• A Railfan Code of Conduct

  • General discussion about the RAILROAD.NET site, forums, or content ONLY. Please do not post your general railroading questions, please choose an appropriate forum. For help using the site, please post in the Help Using RAILROAD.NET Forum.
General discussion about the RAILROAD.NET site, forums, or content ONLY. Please do not post your general railroading questions, please choose an appropriate forum. For help using the site, please post in the Help Using RAILROAD.NET Forum.

Moderator: Jeff Smith

  by Idiot Railfan
Many organizations ranging from the American Bar Association to the Bass Fishing Guild have developed Codes of Conduct, so that they may police themselves rather than have other people such as the government—or police—do it for them. Saves everybody time and money.

In light of the apparent overzealous conduct of a railfan in a recently locked thread, and based on many discussions we've had here, I propose we develop—with Otto's blessings—a non-binding Railroad.net Code of Conduct for Railfans. While only advisory in nature, it could serve as a reminder to the members of our hobby who sometimes forget what's appropriate behavior (and those who simply feel the rules don't apply to them).

Please add your short ideas (no more than two or three sentences; we want to make this brief) and we can distill them down to ten basic items. Let's try to make it creative, i.e., "no tresspassing" is a no-brainer and of course to be included, but let's remember about not distracting a brakeman on the ground directing a 20-car move. (Note: This should apply specifically to railfanning, where it would guide people who read most topics on a site such as this, not necessarily to commuting, except where railfanning includes train riding.)

I'll start with a couple:
  • If you don't work for the railroad, you don't know more than the people who do, no matter how many years you've hung around the tracks.
  • Many railfans, however, are knowledgable about railroading. Put that to good use: Keep the phone numbers of the railroad police handy for when you do see something out the ordinary. (Broken rail, car on tracks.)
  • Railroad employees are doing their jobs, they are not entertainers. You try spending a day at work with people following you with cameras.
  • Be friendly, but not overbearing to fellow railfans. Understand that not every other railfan wants to listen to everything you know about railroading.

  by umtrr-author
I enthusiastically endorse the idea, but I don't have anything meaningful to add to your list.

  by kevikens
Don't make railworkers nervous by behaving oddly or foolisly while near tracks or equipment.

  by ryanov
Do not provide unsolicited information to those who don't appear to want it (ie. walking up to someone who looks lost and upset and directing them if you know where to go vs. walking up to everyone and giving them an entire recited subway map off the top of your head).

  by pennsy
Hi All,

In general, be polite, be courteous, and remember who you are. Not who you would like to be.

Probably the best advice is what your Mother taught you: Speak only when spoken to. And don't call the pot black. No one appreciates a complainer.

And don't forget to take the lens cover OFF your camera.
  by WMChessieMan
And remember, All non-railroad employees who like to call the dispatcher about trespassers, if the cops show up and the trespesser is nowhere to be found, you become the trespasser and get questioned. Its really funny for a railroader to witness some one calling them in playing RRcop and then watching them, not you get in trouble. Sometimes things are best left alone.

  by livesteamer
Loose or insecure railroad property on or near a railroad right of way is not for your taking just because you need something for your railroad room.

  by sullivan1985
If safely photographing trains along railroad Right-of-Way from public grounds, make contact with the engineer with a simple wave. Even if you don't get a response (short blow on the horn, a wave back, etc), let them know you mean no harm.
  by henry6
Rules or codes:
  1. Expect a train on any track at any time inny direction.
  2. Do not go on to the tracks, step on rails, or wander away from public areas without specific and express permission of the railroad (preferably in writing from an authority with specific dates and boundries).
  3. Do not bother the help. Railroad workers have a job to do; let them do it. (Often I have found that if they know or understand you are a railfan, they will "make time" for you if they can. Otherwise, let them work.
  4. Do not interfere in operations; offer up unsolicited traveling advice to no railfans (or railroaders).
  5. Do not leave a mess. Candy wrappers, Big Mac boxes, and film and other packaging should be taken with you.
  6. Remember you are a guest of the railroad...even if you are paying for the privilege of being there. Be polite to both rail employees and the railroad's other customers.
  7. Thou shalt not steal…not a damned thing. If it ain't yours, it ain't yours.
  8. In case of doubt, the safest action should be taken…especially if it means hauling your fat caboose and cameras off railroad property and you have to walk home from there.

  by Hudson Terminus
Don't sacrifice your safety for the sake of a "good shot".

  by Uzi-Cat
Don't stand behind the cab car door and watch the engineer if he or the Conductor indicates they don't wish you to do so. The Engineer has a lot to do and being watched can be all it takes to create a distraction. Of course, if you ask and the crew has no problem with it, this won't be a problem.

Don't "help" the crew by telling people where to go or what to do. For some reason, people love to listen to people who talk even though they have no idea what they are talking about. Let the crew do their work their way.

Standing too close to the tracks is a huge mistake. It makes engineers uneasy and can be potentially deadly. If I remember right, the safety rule states that whenever possible, employees should keep 30 feet away from the tracks.

Sometimes the great picture you took or the great story you have to tell can bring trouble to the crew. Keep in mind that NJ Transit or any other railroad is constantly trying to fire its employees and management is always listening. You may be telling a good story and have a great picture of something unusual but the crew may end up suffering the consequences as sometimes things do happen.

Just because you love trains doesn't mean that everybody that works for the railroad does. For some railroaders this is just a job and having people around snapping pictures of them and their workplace is just irritating. Just leave these guys alone. You are better off elsewhere because nothing good is going to happen around those guys.

You might want to offer the crew a picture for themselves if the crew appers to be railfan friendly. When I used to hang out with the local freight crew here in Dover, I used to give the Conductor and Engineer photos of themselves doing their jobs all the time. They thought it was nice because they didn't have any pictures of themselves at work. And, I took a pretty nice picture too so that was a perk.

If you happen to be riding one of my trains, feel free to bring me food and a drink. I like italian subs, bacon egg and cheese sandwiches, hotdogs are always nice and anything nondiet is good to drink. :-D

Also, dont forget to comply with proper railroad authorities and always carry IDENTIFICATION! Pure example of causing a problem:

Myself and a railfan are in Chicago's Union Station; police tell us he cannot be taking pictures beyond platform gates. Since I work for MNRR, and I understood railroad procedures, I immediately advised him that it would be best for us to remove ourselves from where we were standing!

It's also good to carry identification. Many times I had questions for NJ Transit, or any other railroad crews, and I always told them my intentions and told them I am MNR, with ID to prove it. It always lets them know to be cool! But if police ask you for ID—you're gonna have a problem if you ain't got it! So CARRY IT REGARDLESS OF THE DAY IT IS!

Also a train is NOT that important that you get a summons trying to catch one! A friend of mine recently caught a summons on the NYC subway for allowing his younger brother to go through the turnstile with him, when his brother was supposed to pay! It wasn't even worth it, because he was catching the R160B from Jay Street (which didn't even show up) and he caught a $60 summons and possible damage to any aspirations to his transportation career!

Also remember, we can all learn from each other whether we work for a railroad or not!

  by n01jd1
  1. Do not communicate with railroad crews unless they communicate with you. (A friendly wave is the exception to the rule)
  2. Expect a train on any track, in any direction at any time.
  3. Try not to tresspass on railroad property and if you do be advised that you are an uninvited guest at best. Be on your best behavior. Remember that trespassing in rail yards is a big no-no. Do not climb on equipment, do cross tracks in front of moving trains, do not hang out on railroad property, get your photos and leave, and if asked to leave, do so immediately and without arguement.
  4. If hanging out on a platform on a commuter line, do not use a tripod and leave if the platform if it becomes crowded.
  5. Dress in a clean, professional manner. Too many railfans these days go around dressed like slobs or worse like rejects from a Star Trek convention. No one cares that you love every railroad under the sun Leave the jacket that has more railroad patches than molecules at home. Do not wear clothes that make you look sloppy or dirty. When railfanning do not wear shorts or flip flops. Wear slacks or jeans with boots or shoes that have a definite heel.
  6. Take only pictures and leave only footprints.

  by Frogger
If you're an idiot and a railfan please remember that trains (especially Acela's) are much farther away then it appears and that it is perfectly safe to stand on the tracks with an oncoming Acela.

  by blockline4180
With notebook in hand, please dont shout in the conductors ear telling him that there is a flatspot on coach 5731 and 5223. I'm sure he is quite aware of it and I'm sure it was noted over 2 weeks ago to mechanical desk!