10 Years Later, Railroads, Railfans and Security

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On Sunday, people across the United States will remember a great tragedy that occurred 10 years ago. When terrorists attacked the United States on 9/11/01; they killed many people, and brought about many changes to our country. Many of these changes have been for the detriment of our individual freedoms and liberties.

These changes have impacted heavily the modern railfan and rail photographer. Gone are the carefree days of train watching and photography; now we must always be prepared to be stopped and questioned. When stopped and questioned we are at the mercy of the police, if they believe us or not.

One rail photographer is calling for change. On his website, Jim Baux from Louisiana calls for photographers across the United States to step up and be visible on 9/11/11. He shares his negative encounter with police, and hopes we can protect our rights as photographers and as citizens. To live life not in fear, that is the crux of Mr. Baux’s call to photographers and railfans.

The issue of railroad photography and of railfanning in general has been contentious before 9/11, and sadly will remain so. The great tragedy is many railfans and photographers are extremely protective of their trains. The railroad industry must continue to put to use these eyes and ears. Unfortunately, there are a few bad apples who’s behavior causes the railroad industry to shine a negative light on railfans. This is sadly an opportunity missed to have hundreds of extra eyes watching railroad infrastructure and equipment.

The second piece of the equation is the local, state and possibly federal police who deal with railfans. These encounters often tend to be very negative, and while there are always two sides to a story, police also should see the potential value in railfans to serve as additional eyes and ears for the police as well.

As 9/11/11 comes; let this be an opportunity to begin a new chapter. A chapter were railfans are able to help the railroad industry and police departments in securing our infrastructure, and in return, see railfans become respected by police and the railroad industry as partners in our national defense. How we will do this remains the great question.

Let us head Mr. Baux’s warning, and remember the words of Bennjamin Franklin: “Those who would trade essential liberty for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

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