Okay folks… Definitively. Seriously. And with all due respect. Taking photos on railroad tracks is illegal. There. I said it.
Are you mad? Think I am wrong? You must not be in the railroad industry, which is fine. Most people are not. You might feel like you are being safe and aware when choosing tracks for those amazing senior photos. But being on railroad tracks (in or out of service) is trespassing on private property. To the extent that people are advised to call 911 if you are seen doing it.
Directly from the Federal Railroad Administration Railroad Trespassing Fact Sheet
What is Trespassing? Trespassing on private railroad property is illegal. In most States, trespassing is codified as a property crime and a general offense. Here are some facts to consider.
- Trespassing along railroad rights-of-way is the leading cause of rail-related deaths in America.
- Nationally, more than 400 trespass fatalities and nearly as many injuries occur each year along railroad rights-of-way, the vast majority of which are preventable.
- The railroad-operating environment is an inherently hazardous one for the general public. Railroad employees have the benefit of extensive safety training, as such; the general public should always stay away from railroad right-of-ways.
- Trespassers frequently sustain life-threatening injuries by failing to use designated locations such as highway-rail grade crossings or dedicated pedestrian access paths.
From photographer and railroad wife, Meredith Dole:
“I LOVE the railroad aesthetic, I TOTALLY get the attraction, but there are ways to take photos without trespassing and without putting yourself or anyone else in danger. There are amazing places you can go to capture those special train images.
**Info: a train is often more than a mile long, with the new Precision Railroad Scheduling they can be much longer than that! At a mile long, going 45-55 mph, it will take a train a mile or more to stop. This means that a the men and women driving that train will have to start breaking a mile or more before you are even in their line of sight in order to stop on time.”
You might think I am being silly and no one does this. But I called the editor of a magazine and was reassured no one felt like they were in danger… THERE IS A LIVE TRAIN IN THE BACKGROUND! Stopped or not, the photographer not only put this family in danger, but trespassed on federal property.
Earlier this year, a woman died taking a picture of a train less than five miles from my home. It looked like this but worse…
If you feel like you want to linger on any railroad tracks, consider these guidelines.
From the wife of a railroader, when people are careless on the tracks, trespass, and the ultimate horror happens, those operating the train must live with the trauma of the accident forever. I get the steampunk aesthetic and the symmetry that tracks create for great back drops, but it is illegal for a reason. Trains can take miles to stop and stationary cars can move without warning.
Sorry for the doom and gloom of this post, but my Railroad wife sisters have been waiting to give you an article that might open your eyes to these federal laws and save a life. You can see the guidelines on the FRA website HERE. And look up local laws specific to your area by following the links HERE.
Dacia M Arnold is an award-winning American novelist, freelance writer, mother, and ten-year Army Veteran. She is the author of Apparent Power, Reactance and Shifting Power, and a small collection called The Brightest Firefly. As a freelance writer, Dacia contributes monthly to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s blog where she shares her relatively short experience in the literary world. She will never turn down an invitation to karaoke, because she is here to party but also be in bed by 8pm. Dacia’s pipe dream is to one day narrate an episode of “Drunk History” and tell the story of “The Unsinkable” Molly Brown. Until then her friends must suffer through unsolicited rehearsals.