• Is posting certain information on trains illegal?

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by Lackawanna565
I'm posting this in here. Probably the best location on the forum to post this topic. I noticed on some Facebook pages that people will say if the freight train has so many cars loaded and unloaded. Is that legal for them to do that? They don't say a certain car is loaded with hazardous material. But I'm sure someone will see them posting that will have a problem from Homeland Security.
Last edited by Lackawanna565 on Wed Sep 03, 2014 1:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by MattW
Of course it is. The first amendment protects that. The only caveat is if they're employees that have signed a contract that forbids passing proprietary information such as that, but that's a civil, not criminal matter, and not "illegal" in the sense of no specific law. Another caveat might be if you're planning criminal activity by that, but that's very hard to prove, and also requires intent behind the information.
  by ExCon90
I believe an employee is prohibited by law, rather than by contract, from disclosing any proprietary information such as commodity, shipper, or consignee (or the freight charges) of a specific shipment, out of concern about industrial espionage (e.g., which of our competitors shipped this, and what are they paying?) rather than security. There's an old saying: "does Macy's tell Gimbels?" No, and they don't want a railroad or trucker telling Gimbels either.
  by Backshophoss
IF there's a placard on the trailer/freight car,it means the contents are Haz-Mat material,looking up the # on the
placard in the "Emergency Response Guidebook" that is avaible to the public(truckstop or Libary)is not illegal.
Most Bill of lading/Waybills use the "fak"tag(freight,all kinds) as contents discription nowadays,except for
Haz-Mat,which by law must be properly described for haulage.
  by Engineer Spike
When I had a Facebook account, I was a member of a buff group pertaining to my railroad. The group wanted to know of the schedule of certain trains, which were primarily hazmat. I told them that it was none of their business. Needless to say, I wasn't popular.

The members mentioned free speech. My reply is that that's fine. In theses times, one can't be too careful. My profile might show me as Spike, but how do you know that my real name isn't Mohammed? How do you know that I am planning something bad with the info?

As an employee, the rules forbid me from divulging company information, especially hazmat info. That is why I'm very careful here to post historical, even some observations about equipment. I never mention anything about present train schedules, or operations.

There is a certain ethical, moral, and even security reasons to filter what is written. Look at World War II. People had free speech, but we're reminded that a spy may be digging for information. "Loose lips sinks ships." Just be big enough to think about what you are posting.
  by SemperFidelis
Yo, why is the implied bad guy's name Mohammed? Anyone with any name can be a terrorist, not just people with Middle Eastern sounding names. Not saying you intended any offense to anyone, but if we have Middle Eastern railfans aboard the website they might be (quite reasonably) put off. I'm sure you're an incredibly decent person and the point you made about being diligent was an excellent one worthy of being repeated.

Not trying to be overly PC or be one of those people who is offended by EVERYTHING, but due to my name and my manner of religious dress the uneducated types they get to be security screeners at the airports often assume I'm worthy of extra "random" screening, despite being a veteran, so I look out for little things like that.

Just a note on phrasology, my friend. Hope all is well on your end!
  by Engineer Spike
I just used it as an example, as illustrated from the most prolific perpetrators of recent events. OK, let's just call him Joe.
  by SemperFidelis
In case I wasn't clear, which upon rereading I realize I wasn't at all, that post was intended only half seriously. No offense was meant. I was just kind of poking some dry fun at people's (as a proud liberal often times my own) well intentioned, though sometimes overzealous, efforts to ensure no one gets thier feelings hurt.

His name is Joe. So let it be written, so let it be done! :-)
  by Engineer Spike
I was wrong to use that example. There are plenty of guys of Middle Eastern heritage who are great and kind people. You will notice my WWII example. My mother's family is German. Maybe someone writing this post 70 years ago might have said that my real name was Otto. Nothing to do with our Otto, but because it was the name of an uncle. By the way, he was in the US Military, as were all my uncles. Just the point was his noticeably German name at a time when Germany was the enemy.
  by SemperFidelis
I would imagine the greatest threat to railroads and their customer's property would be thieves knowing what railcars or containers were transporting high value merchandise. Expensive electronics are probably a hundred times more likely to be targetted than dangerous materials.

We've been lucky thus far that our enemies aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer so to speak. If they were to try to obtain materials useful to their cause (explosives, chemicals etc.) I would imagine that there would be much softer targets to hit than railcars. To determine what is in a railcar would take a level of technological sophistication that most of the wannabe terrorist crowd (which makes up most of the ones on this side of the Atlantic) don't have.

Explosives, especially low explosives, are relatively easy to obtain. High explosives, if one puts just a few minutes of thought into it are all over the place and wouldn't be all that hard to obtain through theft.

So yeah, while it probably is protected speech to say whatever one wants about railcar loads, concern for the public good should weigh into one's thoughts before one speaks.
Last edited by SemperFidelis on Fri Jan 15, 2016 6:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by ExCon90
A true comment regarding how to get information about contents of railcars. Since long before terrorism became a concern, many instances of break-ins of railcars, trailers, and containers have been traced to inside information obtained from contacts within the transportation company itself. A terrorist would probably have to be able to build up some kind of a relationship with a clerk in the office to find out anything--hard for a budding terrorist to do, I would think. As for exterior identification, as Backshophoss pointed out above, all cars containing hazmat must be clearly placarded for the specific purpose of enabling first responders to identify the contents of a car immediately.
Last edited by ExCon90 on Fri Jan 15, 2016 3:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by ExCon90
SemperFidelis wrote:. His name is Joe. So let it be written, so let it be done! :-)
What about all the guys named Joe? Think of their feelings ...
  by SemperFidelis
You are, of course, correct, sir. Me and my fellow citizen dolphins (right after we take away people's guns and force single payer healthcare upon all comarades of the Great State so they can be cured after they crash thier electric cars) will apologize to all those Joes on a most secular Godess' green Earth-Mother for our white-anglo-maleisms.
  by SemperFidelis
Apparently it's unclear to some people that these remarks are all in good fun and in the spirit of open, decent exchange of ideas. It is also apparent that someone is missing the point that I am, quite obviously, just making fun of myself.

For all of the dumb, mean spirited comments aboard this forum, for the simpleminded hatred for victims of accidents and suicide that often times overrun commentary on truly heart-wrending stories, for all the condescending self importance implied in the countless "I know more than you 'cause I work for X and you're just a dumb railfan" and, especially, for the seemingly endless, nastily toned, and so very, very, very tired myopic, angry libertarians vs. jaded realists debate on weather passenger trains could be profitable if the mean old government and unions would just get out of the way, a debate which seems to be recycled regularly and pervades nearly every single topic concerning expansion of passenger rail, it seems a little odd to lock a topic where a few people maturely overcame trivial misunderstandings in phrasology and then moved on to poking good natured fun at one another over those misunderstandings.

Thank you for unlocking the topic. I appreciate it. I hope my self deprecating style of humor doesn't cause any more problems! I, once again, do humbly step quite gingerly from my overused soapbox. :-D

And in case it isn't clear, the above was intended to reflect the odd and somewhat ironic fondness I feel in the insane levels of passion we dedicate to railfanning and the debates aboard this forum.