taking photos on railroad tracks train property illegal

Taking Photos On Railroad Tracks … Don’t Do It!

Are you thinking about taking photos on the railroad tracks? Well Don’t. Really! Just don’t do it. Don’t go there! It’s illegal and just plain dangerous!

The other day it seemed that the universe was trying to tell me I needed to pass this information along to you. The topic came up in a conversation with #4 who suggested I do a product shoot on the tracks. (by the way it would have been cool!) Just minutes after I had told her that was illegal one of the many photographers I followed on FB re-posted an older article on the topic. And if that wasn’t enough a new photographer, who I have just begun to follow on FB, posted images that she had taken of a friend of hers on the railroad tracks, climbing on rail signs and other equipment, and leaning against railway owned buildings.


In 2012, according to preliminary Federal Railroad Administration statistics, more than 800 people were injured or killed while trespassing on railroad property in the U.S.


“We know that photographers seek creative portrait settings; however, using train tracks as a backdrop for photos is not only dangerous, it is illegal trespassing,” said Operation Lifesaver, Inc.

Operation Lifesaver has six “must-know” tips for professional photographers considering a photo shoot near the tracks:

1. Trains can’t stop quickly to avoid people or vehicles on the tracks.
2. An optical illusion makes it hard to determine a train’s distance from you – and its speed.
3. The average train overhangs the track by at least three feet.
4. Railroad tracks, trestles, yards and rights-of-way are private property.
5. No tracks should be assumed to be abandoned or inactive.
6. Other people in your community will mimic your behavior.

taking photos on railroad tracks train property illegal

Need more reasons to stay off the tracks?

  • It is illegal to shoot on railroad tracks.
  • Not all trains will sound their horns; you may not have any warning at all.
  • Trains travel between 79-125 mph even though it may not look like they are going that fast.
  • From railroad ties to loose gravel there are a lot of obstacles that will cause you to trip and fall as you try to run out of the way.
  • Children are some of those other people who will mimic what you do.

taking_photos_on_train_tracksSome rules and regulation may vary from on state to another. This page has laws listed by state.

But you say “Hey! What about the photos in this very post? And other train photos at KKHPhotos.com?” Well…

The first image, where the camera was placed on the rail, was taken as I stood on the street at a crossing. Public property, but still a stupid idea. The second image, that extreme close-up under the train, is actually an outdoor museum type display. The only one of my train images to be accepted at Dreamstime after having been told by them that taking photos on actual railroad tracks is illegal. [There’s an extreme close-up of the engine itself on my site.] The engine sits on a short section of tracks that are far removed from the actual railway and on public property. And that last shot of the blue tanker car; well that one was my really stupid idea. I did walk out in between the tracks for that one. I felt safe enough because I actually live on these tracks and knew they were not being used that day. I know; not a good excuse. Still stupid! Sorry kids… don’t try this at home! [There are also a couple of shots on my site that were taken as I stood in my own backyard. I’m pretty sure those were safe!]

And now we have all learned our lesson for today. Let’s set a good example for everyone and stay off the tracks from now on.

Sources and further reading:
Operation Lifesaver
Digital Photography School
Union Pacific

Click on the images above to see a larger view,
order prints, or download photos.


One thought on “Taking Photos On Railroad Tracks … Don’t Do It!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s