed to now read, and will no longer allow posts that insult others, nor those that give poor excuses to continue doing something that obviously not a smart or safe idea. From here on out, I will DELETE future comments that do this from this blog.

    I am thrilled at the attention this blog posting has brought, but I am also not an expert nor do I have all the answers. Please direct all your questions by calling your local railroad company PRIOR to arriving on the site with any and all of your questions regarding where is allowed. I would also ask that when you post your RR images online, that you include information that you contacted your local railway and had been granted permission to ensure your client's safety and legality. This will hopefully encourage newcomers to do the same.

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    1. As a locomotive engineer and a operation lifesaver volunteer we thank you for the awareness. We kill people everyday, and there are real humans in those trains that have to deal with the aftermath. Trains are beautiful and forever part of the american landscape....but please stay away and stay alive

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  45. well lets find more to complain about this has been going on for many yrs and will keep going to give the haters something to complain about what will be the next complaint.....idiots anyway!!!

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  46. Thank you so much for the warning! I'm an amateur photographer, only been doing it for a few months. I haven't done any railroad shoots yet, but I was considering doing one in a few months, however with your information I now know that I shouldn't! Thank you!

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  47. I just found/started following your blog because your photography is AMAZING. Seriously sosososo good. wedding photographer boston.

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  48. Wonderful post. I've never shot a lot of railroad tracks simply because I grew up in the rural midwest, where we have a lot of trains, and they make me nervous. You don't always see or hear a train coming. You think you will, but you don't. I will be sharing this on Facebook for my photographer friends as a reminder/lesson about what can happen.

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  49. All of my train track photos are taken on the train tracks that are in the state park. They are dead and we are allowed to be on them. Im sure if you check around you could find a place that allows it. Do your homework and Please don't shoot on tracks that you are not allowed on or are active.

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  50. It doesn't matter if the tracks are "dead" or not most people don't know. I am the woofer of a locomotive engineer who hit a 12 yr old. It's not a fun thing to live with for the rest of your life. Stay off the tracks PERIOD. At any point in any direction a train can be coming. They are faster then you think.

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  51. I'm still fairly new to photography (as opposed to taking snapshots). I've tried taking moving train shots before from a sidewalk which crossed the tracks, well to the outside of the crossing gates. I was closer to an apartment building which was next to the tracks than the tracks themselves. Is this still unsafe/illegal?

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  52. Rail is some of the safest transportation there is if people follow some common sense rules. My pet peeve are people who drive up to the train tracks stopping within a few feet of the crossing guard. Legal yes, but very stupid. Why? Google "train derailment" and look at some of the pictures of trains that are 100 + feet from the tracks and look at the destruction that it entails. Second is the hazardous materials that are carried by rail. Those tanker cars carry thousands of gallons of some of the nastiest stuff on earth. If it gets out it will kill you in the most unpleasant ways. Distance is your only protection. When arriving a train derailments smart first responders stop several hundred feet away and watch for people walking around. These people are commonly referred to as canaries, and a few other terms. If they are not dropping like flies after being sprayed by Raid, it may be safe to approach the scene. I have worked a number of auto train wrecks and I have never seen a train loose. Trains mutilate the human body, so don't plan on an "open casket" funeral. Don't believe me, that is OK, it is your and your loved one's life you are gambling with, not mine.

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  53. Just a reminder...
    I DELETE ALL RUDE COMMENTS.

    I am not "recommending" that people "parent" others, nor telling others how to "lead their life."
    Reporting someone does not result in having the government issue some sort of investigation or ticket to the person you have reported either. Simply put, the OLI will educate them on the safety issues and they will decide from there if the individual case warrants more extreme action to be taken. (Rarely necessary.)

    My update is simply answering a repeated question I have been emailed about MANY times about what people can do about it. You can choose to educate the person yourself, report it to OLI for them to educate them for you, or do nothing.
    People have been asking me over and over what they can do. I simply shared the options available.

    And to answer what the deleted poster said in their closing... I mind my own &#@*$ business, quite well. Thank you. ;)

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  54. I am a former BNSF engineer so I guess I could say a lot about all sides given here. Not necessary. Most photo's are taken by non railroad personnel but of coarse not all. Those of us that worked in operations know the rules of safety and operated accordingly. If you want these kind of pictures, there are many legal opportunities to get them. Most railroads have what they call Railroad Days or the like. Here you are escorted around railroad property by Managers and the day is made for YOU. You can get all types of railroad pictures of equipment you would never have access to on a normal day. Many people believe operating trains is a no brainer. Not True. The training is intense and you are held accountable for every mistake you make both little and small. This is the way it must be in order to keep Everybody safe and alive at the end of tour. Operation lifesaver is your source for knowledge and answers to all your questions. This orginization is there for the single purpose of helping to save lives through knowledge. Take advantage of their services.

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  55. ...Annomosly tell on people for taking innocent photos???...if they are trespassing. ..its thier problem..not yours... Sounds a bit like WW2 Germany...(telling on your neighbor) .....

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    1. Read the update again....
      I am in no way telling people to call the police or federal government on them. For those people who want to DO something to educate these photographers or clients, they are choosing whether they want to personally educate them, or have OLI educate them. Nothing more.
      The individual will simply be educated as to why this type of action is illegal and unsafe. OLI would make the decision if the individual has done anything overly extreme enough to warrant any further action.

      Delete
    2. Taking dangerous, illegal pictures is hardly the same thing as being Jewish, and it's insensitive to imply otherwise.

      Delete
  56. Stay off the tracks, trestles, bridges, right of way and all equipment.. Even museum equipment is dangerous. Keep off, unless you have specific, and supervised permission. IT is wrong to take these cutesy photos on the tracks as it may send a message to someone, that it is okay to hop a freight, or sit or lie down on the rails. Let's promote safety and courtesy, rather than something that may risk life and limb.

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  57. I've been sharing this with everyone that does portraits in my town

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  58. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  59. You are trying to help, that makes you a guardian angel in my book. And that is a good thing :-) MO from Tn

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  60. Personally, I don't think it matters if you have permission or not, just taking images of people on the tracks perpetuates the idea that this is a safe practice and people viewing the images don't know if they were in a safe situation or not so they continue to believe that it's ok to do it. I just a soon not see any images of people on tracks at all, whether they were dead tracks, or if they had permission.

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  61. You have legal right to photograph anything from public property--but not RR property. Yu can take photos of private property and anything on it...from public property. The solution to this "problem" is shockingly simple: 1) Zoom lenses. 2) Shoot from certifiable public right-of-way (sidewalks, parkland, etc). That's all you need to know. The rest of the discussion above is useless.

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  62. Being a train photographer/railfan in Durand MI. the historic depot is a very popular wedding location, I always see people taking pictures on the tracks.. matter of fact, when getting ready to photograph CN 2209 and GTW 5831 on a local train, that was going on a wye, the new couple and photographer stood on the tracks, while getting ready to pose, I noticed they were there, and so was the train, I yelled to them to get off and totally missed my shot of a very rare GTW unit. one of the closest call ever seen!

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  63. I've taken photos on local tracks for years before knowing the law. It was another photographer friend who told me about the law. He also happens to work for the railroad and gets special permission to shoot on or near the local tracks. In the busy world of photography, I don't like that he has a monopoly on this and throws it in everyone's face.

    I don't like the whole idea of railroad private having property either. In my area of Pennsylvania, a lot of oil and gas companies buy up several thousand acres of land and post it as private. It is a disgusting waste of land and concealment of beauty. Laws have us politically bound up. I am not a fan of this and I mad as all get out.

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    1. Sounds like a separate matter, and endangering the lives of children to take cliché pictures is hardly the best form of protest. When/why did railroad pictures even become a thing?

      It's not what I consider scenic and the pictures just make me really uneasy. I also wonder if the same people defending the pictures were those who, say, got upset when Michael Jackson held his child over the balcony for a picture when that (while still foolish) was probably safer since he was at least somewhat in control of the situation.

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