• Restrictions on photography

  • Discussion of photography and videography techniques, equipment and technology, and links to personal railroad-related photo galleries.
Discussion of photography and videography techniques, equipment and technology, and links to personal railroad-related photo galleries.

Moderators: nomis, keeper1616

  by davidl

I've been thinking about photographing trains near my house. I live across the street from a railroad, and the trains generally park within a couple of miles from my house.

Any idea what reaction (if any) I should expect if I were to walk up to the trains and take pictures? I've been very tempted to walk right up to the trains, but I don't want to break any laws or scare anybody.

I live near Binghamton NY. A lot of trains seem to mostly carry garbage, so I don't think any of the cargo is confidental.



  by MEC407
As long as you're not physically on railroad property (or any other type of private property), you should be OK.

  by JLJ061
Don't cross any tracks except at a street crossing, and stay at least 30 feet away from any train, and you should have no problem.

  by pgengler
It depends on a lot of factors, so it's virtually impossible to say "here's what to expect."

It's entirely possible that no one will bother you. I've been lucky enough never to have been stopped by anyone while I've been photographing trains, so it is possible.

On the other hand, it's also possible that'll you'll have to deal with local and/or railroad police. Even if you do stay off of railroad property, and maintain a safe distance from the tracks, someone might see you, think it suspicious, and call the police, who'll come out to check it out. There are plenty of stories out there about people's experiences; some dealt with friendly, understanding officers who let them continue, while others have basically been forced to leave or undergo a lot of questioning.

I would shy away from walking right up to the trains. It is trespassing, and if anyone sees you doing it, it's likely to get you brought in for questioning (after all, though the cargo might not be confidential, no one wants a sabotaged garbage train derailing and spilling). It's best to keep a good distance.

  by davidl
Thanks for the advice. I should be able to get good pictures from my yard since its pretty close to the tracks. If I do try to get closer, I'll keep a reasonable distance from the trains.

  by RailBus63
Safe vantage points that I recommend to photograph trains are from a road paralleling the tracks, an overhead roadway bridge over the tracks, or from the sidewak at a grade crossing (behind the gates, of course). Needless to say, use common sense and stay out of the path or automobiles, but otherwise these are all public places that you shouldn't be hassled about being at if you are taking pictures.

Some Amtrak and commuter rail stations are good places to take pictures, but these days you can expect to be questioned and some officials may ask you to leave if you are not a ticketed passenger.


  by pennsy
Hi All,

I pretty much agree, but will add a few ideas. I find that carrying extra lenses solves the problem of getting closer safely. If you have a zoom lens, so much the better, but I usually carry a normal lens on the 35 mm SLR, a wide angle 35mm lens in one pocket, and a 135 mm telephoto in the other pocket. If I am anticipating some distance between myself and the subject I will carry a longer lens with me as well.

By the way, I am the nut that climbed onto the roof of my car, to get above a fence, hook up the tripod and cable release and a long lens and shot away. Solved the problem, and I was not on RR property. Never did get myself a scanner, however, so I cannot publish the photos.