Old 01-24-2006, 12:51 PM   #1
davideglasgow
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This has probably been posted on another thread. If so, I apologize. Is it strictly illegal to photograph trains? The other day, I'm eating lunch and watching as usual, when this guy pulls up and asks me if I'm taking pictures. Now, he's in an unmarked car, and I know I've seen him there before. I was kind of dumfounded, so I gave him a simple "no." But truth be told, I have thought about taking my digi camera down there for some quick shots. There are no signs posted, but is this generally frowned upon?
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Old 01-24-2006, 01:38 PM   #2
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Depends where you are. In Russia, yes, everything is a state secret.

New Jersey Transit tried to do the same thing, but has recently dropped the policy.

If you are on private property, you should have no problem.
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Old 01-24-2006, 02:09 PM   #3
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Quote:
s it strictly illegal to photograph trains?
If it is, then I might have to go get that Judas Priest album...
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Old 01-24-2006, 03:22 PM   #4
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i think that here its aproblem if you were photographing in the yard of astation as its reponsibilty of the security of the station.i prefer to take my shots out of the yard and station so no police man talk to me.
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Old 01-24-2006, 03:29 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davideglasgow
Is it strictly illegal to photograph trains?
Well, yes and no...all the enginners I have met have no problem with me taking pictures. All the security gaurds at stations tell me not to. I guess it all depends on who the employee is. Unless the place says no photography like it does in Area 51, then I would say it is legal.
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Old 01-24-2006, 04:51 PM   #6
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You can pretty much take all of the pictures youwant to of anything and everything when on public property. For more, go to the oft linked and generally concise web site in pdf for more --

http://www.krages.com/ThePhotographersRight.pdf
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Old 01-24-2006, 04:55 PM   #7
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Simply, no, its not illegal.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.
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Old 01-24-2006, 05:07 PM   #8
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It just got me thinking that maybe in the post-9/11 world, photographing trains WAS some sort of violation of security. Anyway, it is from a parking lot next to an almost-defunct Amtrak station right outside (but not in) the Elkhart, IN Norfolk Southern yard, so I can't see where I'd be violating any trespassing ordinances. Who knows...maybe he just wanted me to email him some shots!
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Old 01-24-2006, 05:09 PM   #9
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This question of legality is humorous to me, as I have been railfanning for years, and NEVER been questioned beyond a station agent asking me "Get any good shots?" I guess it all comes down to where you live and how you act. I have been passed by literally 50+ police cars in the past 3 months and the most I see them do is wave. Just stay off the ROW and dont give anyone a reason to question you. I usually go into a depot or wave to the agent and have never had a problem.
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Old 01-24-2006, 05:10 PM   #10
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That is exactly how its been for me as well.
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Old 01-24-2006, 06:50 PM   #11
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Seems these days, it would not be unexpected to have some form of official ask about what you are doing, public property or not, if you have a camera aimed at anything of security concern. I was asked in very polite terms about my interest in photgraphing a railroad bridge from a public roadside picnic area. The officer apparently ran my license plate number through his computer and wished me a good day.

In the past, the issue always seemed more about where you take a picture of a train, and less about a train as the subject. Most hassles came down to "tresspassing" - not photography. Now- as this thread indicates - its hard to predict when taking pictures will get you questioned or worse? Good to read some have had no problems.
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Old 01-24-2006, 06:50 PM   #12
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Funny... i've never had any issues either. All of the RR personel i've met are indeferent, or like that your out there enjoying the trains. They usualy jsut smile and wave or what not. never had anyone get cranky about anything, but always find it interesting that other people have had issues. I figure that i've jsut been lucky up till now, and one of these days it will be my turn.... ohh well
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Old 01-24-2006, 06:55 PM   #13
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I've never had a problem at all with railroad employees including RR police. And we'll just leave it at that.


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Old 01-24-2006, 07:01 PM   #14
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I believe that as long as no signs are present then it comes down to common sense. If you think there could possibly be danger or question involved from where you are shooting, then move to a more desirable location. If there are no signs, then the worst they could do is tell you move on.

BTW Point Images, I like your avatar of the Point of Rocks Station.
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Old 01-24-2006, 07:37 PM   #15
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If trainspotting was a crime, I should be on death row!
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Old 01-24-2006, 11:42 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe the Photog
You can pretty much take all of the pictures youwant to of anything and everything when on public property. For more, go to the oft linked and generally concise web site in pdf for more --

http://www.krages.com/ThePhotographersRight.pdf
Thanks for posting that, it could be useful. I think I'm going to print out a couple copies of that.
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Old 01-25-2006, 01:45 AM   #17
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Quote:
Is it strictly illegal to photograph trains?
If it was, I would doubt that there would be 100,000+ photos online at this site...
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Old 01-27-2006, 05:36 AM   #18
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This is the first photo I managed to get on this web site:

http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=106561

As I was taking it, there was a police car sitting at the grade crossing just out of view to the left, across the tracks. The train passed, and I sat back in my car. The police car drove by, and then about a minute later, came back and pulled up behind me. I was approached by the officer with his hand on his weapon, although I think he relaxed when he noticed I had placed both my hands on top of the steering wheel, in plain view.

I was asked what I was doing there. "Watching trains." I was asked a number of other questions, including where I lived, how long I had been there, where I had lived before, and perhaps a few others I can't remember. I was then asked to produce a photo ID, and it was taken for a few minutes to be called in and checked. It was returned to me and I asked if what I was doing was ok. The police officer responded it was alright, as long as I wasn't interfering with any traffic at the grain elevators I was parked next to. He then suggested if I did any photography at larger cities like Champaign, I should notify the authorities there first. The whole time, the officer was polite and professional. Just as he was leaving, he whirled around and asked, "How do you know when the trains are coming?"

"I don't really...I just wait for one to go by," was my response, and he left.

Illegal? No, not at all. But these kinds of things are unnerving to say the least. I've been taking pictures of airplanes for years and have been harassed at airports several times (prior to 9-11), but this was my first experience with photography and law enforcement. I know that this is not as bad as what some others have gone through, such as the Metra incident and the railfans hauled off the police station in Texas a couple years ago.
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Old 01-27-2006, 02:54 PM   #19
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The poppycock about notifying "authorities" is silly. How one do that? I mean, if I go out for a full day of railfanning, I might pass through several counties, many towns and cities and might stop or I might not. Do I call every single police station and sheriff's department? That's socrazy it's just plain stupid to think that we should "notify authorities" when we're doing nothing illegal.


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Old 01-27-2006, 02:56 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ekc24
This is the first photo I managed to get on this web site:

http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=106561
I know you got this shot on the site, but I would consider rotating the shot the right at least one degree, then resbmitting it using the members section. The screener who let that one in may have been asleep at the keyboard.


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Old 01-27-2006, 03:51 PM   #21
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Last time I went to a train station to take photos, the secerity gaurd told me I had to have a permit to take pictures because NCTD (the railroad, San Diego Coaster) was afraid of terrisim issues. So just to see if he is right, I emailed NCTD asking how to obtain a permit, and I am waiting for hear back from them.
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Old 01-27-2006, 08:46 PM   #22
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So it all seems inconsistent at best.
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Old 01-27-2006, 09:27 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bnsf sammy
Last time I went to a train station to take photos, the secerity gaurd told me I had to have a permit to take pictures because NCTD (the railroad, San Diego Coaster) was afraid of terrisim issues. So just to see if he is right, I emailed NCTD asking how to obtain a permit, and I am waiting for hear back from them.
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Old 01-27-2006, 10:27 PM   #24
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I have seen police a few times when I was taking pictures but only one has ever said anything to me. I was in a forest preserve that paralleled the BNSF main line and the forest preserve policeman was crusing through and asked if there was a problem, before I could answer he then asked if we were train watching, I said yes and he drove off.
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Old 01-28-2006, 01:38 AM   #25
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My only run in with any sort of law was; I was out taking pictures near down town Salt Lake, UT, and had my car parked on an out-of-the-way dead end near the tracks, the cop came over and checked out my car, to make sure it wasn't a stolen car just parked there.. I really do appreciate the Police force around here, they do a good job.
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