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Railroads try to shut down train photographers

Railroads try to shut down train photographers
photo courtesy of shutterstock

Trains have long been popular subjects for photographers, even highly-prized backdrops for some wedding and engagement photos, family portraits and graduating seniors. But now, railroad companies are trying to shut down photography of their trains.

Photographers have been snapping shots of locomotives and train cars probably dating back to the invention of photography. Tracks winding through beautiful countrysides, dramatic bridges spanning canyons and waterways, plus clouds of billowing steam combine to create scenes that a big part of American culture.

So it's no wonder than trains and railroads are also such a popular backdrop for important photos.

When it's portrait time, everything has to be just perfect. The hair, the makeup, the clothes, the backdrop, and if you have a professional photographer, no detail is too small.

But what you, and your photographer, may not know is that if you are planning to include a train in your photos, the railroad companies want you make other plans.

Railroad tracks are a popular place for just about every kind of photo. But there are a lot of associated risks with snapping pictures on the tracks.

It's not just the impeding danger of a train coming down the tracks, although that's a pretty significant risk. Mark Davis, a Union Pacific spokesperson, elaborates.

“You see photos of people balancing on the rail and things of that nature,” Davis noted. “If that person were to fall and hit their head on the rail, that steel is very unforgiving.”

There's also the question of trespassing. Technically, standing on rail equipment like the tracks, signal switches and the like is trespassing on private property. However, if the photo is taken and the railroad happens to be in the shot, then it's constitutionally protected.

Union Pacific has reached out to photographers that are found displaying their portraits online and let them know that what they are doing is illegal and dangerous. Many photographers don't know, and are more than willing to take the pictures down to make sure they don't continue encouraging others to take railroad photos.

So, if you want to take railroad track portraits, make sure you're not trespassing and otherwise endangering your family. I would settle for a picture of the tracks in the background, instead.

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