Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: metraRI, JamesT4

  by doepack
Fred Leonard, chief of Metra Police, made the following comments regarding Metra's photography policy shortly after last year's Morton Grove incident:

"We allow anyone to photograph our locomotives, passenger cars, platforms, and stations from areas that are open to public access, and that includes downtown terminals."

Metra spokesman Dan Schnolis added, "It is my understanding that the policy is not to obstruct anyone from photographing our trains from public areas. It has been communicated to Metra police that there is a working understanding that individuals taking photographs on the platform is acceptable within reason. The safety of our customers and employees is our number one concern, and any individuals posing a safety threat to themselves or others will be reprimanded."

The above quotes are taken from the April 2005 issue of Trains magazine, in the city rail section, and were more or less reiterated by Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet in the Chicago Tribune shortly after last year's Morton Grove incident. As for John Means' recent experiences, it sounds like unnecessary harassment, and although Metra can claim to have educated all of their police officers on its photography policy, whether or not that was actually done is anyone's guess...

  by byte
They probably did, the officers have just "forgotten" by now. I personally don't regularly take pictures of trains (except when I'm at a museum or something) but based on what other people were posting here around the time of the Tribune article and TV special, the Metra cops weren't hassling any railfans at that time.

  by doepack
I just hope this "amnesia" isn't contagious, otherwise, it's only a matter of time before another Morton Grove-type of situation occurs again. As if dealing with the uninformed (i.e., non-railfan) public about this isn't hard enough...

  by JLJ061
There are actually two ways to make sure the Metra Police are on the same level as their higher-ups, since railroad police are required to follow the same protocols as regular police departments if anyone feels unjustly harrassed by an officer:

1) All police depts have a shift supervisor to be on duty, and anyone can request a supervisor to show up to assess the situation at hand;

or a more preferable method...

2) Take down the name and badge number of the officer(s) in question and report them and your complaint to the corporate office.

  by Tadman
That #2 idea will work, but you don't want that cop having a vendetta for you - every time he or she sees you after that they will likely make SURE you aren't in violation of ANY rules.

It's best to fly below the radar unless the cop is egregiously violating the rules.

  by byte
Tadman wrote:That #2 idea will work, but you don't want that cop having a vendetta for you - every time he or she sees you after that they will likely make SURE you aren't in violation of ANY rules.
Or they might think "hmm, I've told him to go away before and got in trouble. He'll complain so I'll leave him alone" and then proceed to tell everyone else they see to stop taking pictures. I think these cops know they're not going by the book, it's just a matter of their supervisors calling them out on it.

  by MetraF40C607
See, that's the thing. The officer that I dealt with called her shift supirvisor, and he was the one that told me straight to my face that,"If we get the call about someone taking pictures, we automatically suspect that it has something to do with terrorism, especially in "sensitive" areas where there are signals, bridges, stations, cross-overs, switch-heaters, yard, and so on." Uhm? ....................WHAT?!?!? Like I said, my case will be emailed to Mr. Phil Pagano, who is a really big higher-up in Metra. If he doesn't want to talk, I will email the Metra board of directors. If not them, all of the railroad magazines and newspapers will hear from me. It's like that.

I was also informed of something very disturbing. Appearently (and don't leak this outside of this forum, PLEASE), if your name and info is taken down by any railroad, it is reported to the FBI. And according to the supervisor,"If a train blows up out here or somethin, the FBI is gonna come lookin for your ass, because they're gonna think YOU had a hand in it."

  by byte
Oh, I don't think that's anything new. It was either those two guys who got caught before, or someone else - but I've read about totally innocent people being added to these "terrorism suspect" lists. Makes you wonder how long these lists are getting if it's so easy to get added to one, and if they get long enough, how relevant they'll even be.

All in all, though, that is extraordinarily crappy that even the supervisor told you to stop taking pictures. If it happens again, I'd offhandedly suggest they stop painting the locomotives more than one color, to discourage the "terrists" from taking pictures...

  by doepack
Police officers have a difficult job, and in many cases, they're damned if they do and damned if they don't. But even in these post 9/11 times, there has got to come a point where common sense should factor into the equation when it comes to discerning the real threats from the harmless folks merely pursuing a hobby. Doesn't sound like that was the case here, and the fact that the shift supervisor was the one providing the misinformation, well, that's just wrong.
byte wrote:If it happens again, I'd offhandedly suggest they stop painting the locomotives more than one color, to discourage the "terrists" from taking pictures...
Here's a wild thought: If there are terrorists who also happen to be railfans that actually cared about paint schemes, I think they'd get bored with Metra fairly quickly...
  by AMTK84
MetraF40C607 wrote:Hey all. Here's my story. Wednesday, I had a trip to Joliet planned. I was gonna hop 2216 at Schaumburg and enjoy the quick ride that it would be. I get there, get on the cab car, not ONE seat is open. "Of course" I think to myself. I walk up to the front door and set my camera bag, tripod, and scanner on the front step and sit. I recieved a phone call, and when done, I stood and watched the ride from my front row seat. Was going great.

At A-5, I pulled out my video camera. I'm building the MILW-W line for Train Dispatcher 3.5, a dispatchers simulator. I needed to know where the signals around A-2 and Western Ave were placed. At A-5, I began taping. 210 lead a westbound onto the West Line. We rounded the curve and hauled it to Western Ave. We had a red board for UP to cross us, but we were in the station long enough for the scoot to get across and go green. A Heritage set went past us for Western Ave Yard. The UP had four trains stacked waiting to get into California Ave. As we get to the split of the MILW and UP, I become aware of the man sitting to my right. He is on his phone turned towards the window, as though he's trying to hide his conversation.

I begin to listen, and I hear this,"Is it authorized for someone to stand at the front door of a cab car and take video as we are comming into Union Station?" ...............This gets my attention, quickly, I might add. He repeats himself, probably because his phone is a POS and Metra Police, Homeland Security, or whoever he was talking to couldn't hear him. After him repeating himself, I hear him utter,"Do you want me to stop him?" By this time, we're rounding Lake St, and I am absoluetly FLOORED by this guys audacity. At Lake St, I packed it up as he gave his info to whoever and got in line with the people getting off the train. I stood calm, like nothing had happend, knowing this man could bolt at me, grab me, stop me, and take me to the police like I am some kind of common criminal or a terrorist.

He didn't. I got off and walked into CUS and back out onto the adjacent platform to get to the Madison Street exit. I saw the man as I walked and raised my camera bag and tripod in the air as a sign of my rights.

Now, some of you may be wondering why I didn't ask the guy what the hell his malfunction was. I had an 8:30A.M. departure from LaSalle St. It was 7:58 when we pulled in. If I had had another hour, I would have had words. Now, I know, ya, he was watching out for common good, blah, blah, etc, but I donno man. It's getting worse every day. I'm 15 and can't even fan without being labeled "bad." Oh well, guess I just have to keep fighting the fight.
Couldn't have happened to a better person, ya know? My guess is its perfectly legal but just for you the man made a "special" exception.

  by EJ&ESDM809
Why would Metra say that taking pictures is fine with them, then say its not? That doesn't make any sense.Metra better learn to treat railfans with repect or I won't bother being around them. I'll just go to places where freight and Amtrak (other then CSX) run. CSX has also been going too far.I got ran out of Blue Island standing on a sidewalk! Try to avoid going anywhere but Dolton on CSX. Good thing Homewood is opening a railroad park.

  by JLJ061
EJ&ESDM809 wrote:CSX has also been going too far.I got ran out of Blue Island standing on a sidewalk!
I've heard rumors about them doing the same thing over in Pine Jct, even though part of that also belongs to NS and EJ&E.

  by MetraF40C607
Railroad police have the power of a federal marshall. They can shoo you off of any railroad property. They cannot make you leave public property. My next step is to write a letter to Phil Pagano and Jim Sanford, the current acting police chief.