Old 12-21-2005, 12:33 AM   #1
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Default Ouch.....

It may get a little harder to railfan BNSF...Check out the article below.

http://www.bnsf.com/employees/commun...5-12-13-d.html

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Old 12-21-2005, 12:49 AM   #2
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Hmm, interesting article. I hope this doesn't mean they're going to be cracking down more on railfans.
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Old 12-21-2005, 12:58 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NicTrain35
Hmm, interesting article. I hope this doesn't mean they're going to be cracking down more on railfans.
As long as you don't tell conflicting stories, and have half the merchandise of a Best Buy in your possesion in your vehicle, you will be fine.
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Old 12-21-2005, 02:58 AM   #4
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I have read this a few times since seeing it posted in local Yahoo! groups. Granted it isn't aiming to be award winning journalism, it still leaves much to desired in information.

Was he misunderstood by local police, which translated into two different stories when the Special Agents contacted the PD? Was the railfan fronting an attitude which heightened the suspicion of the SAs? What I figured from the article was a travelling/vacationing fan, wanting video and photos using GPS to map where he was. But with such little information, other than enough to urge employees to call Resource Protection Agents, the general public may never hear both sides of the story.

On the other hand, railroads (especially Class 1s) are a vital part of the US. and if no one cared to investigate "suspicious" activity, there wouldn't be much of an infrastructure.
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Old 12-21-2005, 04:08 AM   #5
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Good points were brought out in the above posts-- From the warning given to the trespasser, it sounds like the standard warning given to somebody found on railroad property-- He was not told however, he had to stop taking photos, which is legal from public property-- Come on you rail fans, you need to spend more time in Texas, so they know who we are and what we do-- Regards, da Gator
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Old 12-21-2005, 11:40 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NicTrain35
I hope this doesn't mean they're going to be cracking down more on railfans.
Only those who engage in suspicious activity...like voluntarily shooting the BNSF.

There's a problem with paranoia among railfans (as well as most of the country) which the media likes to play on. Think about it for a second/minute/however long you need. How many times have you gone out railfanning and been reported to the FBI/ATF/State Police/Local Police/County Sheriff/Constable/etc.? Railroad employees are usually good at being able to tell whether you're just out taking photos or up to no good. I would guess that our railfan in question was the latter.

The reason you hear so much about railfans being questioned is becuase of the media outlets that like to play on paranoia (Trains magazine comes to mind here). You always hear "John Q. Railfan was hassled by the authorities while taking pictures of trains." What they won't tell you is the reason John Q. Railfan was hassled. Was he trespassing? Was he vandalizing property? Was he voluntarily shooting the BNSF? This sort of thing went on well before Sept 11. The only reason you didn't hear about it is because everyone wasn't living in fear back then.
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Old 12-21-2005, 12:36 PM   #7
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Besides, from the areas where these news reports generally come from: Chicago and the southwest. Two places where there is a high volume of passenger traffic. Chicago has seen a number of derailments. As for the southwest, remember Amtrak mid 90s in AZ(?) deliberate sabotage.

Really, if I was an engineer on 70 mph trackage, I would want anyone who looked at the track for a long time to be checked out! And remember, railroads aren't in the business for railfans. But I understand that it becomes tiresome if you are the railfan who constantly is questioned.
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Old 12-21-2005, 03:56 PM   #8
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Since I'm doing nothing wrong, any officer/agent/security guard can question me all day long 'til they're blue in the face, it makes no difference to me. Be truthful about what you're doing, be polite, and you shouldn't have any problems. Simple...
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Old 12-21-2005, 04:07 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ween
Since I'm doing nothing wrong, any officer/agent/security guard can question me all day long 'til they're blue in the face, it makes no difference to me. Be truthful about what you're doing, be polite, and you shouldn't have any problems. Simple...
Couldn't be put any better.
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Old 12-21-2005, 08:43 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ween
Be truthful about what you're doing, be polite, and you shouldn't have any problems. Simple...
Exactly.

I've been questioned by police a few times before. One was a lady (lol) but she was very nice about it and allowed me to continue taking photos. One cop wasn't very nice about it. I was railfanning at Pine Junction in Gary, IN clearly on public property. This CSX cop comes along and tells us we were trespassing on their property (when we were all the way over by the NS mainline). I wasn't in any position to argue, so I just did as I was told. The cop could have just seen that we were avid train fans taking photos, but nooo, he had to take down my dad's driver's licence, run it through his laptop, and threaten us with the FBI. I just didn't like that the cop was rude about it. I would have gladly left if I was politely asked too. I have no history with the police at all. Luckily, things have cooled down a bit at Pine.
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Old 12-21-2005, 08:50 PM   #11
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I wouldn't have left so easily. I would have been polite, but I would have reminded the officer that there wasn't much he could do and if he wanted to contact the FBI, he's more than welcome.
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Old 12-21-2005, 11:58 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NicTrain35
Exactly.

I've been questioned by police a few times before. One was a lady (lol) but she was very nice about it and allowed me to continue taking photos. One cop wasn't very nice about it. I was railfanning at Pine Junction in Gary, IN clearly on public property. This CSX cop comes along and tells us we were trespassing on their property (when we were all the way over by the NS mainline). I wasn't in any position to argue, so I just did as I was told. The cop could have just seen that we were avid train fans taking photos, but nooo, he had to take down my dad's driver's licence, run it through his laptop, and threaten us with the FBI. I just didn't like that the cop was rude about it. I would have gladly left if I was politely asked too. I have no history with the police at all. Luckily, things have cooled down a bit at Pine.

I wouldn't be offended by him running your dad's information through the computer, unless there is something to hide.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cmherndon
There's a problem with paranoia among railfans (as well as most of the country) which the media likes to play on. Think about it for a second/minute/however long you need. How many times have you gone out railfanning and been reported to the FBI/ATF/State Police/Local Police/County Sheriff/Constable/etc.? Railroad employees are usually good at being able to tell whether you're just out taking photos or up to no good.
As a former transit police officer, I can tell you that the departments recieve memo's almost daily from the federal goverment about potential terrorist activity. In two years we had a stack almost 2 inches high, and the memo's are no more than 1 or 2 pages each.

Some railfans, like the rejections here, take getting questioned personally. It is not that way. The M.O. of the terrorists is to photograph potential targets for the terrorists to study. With the recent activity in London and Madrid, I am sure that rail police are probably required to investigate anyone photographing trains.

But I would think the laptop is what set this guy apart from the rest of the railfans. When terrorists are arrested sometimes pictures of potential targets with notes are found on laptop computers. Why would you need a laptop?
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Old 12-22-2005, 12:41 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ru1056
Why would you need a laptop?
I used to carry around a laptop to keep my CF card from getting full, but I do understand that it looks waaaay suspicious.

I was stopped once by one of BNSF's rent-a-cops and the look on the guy's face when he saw the 'Phoenix Union High School District' sticker on the windshield was priceless. He still kept up with the Rambo demeanor though and threatened to call Sheriff Joe himself and have me sent to tent city. Apparently the sidewalk on one part of the street wasn't as public as the one on the other side....
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Old 12-22-2005, 12:47 AM   #14
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Can't anyone do anything without it being considered 'suspicious?'
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Old 12-22-2005, 12:56 AM   #15
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Fast talking, funky walking; it's all suspicious. That's why I don't cut my fingernails or leave the house. Ever.
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Old 12-22-2005, 01:05 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ru1056
I wouldn't be offended by him running your dad's information through the computer, unless there is something to hide.
There's nothing to hide. It's just the cop was really rude about it. Of course, I didn't really have any part of what happened about the licence and laptop, since that was between the cop and my dad. I kind of listened in though.
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Old 12-22-2005, 01:11 AM   #17
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The cop also took down my dad's social security number, which is a private matter, but trust me, we didn't have anything to hide. No history at all with the police.
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Old 12-22-2005, 01:50 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ru1056
I wouldn't be offended by him running your dad's information through the computer, unless there is something to hide.



As a former transit police officer, I can tell you that the departments recieve memo's almost daily from the federal goverment about potential terrorist activity. In two years we had a stack almost 2 inches high, and the memo's are no more than 1 or 2 pages each.

Some railfans, like the rejections here, take getting questioned personally. It is not that way. The M.O. of the terrorists is to photograph potential targets for the terrorists to study. With the recent activity in London and Madrid, I am sure that rail police are probably required to investigate anyone photographing trains.

But I would think the laptop is what set this guy apart from the rest of the railfans. When terrorists are arrested sometimes pictures of potential targets with notes are found on laptop computers. Why would you need a laptop?
Just because you don't understand something dosen't make it wrong! I take a laptop each time I go railfaning, why 1. My GPS 2. My Diesels data base. 3. My trip log 4. With my cell phone or wireless internet 100% internet connection. 5. Download my pics from my camera, upload them to my mainframe at home as need, welcome to the next generation of railfans. 6. Webcam link home when need. etc. Railranning is a hobby you do it to have fun, to enjoy, if some transit police or rent a cop is going to tell you what you can take and what you can't take because he thinks you don't need it that don't work with me. A laptop don't make you a potential terrorist, just like a camera don't make you a railfan!
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Old 12-22-2005, 02:02 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NicTrain35
There's nothing to hide. It's just the cop was really rude about it. Of course, I didn't really have any part of what happened about the licence and laptop, since that was between the cop and my dad. I kind of listened in though.
Not saying have done anything wrong, but it is usually policy to run everyone. Most people have nothing to hide, but better safe than sorry.
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Old 12-22-2005, 02:24 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by signmasters
Just because you don't understand something dosen't make it wrong! I take a laptop each time I go railfaning, why 1. My GPS 2. My Diesels data base. 3. My trip log 4. With my cell phone or wireless internet 100% internet connection. 5. Download my pics from my camera, upload them to my mainframe at home as need, welcome to the next generation of railfans. 6. Webcam link home when need. etc. Railranning is a hobby you do it to have fun, to enjoy, if some transit police or rent a cop is going to tell you what you can take and what you can't take because he thinks you don't need it that don't work with me. A laptop don't make you a potential terrorist, just like a camera don't make you a railfan!
Next generation railfanning is right. Whatever happened to just taking your camera?

Let me ask you this, if someone was sitting outside your home on a public street with a camera, laptop, GPS, and all the goodies you talked about, what would you think about that?

I am not knocking anybody for this hobby (I do it too), I don't have all of the gadets and gizmos that some of you do. But that is the way I railfan, different strokes for different folks.

I am not saying it is wrong to have a laptop, or any other things with you while you railfan. But you are taking a risk of making yourself look like more than a railfan. To most people, trains are nothing more than a nuisance, and to want to photograph trains probably rates about a 10 on most people's wierd-o-meter.

I am just trying to provide another side to this. Everybody thinks the local police, FBI, or whomever is out to get them because they railfan. That isn't the case. We are stopped and questioned because we are taking pictures of a possible terrorist target.
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Old 12-22-2005, 04:19 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ru1056
Not saying have done anything wrong, but it is usually policy to run everyone. Most people have nothing to hide, but better safe than sorry.
I understand 100% that it's a cop's job to check. I must have been getting a little greedy.
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Old 12-22-2005, 02:49 PM   #22
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I've had many of threats about the FBI in my past. I'm not condoning a cavalier attitude about it, but usually if you indicate that you're not intimidated by them it will simmer down a situation quickly.

Many of these guys are counting on holding the emotional upper hand in these sort of encounters right from the get go. So they start by throwing the FBI card immediately to secure the high ground in the argument.

I had an NS agent promise me about a year ago with forwarding my info to the FBI. My response was one of, "Ok, I can give you a business card to send them too?"

After I said that, he de-pressurized a little bit, and that's when I explained that the FBI would just file this report in it's big gray circular file (Trash can) after they talked to me in person.

When the FBI agent called me at work to ask for details 4 months later, I explained to him what was going on, who I was, and the whole nine yards. We progressed into shop-talk and somehow got to discussing deer-hunting in NY. Ultimately, he wished me a Happy Thanksgiving and e-mailed his contact info for future reference.

The way I see it, the more times the FBI and the so-called Department of Homeland [in]Security talks to you, and they come up consistently that you're a railfan, they'll eventually quit trying to deal with it.

So do not be intimidated by the threats, accept them as part of the territory in this hobby.

Once again, I'm not suggesting complete arrogance or disobedience, if you're stopped by an officer of the law and you cannot definitively be certain that you're on public property, do what they say.

What I'm saying, is you need to have good situational awareness and know where you are and what your actions could be be interpreted as; anytime all the time.

Ignorance of the law does not excuse breaking it!

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Old 12-22-2005, 06:25 PM   #23
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In recent years I've made up business cards on a color printer with one of my favorite photos, my name and "Railway Photographer" on it; on the back is all my contact info. Anyone who asks "whaddya doin?" can have one, I've nothing to hide. It helps smooth things over quite a bit, although the last time I needed one I also had to produce some picture ID which was duly recorded by a nice policeman who was concerned about my photography of light rail trains in Salt Lake City, but who then said I was welcome to take any more pictures that I wanted and could refer any enquiries back to him.

I do find it sad, though, that I feel the need for such ID in the US and Canada while in my world wide travels to supposedly oppressed countries my activities are seldom questioned, and even then it is usually a thinly veiled attempt to lighten my wallet.
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Old 12-22-2005, 06:57 PM   #24
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Quote:
I do find it sad, though, that I feel the need for such ID in the US and Canada while in my world wide travels to supposedly oppressed countries my activities are seldom questioned, and even then it is usually a thinly veiled attempt to lighten my wallet.
So you would rather be hustled out of money by some corrupt schmuck than produce an ID in the US or Canada? Odd...
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Old 12-22-2005, 08:06 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John M. Day
I do find it sad, though, that I feel the need for such ID in the US and Canada while in my world wide travels to supposedly oppressed countries my activities are seldom questioned, and even then it is usually a thinly veiled attempt to lighten my wallet.
Maybe that is because of all the cameras! Like London, just announced today was a computer database with the ability (and intent) on being able to track every vehicle on the road every minute of the day and will keep the record/video for months.

Or, like at MSP, they will be using the Israeli "behavior profiling" at the checkpoint. There may be no need to approach you in person elsewhere.
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