Train tracks are fun to photograph. With leading lines and cool textures, many photographers flock to the railroads for senior photos, family portraits and even artsy images. There’s many dangers to photographing on the rail lines — and often, you could end up breaking the law.
As photographers what you need to know is…
- Trespassing on tracks is a crime in all 50 states and fines and other punishments can vary from state to state. While trespassing may not have been heavily enforced before, there is a growing movement to enforce these laws on railways.
- Abandoned tracks is a tricky issue. Operation Lifesaver advises that NO tracks should EVER be assumed to be abandoned. Just because you never see a train on a certain section of rail, even if it is overgrown and missing sections of rail, does not mean it is abandoned. It is still typically owned by someone and therefore trespassing to use it. Often, tracks have been deactivated and later reactivated, so those once quiet tracks could feature a full size train at any time.
The best bet for safety of all is to simply remove train tracks as a part of your locations mindset. If railroad tracks are an absolute necessity, contact the rail operator to make arrangements for a safe shoot: https://www.metrolinktrains.com/customer-service/filming-requests/.