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View Full Version : Hello...RailRd Photography and Security


rsmith6621
05-04-2003, 01:11 AM
Hello Everyone, this is my first post on this board.

What a great forum/site ChrisKilroy.

I have a question!!!!!.....At many airports in the USA security is tight and taking photos at those airports can be a challenge to get in the right place to get the most excellent Image because some areas are closed.

My question is how are photographers that shoot images of Trains seen around Railyards and along trackside. Does security bother you...has anyone had a passer by call the local police on your activitys,if so what was the result of that visit.

The reason I am asking is that I live about 5 miles from a major BNSF railyard south of Seattle and am considering shooting digital images of
of Trains to fill in the days not at the airport.

Thanks for your time.
Randy

Anonymous
05-06-2003, 04:41 PM
I think it depends on where you are. Some yards have a reputation as not being very welcoming. They yards probably aren't where you are going to get your best shots though. It's impossible for them to patrol hundreds of miles of track just for people taking pictures anyway. You probably will run into a lot fewer problems than you think you will. Generally, the employees on the train are very friendly but if you run into an official the same will not be true.

If they ask you to leave, you don't lose anything more than you would if you never tried in the first place. Just use your head. You probably know what you can do and what you can't do.

Curtis Wininger

Wmas1960
05-10-2003, 08:47 PM
I haven't tried any yards etc. At least not since 9/11. I think though, as was mentioned, it depends on the location. I have read quite a bit of people who are going to rural crossovers and sidings, yards, silos, mills... etc. and are not getting hassled at all. However those near the bigger cities, like here in Chicago, are encountering much more. Some are getting harassed and threatened even when on public property because of their proximity to power plants, chemical companies, refineries... I would stay away from some of those specific places. It might just have to do with the level of railfan activity that a given place gets. If there are dozens of railfans around on a Saturday afternoon it might raise some concern and generate some security activity. However as is the case with one crossover that I know of, north of Chicago in one of the farther north suburbs, as long as you are not on railroad property, they don't seem to care much. There is another crossover though about 4 or 5 miles from there though where they are very strict.

As for my experiences. I usually shoot from trackside and platforms at stations. I use locations where I can park in an acceptable parking lot like an office complex, park, school (after school hours), shopping center etc. As for trains I have never been stopped even though I have been passed on several occasions. On one occasion I pulled into a parking place in front of a police SUV and there was no reaction at all. I NEVER enter railroad property. In fact, I find that if you are close enough to be "On Railroad Right of Way", you are probably too close to the action to get a good picture. I find my best photos are back a little and allow me to get some of the surrounding atmosphere or landscape. I also make sure that when I park my car it is not in any area that it or I will obstruct traffic flow or create a distraction or nuissance.

The only problem I have had, so far, was when taking pictures of airliners landing on 22R at ORD (o'hare-chicago). I was in a forest preserve about 2 miles from the runway. Planes were coming over at probably a couple thousand feet. With my 80-200mm 2.8 lens I was getting some really nice shots. The location was just a little North of the landing path so I was able to get some nice side photos. In fact, I don't think I want to get much closer to the airport as I might be too close. Also I don't like being square under the planes. There are times when such an angle could be cool but most of the time I wan side shots. This location was a very comfortable distance from the planes. Of course taking pictures of planes touching down or taking off are different situations which I would like to try but I understand that Chicago Police are pretty rough on planespotters.

My situation was with a Cook County Forest Preserve officer. He was doing his patrol and saw me taking pictures. He stopped and asked what I was taking pictures of. I told him Airliners and he said "Why Here - You should go to Irving Park Road." I told him that I had just stopped at a nearby McD's and that I pulled in there as it looked like a good place to eat and take a few pictures. He asked if I had gotten anything good and I told him a few good triple 7s. He chuckled and left. About 5 minutes later I heard a voice behind me. He was back and this time had a call about me as a suspicious person. He said now he had to check on me. It must have been someone parked and sleeping there during their lunch hour or 3 hours. Maybe a city worker on the clock slacking off? Afraid that I was taking pictures of him for an investigation? (Just Kidding!!!). Anyways the officer took my DL and wrote down my license plates. He ran them through the computer and came back to tell me everything was OK. He even called me by my informal first name and was very friendly and pleasant. He apologized for the time it took but said that my license plate came up like a rash. There were similarities in my vehicle discription and that of partial discriptions of some bad guys in the area. Once he got the identity and everything ironed out everything was OK. We both then went on our ways.

Other than that I have been passed a few times but haven't yet been confronted. I always act out front. I do not try to hide my camera. In fact with a Nikon D100 and an 80-200mm 2.8 lens I don't think you could be more obvious. When cops are around and paying attention I cordially and calmly acknowlege their pressence. If you act squirelly they will think of you as more suspicious. Stay on public property. Go about your business, act normal. If you are confronted remember they may just be doing their jobs by being vigilant and be respectfull. Many have said that they will usually just give some suggestions or reminders of boundries etc and leave you alone. If they do have a security concern or concern of traffic control, parking, distraction or nuissance than consider their concerns and move on if they ask. There are plenty of places to go. At least around me. I have about 6 different rail lines inside of 10 miles. As for airliners I am in the pattern of 2 different major runways for O'Hare and about 8 to 10 miles from the airport. There are many vantage points to get my pictures.

As for trains, one of my favorite ways to railfan is to plan a few loops that I can drive. For those familiar with the area here I might take Palatine Road/Willow Road out to Shermer and the UP Milwaukee Sub or the CP Milwaukee Dist. - North line. If nothing is happening I will go out to the CN/Wisc. Central in Wheeling and parallel that a ways to about Vernon Hills/Mundelein and Leithton. Up to Roundout on 176 and double back Waukegan Road and the CP/MILW dist. - North Line back south through Lake Forest... Deerfield... Northbrook. Sometimes I will go through Highland Park and check out the UP Milwaukee Sub at Park Av to see if any UP Power is standing there. I got some great winter photos of a UP SD70M with Flag standing there pulling empty coal cars. I would then follow the Milwaukee Sub out through Northbrook and back to Shermer. By driving around I often encounter more action. I carry METRA and AMTRAK schedules and will often stop at nearby stations long enough to catch a few trains here and there. There are usually, at least 2 METRA trains an hour. 1 N and 1 S. Then an occasional freight or two in between. Then I am on my way to the next place. What such a method to railfanning does is it doesn't put me in one place for so long that I begin to look too suspicious. Also if security or a police officer confront me with any concerns I will just move on to new places. One last thing that I have noticed from doing this. Sometimes having a scanner in my car I can hear if they are stopping a train or trains for some reason. Once I heard CP stop 2 freights in Deerfield, One North about at Lake Cook and the other South at Bannockburn to allow a METRA NB and an AMTRAK Hiawatha SB to pass. I got through in between them and parked trackside in some parallel spots. I got out of the car in time to catch the 2 freight trains pass. I missed the AMTRAK and the METRA. By driving around like this I often spot the different signals where trains stop at blocks waiting. I have also run into several trains, like a CN that I photographed stopped at Hintz Rd. in Wheeling and the UP Coal at Park AV. in Highland Park. Now I know of some specific places to look from time to time to see if I can catch other trains when they are waiting. I am also finding new vantage points and picturesque or interesting layouts, locations and landscapes to make my pictures more interesting than the simple roster shots.

WmAS (Bill)

urslow
07-08-2003, 02:08 PM
Are you refering to the Tukwila hump yard? If you get in without a problem, please let me know, I'd be interested in visiting it myself.

Thanks,
Al

wirailfan
07-14-2003, 06:25 PM
I just spent three days with a friend around the BNSF Lincoln Yard and had no problems with the local police, railroad special agents or other railroad personnel. On many occasions we were parked on railroad property at each end of the yard (out of harm's way and out of the worker's way) and never got hassled. Many of the crews and other railroad employees just smiled and waved. We also took many pictures from overhead bridges and the majority of the time got waves and horn from the crews. Only one engineer stuck his head out the window and snarled at us, but you usually have one in every crowd.

Every morning one trip was made into the yard and down to the engine facility to look over the power. Again, nothing but waves and smiles, even from a Special Agent. And they knew we were railfans with WI liscense plates and an antenna on the roof! Drive safely, stay in the vehicle, and don't do anything stupid and in most cases you'll be left alone.

I think if you act responsibly and stay out of the way you'll be left alone! :)

wirailfan
07-14-2003, 06:25 PM
I just spent three days with a friend around the BNSF Lincoln Yard and had no problems with the local police, railroad special agents or other railroad personnel. On many occasions we were parked on railroad property at each end of the yard (out of harm's way and out of the worker's way) and never got hassled. Many of the crews and other railroad employees just smiled and waved. We also took many pictures from overhead bridges and the majority of the time got waves and horn from the crews. Only one engineer stuck his head out the window and snarled at us, but you usually have one in every crowd.

Every morning one trip was made into the yard and down to the engine facility to look over the power. Again, nothing but waves and smiles, even from a Special Agent. And they knew we were railfans with WI liscense plates and an antenna on the roof! Drive safely, stay in the vehicle, and don't do anything stupid and in most cases you'll be left alone.

I think if you act responsibly and stay out of the way you'll be left alone! :)

urslow
07-14-2003, 11:25 PM
Believe it or not, the day after I wrote you that note, I was booted out of the yard by some guy who works there, but it wasn't a Special Agent. I wasn't in the way, I well away from the tracks, I think this guy needed a bit more attention from his wife. :twisted:

Al

TimChgo9
08-21-2003, 06:52 AM
I have to agree with the general theme here... Mind your P's&Q's, if your kids are with you, keep them off the tracks, and when confronted by law enforcement, or railroad security, be cordial, and respectful, and they will let you be.

I have been railfanning here in Chicago for the better part of my life, and I have been to nearly every hot spot around here (except for Rondout) I have only been stopped once by security, and that was along the Indiana Harbor Belt in LaGrange. The security officer came over to talk to me, because he had never seen me before. I always keep my camera in view, and make it obvious that I am there to shoot pictures. Since 9/11 the only incidents I have had were minor. I was along the BNSF at Highlands Station in Hinsdale shooting pictures. I had, for some dumb reason, brought my laptop with me in it's backpack type carrying case. Well, I was on the wooden bridge over the tracks when a Hinsdale police office approached me. Apparently they had gotten a call about a suspicious person on the bridge over the railroad (this location is also near a hospital) with a large, black bag. Well, I spoke with the officer, and explained what I was doing. He didn't seem to mind, but suggested I take my computer bag to my car. (I had brought the computer so I could transfer my photos from the camera's memory card to my computer) Since that incident, I don't ever bring my laptop with me, besides, it's just too darn much to carry. One other time, I was out at Bryn Mawr Junction which is on the west side of O'Hare Airport. The CP Rail out of Bensenville, and the UP out of Yard #9 (Proviso) share trackage up there, and it can be a busy place. There are also airplanes taking off almost overhead right there as well. Well as I stood there, I noticed an ElkGrove Village police officer watching me from his car, and later, an airport security SUV was parked on a hill inside the fence line (about 50-75 yards away) and the officer in there was watching me as well.

I bring my boys with alot, and my rules are strict, esepecially when they bring friends with. No walking on the tracks, throwing rocks, or running around and being unruly. We have been doing this as a family for 10 years now, with no problems. I have not yet met a surly security person, or railroad employee. In fact, one day this past summer, I was out along the IHB with my boys (CP LaGrange, our favorite place) and there was a track crew doing some work. One of the men noticed us, and walked over to us, I was sure that he was about to tell us to get lost, but he came up and started talking to me, and then took the time to explain to my boys what they were doing to the tracks. It was very nice of the man, I guess he was the foreman on the job, to do that, and my boys appreciated it.

I guess the only advice I have is just act normal, and don't do anything to arouse suspicion, and generally, you get left alone.

On the subject of railroad yards. I live about a mile from the UP Proviso Yard facility in Berkely. I go up there to shoot pictures occasionally, but I have never entered the yard there (Berkely Station, a METRA stop is right there) We have gotten waves from the railroad employees, and no one has ever questioned me... but, all the same, I am not sure how welcome I would be, if I stepped over the guard rail there behind the station and decided to go walking around.