• 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 MaineMG
Hello guys,

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 see that another newcomer just posted some videos and he was also met with a verbal spanking including phrases like..

...do not tresspass, I will say it again, STOP filming the actual crews while they are working and putting it online, you are opening yourself up to a lawsuit. You are going to get people in trouble and you don't even know it...


...it is much better to focus on moving trains on the road and not on jobs in the yard.
I also do not recommend trespassing on railroad property, at the least you put yourself in danger and you can attract
attention to yourself too...

Geeze Louise! Could someone explain to me how filming something could lead to a lawsuit? Also, how could filming something get people in trouble without even knowing it? Photographing a train while standing a safe distance away and causing no obstruction will lead to trespassing charges? Attracting attention to yourself by standing there is frowned upon?

Is this for real or is this merely lawyer paranoia? If it is for real, then I am done with this "hobby" and will keep my images, videos and observations to myself henceforth.

  by Cadet57
Well, if he is on rr property without permission he is technically trespassing.
  by Vakharn
Yes, I believe I was trespassing for a couple of the shots in those videos. I knew I was probably somewhere I shouldn't have been when shooting the first clip of that MEC 310 video, though I was further from the track than it looks (that camera does not have a very wide wide angle). For the long distance shot of the NS powered intermodal leaving the yard I was in an area I have seen several other people shooting from, and much farther from the tracks, so I figured that was ok, though it may still have technically been trespassing. The trespassing signs in that area aren't all that clear on what areas are actually railroad property, though I have a feeling the whole area inside the wye (except the commuter station platform) may be.

I plan to be more careful of this in future, however I enjoy shooting yard work. Despite what has been said here about not shooting crews at work, and despite the fact that I can see the logic of it, I will still shoot yard work, but I plan to avoid shooting the brakemen actually throwing switches and walking around, instead just shooting the locos moving.

I do have one question, was shooting the man flagging that crossing on the MEC 310 video objectionable? I mean, that sort of scene is part of the appeal of locals. Of course if I'd had the chance to ask him if he minded, and he had said yes, I certainly would have stopped, but I suppose the idea is better safe than sorry.
  by MEC407
Let's try to avoid the "verbal spankings" all together, especially if someone is new to the hobby and hasn't yet been schooled on how things work and the various pitfalls. Explain to them what they did wrong, and how they can do it right in the future.

That said, I don't think that Mick and Noel's comments were spankings; I interpreted them as firm but polite warnings. And since Mick and Noel are railroaders, I think their comments on this subject are particularly valid.

Trespassing is never a good idea, no matter how interesting the locomotive/car/building/etc. may be. Sometimes it isn't completely clear where the railroad property ends and public property begins, but when in doubt, restrict yourself to an area that you are 100% certain is public property, and let your zoom lens do the walking. If your lens can't reach that far, then the shot just wasn't meant to be. Move on.
  by calaisbranch

Don't let the self-appointed internet hierarchy turn you away from our great hobby. Go through some videos and books and think to yourself how many of those would be downright boring if everything was shot from a railroad crossing or public location. You technically trespass anywhere other than public and your own personal land. Of course, follow the rules when POSTED signs come into play! So, unless you want to roll up the carpets and stay inside lurking on your computer like many others, don't frown on what you do.

I've personally been in the hobby with slides and digital for nearly 20 years. I can count on one finger the amount of times I've been fined for being off limits. It's a risk we all take for the hobby. I know common sense isn't natural to some, but it helps from getting in trouble even when on private property. Seeing other's stupidity can help direct you, too. Unless you are deliberately filming a crew in their element, and/or putting their names in the media without permission, they're collateral in a photo. How the crews, themselves, react to you filming or doing video of them can be a different story! The worst I ever saw was an engineer flip a bunch of us off with our kids when we were watching from a roadside shoulder. So, it goes both ways. Best of luck to ya!
  by MaineMG
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.

  by Vakharn
That seemsa little bit extreme MaineMG, I don't care if people give me advice about this sort of thing, and while you may not like it that doesn't change the fact that this forum is a valuable source of information.
  by doublestack
Vakharn, Love your new toy, excellent videos. Please continue taking more of them for us to enjoy during these long winter months. If anyone asks why your filming the train crews, tell them you work for the "National Enquirer" and you heard a rumor that Tigar Woods maybe disguising himself as a railroad employee. :wink:
  by Tracer
MaineMG don't worry about a few discouraging comments. Theres probably thousands of pictures of railroaders working on sites like railpictures.net etc. Are you telling me all those should not have been posted? If you like your video and someone tells you its no good just tell them they can kiss your as*.
  by ShortlinesUSA
I didn't see any instance where someone said his videos were no good. The quality was fine, in my opinion. However, two issues were raised, and a very experienced railroader was among those making the points:

1. Trespassing-- obviously deep in at the entrance to the Hill Yard at Ayer. The few times I've been there, I have never failed to see a PAR police officer pass by at least once. I think that is a completely warranted thing to point out to the person, especially if they are new to the hobby, to save them the unpleasant experience of being cited for trespassing. Depending on the company, after getting one of those, you can be added to a database and even if you are on a completely different part of the system and stopped by another officer, the "Gee officer, I didn't know this was railroad property" explanation is quickly rebuked by "You've previously been cited for trespassing on this railroad." Consequences are likely more dire from that point forward.

2. Filming people at work-- maybe something the untrained observer wouldn't have spotted, but the rails may have noted an obvious safety violation committed by the conductor. Railroad workers for the most part are a nervous bunch, and they should be. A trainmaster or other railroad official can (and do) pop up, anytime, anywhere looking for any little rules violation. Something seemingly as simple as having a foot in the wrong place, earplugs not in, safety glasses not on, climbing on or off equipment a certain way, not using the exact correct phraseology on the radio, (and the list goes on to infinity) can cost these guys 30 days off or worse. So, there is concern with having your picture all over the internet doing your job for the local trainmaster to not even leave his desk to do that compliance check and conveniently have the evidence right in front of him all ready to go for the hearing. Sure, you can counter that with "Well, just follow all the rules all the time and you won't have to worry about it." Fact is, most rails are NOT fans. Many do not understand this hobby, or why anyone would want to take a picture (or video) of a "stupid train." And, like any human being, they may be in the middle of a bad day. You never know.

I am not taking either side in this discussion, only offering up some observations from years of pursuing this hobby.
  by moth
ShortlinesUSA wrote:Filming people at work-- maybe something the untrained observer wouldn't have spotted, but the rails may have noted an obvious safety violation committed by the conductor.
I am very untrained, but I noticed it. It maybe worse because the type of Video camera used here is actually a regular digital camera that also takes video. It could be that the conductor wouldn't worry about a picture, but would about video. It would be much more difficult to notice the safety violation in a still picture shot than with video.
  by Vakharn
Well, the camera I took that video with looks like a video camera, it has a camcorder style body. However I took down one of the videos, the MEC 310 video that had the most 'objectionable content' and I may take down the other one (which shows one scene of a brakeman throwing a switch). I may reupload a shortened edited version of the MEC 310 video, removing all the parts that actually show railroad employees at work on the ground, but we'll see.
  by bobw59
Please do upload your edited version. What these guys are saying about the potential for documenting rules violations is true but you had the best of intentions. Your videos are great and I look forward to seeing a lot more of them out there. This is a great hobby. Don't be discouraged by this at all.
  by MEC407
I realize that some of you are going to trespass on RR property -- you've always done it, and you're not going to stop -- and as adults, that is your choice to make. I'm not going to try to stop you. All I ask is that you not discuss it here. We have a lot of kids under the age of 18 who are members of this site, and despite how bright and intelligent most of them are, the part of the brain that allows someone to assess a risky situation has not fully developed until the person is in their 20s. I don't want some kid to lose a foot or a leg just because he saw an older railfan trespassing and thought "hey, if they do it, it must be safe." So, if you're going to trespass, please don't talk about it and promote it here. I think that's a fair request.
  by Vakharn
I don't think anyone has promoted it, and as for talking about it, well... Honestly I didn't realize that being where I was to shoot some of that video could be that big of an issue, so having talked about it here I plan to avoid trespassing there in future. In that sense, having talked about it is a positive thing. I certainly see what you're talking about when it comes to youth and bad judgment. I well remember some of the stupid things I did when I was younger, and perhaps I still have a little bit if that youthful incautious streak in me (I'm only 28), but I think not talking about the issue isn't going to help anything.

As for editing and re-uploading the video bobw59, I'm currently re-encoding it as we speak, and will have it back up fairly soon. I removed all scenes showing railroad employees doing anything off the locomotive, which includes the first half of the crossing scene unfortunately (I rather liked that shot). I'll post the new link to the old topic once it's done, as well as one other video I took yesterday.