• Trespassing & filming questions

  • Discussion of photography and videography techniques, equipment and technology, and links to personal railroad-related photo galleries.
Discussion of photography and videography techniques, equipment and technology, and links to personal railroad-related photo galleries.

Moderators: nomis, keeper1616

  by cpf354
Reading this thread I have come to this conclusion. Both “buffs” and “rails” need to act with civility and respect towards each other; it works both ways. “Buffs” need to be more respectful and discreet towards the railroad, and “rails” need to realize that they are the face of their company, and behave appropriately towards the public in public places. IMHO, the burden is on employees, and especially their management, to present a positive face to the public, since any “buff” could be a potential customer. Imagine if the CEO of a large company was harassed or insulted by a rail worker and pulled his business? I know it sounds far-fetched, but one thing not realized about rail fanning is that it encompasses all sorts of people, from Warren Buffet to busboys. In the case where a “buff’ is causing problems, then by all means, turn them in to railroad, or local law enforcement. But the mere act of taking pictures from public places of railroad activities, although annoying to some railroaders, is not illegal, and simply has to be accepted as part of doing the job.
When I started as a fan in the ‘70s, many railroaders were by and large gentlemen who were accessible and friendly if you were respectful and showed a positive interest in what they were doing. This picture says it all; btw, not taken by me, but it does remind me of my encounters with B&M people in that era.
  by MEC407
Nice shot (kudos to the photographer), and I absolutely agree that mutual respect is the name of the game. Not all railfans are obnoxious morons, and not all railroaders are self-righteous foamer-haters.

I know I've said it before and some of you may find it tiresome to hear it again, but we all need to be respectful of one another. And by "all" I mean everyone, whether you're a railroader, a railfan, a customer of the railroad, or just someone who thinks trains are mildly interesting. Railfans and railroaders have coexisted for almost 200 years, and they're going to have to coexist for another 200 (God willing!).
  by TPR37777
Amtrak700 it is readily apparent that you failed to comprehend the gist of my submission. I have never seen any YouTube videos from Boxcar Frank, nor shall I reward him with a hit to watch them now, nor have I ever advocated purposefully recording railroaders committing rules violations. If you truly require simplification, my point was that railfans do not need the permission of railroaders to pursue their pastime, nor should they have to curb their constitutionally protected right to take pictures from public places for the benefit of private employees, whatever the reason may be. Railfans on the whole seem only too eager to give up their freedoms, while railroad employees bark embarrassingly empty threats about reporting them to the "authorities" for nothing more than photographing the trains upon which they labor. People on this very site are told not to photograph crews working the yards and everyone just shrugs their shoulders and acquiesces, as if the railroaders were doing us a personal favor and we must pay them back in kind. Think of any other profession that could, with a straight face, demand people edit videos on the internet to hide their unlawful behavior, and then become indignant at any resistance encountered. MEC407 you were a gentleman for allowing this discourse to continue, particularly since you were in disagreement with my points, and I thank you for it. I shall refrain from further comment and wish you all well.
  by MEC407
TPR, for what it's worth, I absolutely agree that railfans should continue to exercise their rights within the confines of the law, and should not give up those rights just because some railroaders are annoyed by railfans. Being watched is simply part of the job when it comes to working on the railroad, and it has been that way since long before any of us were born.

What I don't advocate is the kind of tasteless, disrespectful, borderline-creepy stuff that the Boxcar Frank video was a perfect example of.

I think it's good that we're all having this discussion. Stuff like this needs to be talked about.
  by whatelyrailfan
I would disagree with MEC407 on one point about Boxcar Frank, that video was WAY more than just borderline creepy! I mean come on! There was nothing interesting, informative, or anything else positive about it. What really creeped ME out was the fact that the video was just over FIVE MINUTES long! To stand there and focus on this one guy was just really weird!
Last edited by whatelyrailfan on Sat Jan 30, 2010 4:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by MEC407
I agree 100%. And when questioned about why he was taping, he mumbled something about "enjoyment." {cough} WEIRDO {cough}
  by calaisbranch
Okay, I'm going to rekindle this flame for a minute just to poke at some of those who are straight up against any kind of "trespassing." This photo I got today is from Waterville. Down near the office where the steam engine sits. The lot obviously belongs to the railroad, and it is plowed wide open for employees and to access the bulk transfer there with the hoppers. It's ALWAYS been a hub for railfans to park and isn't officially posted off. Today, with my boy as always, we took a spin through with other fans on sight. A couple locos were switching and putting together a train. I walked up within a few feet of the bulk siding and shot the job thanks to my zoom. Not even close to the train, no matter how it looks. I got the conductor doing his thing and got a huge wave and hello from the engineer who I originally met at Northern Maine Junction while doing the same thing.

http://photos.nerail.org/showpic/?20100 ... 323771.jpg

So to those who walk the "legal only" line. You royally miss out sometimes. The difference with some of us is we get our shots and don't dink around pretending to be buddies with everyone. Like many others on here and abroad, I'm not into necessarily having a love fest with the railroads I photograph. I shoot what I see and enjoy without any real agenda of making anyone or anything a diehard focus. People I meet and get friendly with along the way are a bonus. It makes the whole experience that much more rewarding. It was that way when I started on the Central Vermont, and it will continue as long as I have a say in it. :-)
As the saying goes, "The world is full of stupid people." Common sense is key.
  by nysteamer
I've perplexed for quite some time regarding the legalities of filming the railroad. I've been a railfan all my life and always respect the railroads property. I've heard conflicting stories that 10 feet on either side of the tracks is railroad property, and others say 20 feet. What right do us fans have to film a crew at all. I can't believe some of the comments I read about rule breaking. I hope I'm not over the line by saying we all break rules. Sometimes breaking the rules helps to get the job done faster.... Here goes my example..... Crossing the tracks at any place other than a crossing is illegal right?. What if the crossing is a mile from our home, but crossing the tracks in another place puts us in our backyard. Would you break the rules and be home in 5 minutes, or would you walk the mile just so you could use the crossing and be home in an hour? Bottom line, we all break the rules. Personally I wouldn't film the railroad crew because people in my photographs of trains aren't my cup of tea. I look at it as if the railroad is doing me a favor by sending me a train to photograph. What the hell do I care if the crew is hanging off the side of a boxcar with one arm and holing a pint of Jack Daniels in the other. If I did accidentally photograph that I certainly would have no intention to call his railroad and make the guy lose his job.
  by mwhite
Regarding widths of right of ways: They vary greatly. Typically they are in multiples of "rods", a rod being 16 1/2 feet in length. Thus you often see 33', 49.5', 66' and so on for widths. Thus a four rod ROW is normally 33' on either side of the tracks, measured from the center (but not always). Sometimes they may be whole feet (50', 75',100'...). If there are multiple tracks, it is anyone's guess - you'd need a licensed surveyor to show you where the line is. Unless there is a fence, it is difficult to tell if you are in the right or wrong. My suggestion is to keep away a safe distance (minimum 10 feet, better 20 or 30, depending upon the speed of the track. If you are at a location that is not a public crossing, then no matter where you stand you may be trespassing since if you are not on the RR, you are probably on someone else's land. Best to get permission first.

One thing is for certain: walking or standing on ballast, ties, in the gauge etc is clearly illegal, as well as dangerous. I cringe when I see photos taken from the railhead or where the photographer obviously had to stand in the gauge.
  by Otto Vondrak
MaineMG wrote:I have deleted all my posts and I have removed all my images and videos from public view.

Best of luck to you all with your hobby.

FINE! I'm going home TOO! (stamps off into the darkness of the Internet...)
MaineMG wrote:I am new to this forum but have lived next to a rail line for over 50 years and have observed the workings of the railroad in my little corner of the world since I can remember. When I posted some images and videos a short while ago I got a verbal spanking from several folks regarding filming and trespassing.
I'm thinking if you've been involved in this hobby for 50 years, then you should probably know how to conduct yourself when approaching railroad property. Regardless of whatever MaineMG feels, our behavior trackside represents all hobbyists. Do something questionable, and we all get into trouble. It's not "your" hobby, it's OUR hobby.

By the way, if you were at Greenfield, MA on January 31 waiting to photograph a westbound Guilford train, and you got yelled at by two guys standing in the public park at the junction, that was me. I chose to take my photo from a publicly accessible area. It was the best shot I could get without trespassing. No less than six people decided to walk up onto the ROW and photograph from the other side of the tracks. Some even had nasty words for me. My words were not nasty, but cautionary. Remember: Our hobby is all about "self-policing" until the REAL police show up. Then the party is over for all of us.

  by BenH
As far as I am aware, in most places in this country it is perfectly legal to take photographs and videos of just about anything you want, so long as you are standing on public property.

With that said, I personally try not to include crew members or other people in shots that I plan to post on-line, out of respect for their own privacy.

Those wishing to learn more may wish to have a look at these three interesting links:

"The Photographer's Right"

"Legal Handbook for Photographers: The Rights and Liabilities of Making Images"
http://books.google.com/books?id=mruVAk ... q=&f=false

NYPD Operations Order 14 - 4/3/09
http://www.stationstops.com/blog/wp-con ... _order.jpg

Last edited by BenH on Thu Mar 11, 2010 12:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by montyvox

I ran into you at the "Railfan Bridge" in Greenfield on 01/31, and all I remember is that you were saying to one of your friends that he brought out the "spice rack", for his dual camera set up.

I just always thought that was funny.

  by justalurker66
mwhite wrote:Regarding widths of right of ways: They vary greatly.
Yes, they do. As you have stated, the ROW cannot be guessed 100% based on a predetermined distance from rail. Even if you "know" that a particular line has a 50ft ROW who knows without survey documents where that ROW actually is? Are the rails centered n the ROW or did the railroad build the rails closer to one side than the other to allow for future rails (or past rails that have been pulled)? Does the railroad own the property next to the ROW? Someone owns that property ... even if it is the state highway department or the city you are in they may not want you on their land. (I've seen state highway property posted No Trespassing.) If it isn't your property and you don't have explicit permission from a property owner you are likely trespassing.

Even on "public" property such as station platforms do you have a right to be there unless you are riding the train? Likely not. Will you get busted for it? That depends on how obnoxious you make your visit. Most of the stations I visit have posted No Trespassing signs for the station and parking lots. Fortunately the line I follow is railfan friendly and I've only been stopped once (for taking a picture of a switch - with no employees or equipment present).
One thing is for certain: walking or standing on ballast, ties, in the gauge etc is clearly illegal, as well as dangerous. I cringe when I see photos taken from the railhead or where the photographer obviously had to stand in the gauge.
It is hard to tell unless you have been to the site or know it well where a photographer actually stood. I've seen some pictures that were taken by railroad employees that were obvious "trespass" for anyone else (it would be impossible to get the same shot even with a zoom lens without trespassing on someone's property).

Standing in the gauge is legitimate at a crossing (as long as the train isn't coming - which freaks out train crews). If the crossing is activated staying behind the lights or gates by 10ft or more is better. Standing beyond a curve can give the same straight on view and I've done that from across a road from the railroad tracks. Good equipment helps get the shot. Unless you knew the track you would not be able to tell where the photograph was taken.

I agree with the comments in this thread to use common sense. I wish more people had common sense to follow. I'm probably overly cautious and miss out on shots that I would have taken 10 years ago (before 9-11). I even question how much information should be shared on the Internet. There are some shots I still want and some information I would like to gather but I don't want to cause a problem. For myself or any other railfan.
  by Ken W2KB
justalurker66 wrote:Standing in the gauge is legitimate at a crossing (as long as the train isn't coming -
In many cases, not. The railroad owns the property at the grade crossing, and the public merely has an easement for passage over that property (over the road and sidewalk, if any). Passage is not standing for the purposes of photography, but rather moving from one side to the other.
  by NellsChoo
Ah yes, a topic that keeps rearing its ugly head...

My opinion, if anyone cares, is this: When you trespass on RR property, you are not only breaking the law, but potentially making the future hard for other railfans. Say you get nabbed too close to the yard at Deerfield. Or you walked all the way into Hill Yard at Ayer like you own the place. Or you are at Palmer standing on the tracks taking photos of CSX or NECR. You make railfans look bad. The more it happens, the more crews and RR/local police will look dislike us.

As for the legality of "taking any photo of anything", there are things like safety, privacy, and common courtesy to think about. I once posted some photos of an MBTA work engine hauling away a stalled commuter train. I got an email from a worker who was in the shot. He said he got in trouble for not having on an orange vest. He wasn't mad at me, but thought I should know. I have kept that in the back of my mind since. I try not to show crew faces in photos I post out of common courtesy.

Think about it... how would YOU like it if someone took photos of you at work and posted them all over the Web? To some people, that idea isn't so great. To other's, its no big deal. But I try to respect people's privacy either way.

On a more selfish note, I quite frankly get highly annoyed when I see a photo taken of a train that obviously involved trespassing. I'm not talking about a shot that could have been made with a huge zoom (I was once accused of trespassing when I was far, far away with a good zoom). I mean the photographer was someplace either unsafe or illegal. THEY get published in a magazine, but I always miss the same shot because I want to play it safe.

Anyhoo, there are always two sides to every topic. Sometimes more! Some of you will say I am nuts and you should do what you want when you want. Others may understand me a little. But I don't think the person who started this topic should just give up. We all learn as we go along...