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Advice Needed - Cameras on Tracks
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AstroN8
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Advice Needed - Cameras on Tracks
 
« on: Jul 30th, 2012, 6:40pm »
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Good afternoon!  Brand new here and been looking for a similar topic but couldn't seem to find one.  This has to do with both imagery and rail safety -  
 
Lately, I've been getting videos of trains passing through a nearby town.  One experiment I've tried a few times (two successfully) is placing a camera on the wooden rail ties to watch the train go over (I'm well away from the tracks by the time the train gets anywhere close).
 
My question is this - Is this legal?  Obviously, placing things on the metal rails would be a huge no-no, but what about on the ties between?
 
An example can be seen here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmMvczsKDXw&feature=plcp
 
Thanks in advance!


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photoman475
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Re: Advice Needed - Cameras on Tracks
 
« Reply #1 on: Jul 30th, 2012, 9:22pm »
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I think others in this forum are better qualified to discuss potential trespassing problems, but I am leery of putting a camera between the rails.
 
Here's the quesion I'd consider: If anything happens to the camera, can you afford to replace it?
 
If the train is so important to photograph-perhaps a once in a lifetime event, or rare steam excursion in your area-is that the best use of the camera?
 
Just how I've looked at it and why I've never done it.  
 
I hope others can add on to this thread-I'm interested in what others would have to say.
 
Alan


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CHESSIEMIKE
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Re: Advice Needed - Cameras on Tracks
 
« Reply #2 on: Jul 30th, 2012, 10:29pm »
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Short answer, NO, THIS IS NOT LEGAL!
 
CHESSIEMIKE


« Last Edit: Jul 30th, 2012, 10:29pm by CHESSIEMIKE » Logged


Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic.
Norm_Anderson
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Re: Advice Needed - Cameras on Tracks
 
« Reply #3 on: Jul 31st, 2012, 8:51am »
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I watched the video, and it gave me chills.
 
When I was a younger railfan, I did a lot of things that I now wish I hadn't done.  I'm not talking about vandalism or anything like that-- they were activities I thought were harmless and inoffensive (like getting "up close and personal" when trains would roar past at speed).  In my naivite, I thought the train crews, if they noticed me at all, would think, "Aww, look, the kid likes trains..."  What they really must have thought wouldn't be fit for a young railfan to hear.
 
But my real point is that I needlessly caused them anxiety and stress (not at all intending to, but the result is the same).  Their jobs are stressful enough without eager railfans even unintentionally adding to their stress.  Placing a camera on the tracks seems innocent enough, but can you be sure the train crew realizes it's only a camera?  It's a "foreign object" of some kind, and they couldn't stop even if they wanted to.  Maybe it took a minute or two for their blood pressure to return to normal.  "No harm done," sure, but-- really??
 
Another thing to consider-- might someone watching the video, with compromised IQ, think "Wow!! What a cool shot!!  I think I'll go lie down between the rails and experience this for real!!!"  I know this sounds absurd, but I have learned through decades of dealing with the public that it is impossible to exaggerate people's capacity for stupidity.  Years ago, when the ground clearances for freight cars were higher, survival might have been a remote possibility for someone skinny enough and motionless enough, but if anything this video proves that the chance of surviving such an event today is zero, as in zero.
 
Railroads do not exist for the enjoyment of railfans.  I have learned, through many years of experience (and poor choices) that the best way I can show my appreciation is to stay back, and admire them from a distance, and just let them do their job.
 
 
Regards,
 
Norm


« Last Edit: Jul 31st, 2012, 8:55am by Norm_Anderson » Logged
RobR
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Re: Advice Needed - Cameras on Tracks
 
« Reply #4 on: Jul 31st, 2012, 9:25am »
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Many thanks for taking the time to write your thoughtful reply, Norm.  I will now reply from a selfish railfan's perspective.
 
Every time a railroader sees a railfan doing something dangerous, he is likely to think, "We've got to stop idiots from doing that".  And we get fences, "no trespassing" signs, increased police patrols, and similar things.  And our opportunities for enjoying our hobby are reduced by that much.
 
So, in addition to obeying the rules so you stay alive, and so you don't increase the stress of railroaders' already stress-filled lives, please obey the rules so that other railfans do not pay the price for your actions.
 
RobR


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AstroN8
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Re: Advice Needed - Cameras on Tracks
 
« Reply #5 on: Jul 31st, 2012, 11:45am »
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on Jul 30th, 2012, 9:22pm, photoman475 wrote:       (Click here for original message)

Here's the quesion I'd consider: If anything happens to the camera, can you afford to replace it?
 
If the train is so important to photograph-perhaps a once in a lifetime event, or rare steam excursion in your area-is that the best use of the camera?
 
Alan

 
Thank you all for the informative responses!  Definitely a lot of good info for future consideration.
 
Alan - The camera was in no danger.  It's a GoPro, so the surface area is tiny and not likely to be affected by the wind blast created by the passing train.  My larger (but still small) HD camera has more trouble stabilizing because the wind blast acts on it more and thus causes more vibration and shaking as the train passes overhead.
 
So, with all the information above taken into consideration, here's one more question - who would I talk about getting this shot legally and without potentially scaring anyone?  I think the imagery that comes from it is just spectacular, so I'd love to be able to get similar views in the future, but obviously without causing problems.
 
Thanks again!


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AstroN8
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Re: Advice Needed - Cameras on Tracks
 
« Reply #6 on: Jul 31st, 2012, 11:53am »
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on Jul 31st, 2012, 8:51am, Norm_Anderson wrote:       (Click here for original message)

But my real point is that I needlessly caused them anxiety and stress (not at all intending to, but the result is the same).  Their jobs are stressful enough without eager railfans even unintentionally adding to their stress.  Placing a camera on the tracks seems innocent enough, but can you be sure the train crew realizes it's only a camera?  It's a "foreign object" of some kind, and they couldn't stop even if they wanted to.  Maybe it took a minute or two for their blood pressure to return to normal.  "No harm done," sure, but-- really??
 
Another thing to consider-- might someone watching the video, with compromised IQ, think "Wow!! What a cool shot!!  I think I'll go lie down between the rails and experience this for real!!!"  I know this sounds absurd, but I have learned through decades of dealing with the public that it is impossible to exaggerate people's capacity for stupidity.  Years ago, when the ground clearances for freight cars were higher, survival might have been a remote possibility for someone skinny enough and motionless enough, but if anything this video proves that the chance of surviving such an event today is zero, as in zero.
 
Regards,
 
Norm

 
Thanks for the info, Norm.  If it helps, I was well out of view while placing the camera (there's a large tressel that the train has to pass through before rounding the curve, so they would not have seen me.  They wouldn't have seen the camera either, since it's the size and color of most of the rocks on the tracks.  All they would have seen was me standing about 50 feet away with the handheld HD camera as they rolled by  
 
As for someone with the "compromised IQ" (I like that term!) potentially lying on the tracks for the experience - you can't fix stupid, I'm afraid.  No one is responsible for crazy actions like that except the person who commits them.
 
I'll certainly look into legal/permissible ways of getting shots like this in the future.  Last thing I want to do is make these good folks nervous!  Thanks again!


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George_Harris
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Re: Advice Needed - Cameras on Tracks
 
« Reply #7 on: Jul 31st, 2012, 2:13pm »
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on Jul 31st, 2012, 11:53am, AstroN8 wrote:       (Click here for original message)
you can't fix stupid

True, but you should not be doing things that encourage it, either.
 
Quote:
If it helps, I was well out of view while placing the camera (there's a large tressel that the train has to pass through before rounding the curve, so they would not have seen me.  They wouldn't have seen the camera either, since it's the size and color of most of the rocks on the tracks.  All they would have seen was me standing about 50 feet away with the handheld HD camera as they rolled by

Don't kid yourself.  If these guys run the line regularly, they have a considerable familiarity with what is normal and what is different.  Teh placement you describe is exactly the sort of thing someone would use if they wanted to place something that would cause damage.
 
By the way, that is trestle, not tressel.  
 
Advice to the stupid, should they manage to get caught in a narrow cut, in a tunnel or on a bridge with no walkway:  Lie down with your feet toward the direction the train is coming from.  That way if something is dangling you may lose a foot, but not your head.  Do thins even if it means lying in a ditch full of dirty water.  
 
Quote:
I'll certainly look into legal/permissible ways of getting shots like this in the future.  Last thing I want to do is make these good folks nervous!  Thanks again!

Start here, and if there is no positive response, end here.
 
An aside:  One of the things that bugs me in normal press reports about anything railroad involving a  bridge is to call any and all kinds of bridges "trestles".  A trestle is a specific type of bridge.  Normally it refers to a low bridge in either wood or concrete with short spans.  Occasionally it refers to a higher bridge in steel, but always with multiple relatively short spans.  Other bridge types are called accoring to the nature of their structure, such as through truss, deck truss, plate girder, either dieck or through, etc.


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AstroN8
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Re: Advice Needed - Cameras on Tracks
 
« Reply #8 on: Jul 31st, 2012, 5:19pm »
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on Jul 31st, 2012, 2:13pm, George_Harris wrote:       (Click here for original message)

True, but you should not be doing things that encourage it, either.

 
By that logic, the movie Unstoppable is even more dangerous and encouraging.  Plenty of shots like this in that film.
 
Quote:
Don't kid yourself.  If these guys run the line regularly, they have a considerable familiarity with what is normal and what is different.  Teh placement you describe is exactly the sort of thing someone would use if they wanted to place something that would cause damage.

 
The camera was nestled into the wooden rail tie with the rocks.  It wasn't going anywhere, nor would it be easily seen, especially if someone isn't looking for it.
 
Quote:
Advice to the stupid, should they manage to get caught in a narrow cut, in a tunnel or on a bridge with no walkway:  Lie down with your feet toward the direction the train is coming from.  That way if something is dangling you may lose a foot, but not your head.  Do thins even if it means lying in a ditch full of dirty water.

 
I never did, nor would I ever, get in a tight spot.  All my videos were shot in a wide-open area with clear lines of sight to each approach path of possible trains for my own safety.


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CHESSIEMIKE
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Re: Advice Needed - Cameras on Tracks
 
« Reply #9 on: Jul 31st, 2012, 9:18pm »
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I kept my answer short and to the point because I knew no matter what was said you would try to justify what you were doing. You have lived up to my expectations. Go back to the bottom line. DO NOT TRESPASS ON RAILROAD PROPERTY! The most intelligent thing you asked was "...who would I talk about getting this shot legally...?" Why don't you start with the legal department of any railroad? Just don't be surprised if they say no.
CHESSIEMIKE


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Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic.
photoman475
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Re: Advice Needed - Cameras on Tracks
 
« Reply #10 on: Jul 31st, 2012, 9:41pm »
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Well, the movie "Unstoppable" was made by people to be a movie, by actors and standins and stunt doubles and all that.  And, while not having seen the movie, it may very well include a lot of computer generated graphics for things that would not be considered as insurable by any insurance company.
 
I think most people understand that, and are not likely to try to do in real life what is in a movie.  But, Norm did mention having "learned through decades of dealing with the public that it is impossible to exaggerate people's capacity for stupidity."
 
All things considered, I would not put a camera down between the rails for any reason.  Why ask for problems when you don't have to?
 
Alan


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George_Harris
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Re: Advice Needed - Cameras on Tracks
 
« Reply #11 on: Aug 1st, 2012, 1:01am »
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quote author=AstroN8 link=board=Photo;num=1343688053;start=0#8 date=07/31/12 at 17:19:26]
 
Quote:
By that logic, the movie Unstoppable is even more dangerous and encouraging.  Plenty of shots like this in that film.

In other words:  If somebody does something to encourage dangerous actions, that gives you permission to do likewise?  I have seen unstoppable.  Some of the effects are laughable.  
Quote:
The camera was nestled into the wooden rail tie with the rocks.  It wasn't going anywhere, nor would it be easily seen, especially if someone isn't looking for it
.
See my previous answer.  You underestimate the ability of the engineer to notice difference.  
 
Quote:
I never did, nor would I ever, get in a tight spot.  All my videos were shot in a wide-open area with clear lines of sight to each approach path of possible trains for my own safety.

OK / no comment


« Last Edit: Aug 1st, 2012, 2:40am by George_Harris » Logged
Norm_Anderson
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Re: Advice Needed - Cameras on Tracks
 
« Reply #12 on: Aug 1st, 2012, 1:29am »
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on Jul 31st, 2012, 11:53am, AstroN8 wrote:       (Click here for original message)

 
Thanks for the info, Norm.  If it helps, I was well out of view while placing the camera (there's a large tressel that the train has to pass through before rounding the curve, so they would not have seen me.  They wouldn't have seen the camera either, since it's the size and color of most of the rocks on the tracks.  All they would have seen was me standing about 50 feet away with the handheld HD camera as they rolled by  

 
AstroN8, despite what might appear to be a bit of "piling on" by us about this topic, Welcome!  You have managed to strike a chord, I think, and this thread so far has filled up with sound advice.
 
If you'll allow me a couple of other observations-- First, you mentioned that when the UP train passed over your roadbed camera, you were "standing about 50 feet away with a handheld HD camera as they rolled by."  I can tell you, even without being a railroader myself, that from a railroader's perspective 50 feet isn't nearly far enough.  If the train had chosen that moment to derail at that speed, you wouldn't have had time to react (much less run) before you were turned into something unrecognizable.  100 yards away with a telephoto lens would be much, much better (I'm not much of a photographer, either, but I have to believe that now, especially with digital technology, they can compensate for the foreshortening inherent in older-style telephoto lenses).  Also, 50 feet from the train is certainly close enough to make you a trespasser in UP's sight, which leads me to an old family anecdote.
 
My Dad, when he was a young man during the Great Depression, spent some time "riding the rails" (think of the movie, Emperor of The North).  The "Bo's" of his acquaintance knew which Roads were friendly to them, and which were hostile.  And Union Pacific had the most feared reputation for "zero tolerance."  OK, that was a long, long time ago, but I've heard snippets from time to time that lead me to believe their posture hasn't mellowed too much.  Bottom line-- if a train crew reports some guy 50 feet from the ballast in a place he doesn't belong, you might suddenly find yourself having to answer some pointed questions, perhaps while having your pockets searched.
 
Maybe we all sound like we're overreacting.  But some of what we're writing is based on lessons learned the hard way.   If you can get permission to take these videos, more power to you!!   But, in the meantime, we're not really trying to give you grief-- we're trying to spare you grief.
 
 
Regards,
 
Norm
 
 
P.S.  You strike me as a man of integrity-- after all, you didn't have to come up here on this forum and ask for advice about the legality of gathering these types of videos.  Most folks, I'm sure, would just go ahead and do it, and brag about their achievement, and try to bluff their way past security if they were ever confronted.  You obviously care about doing things right, or this thread would not exist.  I take my hat off to you for that.  People with scruples are becoming increasingly rare, and therefore increasingly valuable, in this world.  In my life, I have rarely, if ever, been sorry I followed my conscience.


« Last Edit: Aug 1st, 2012, 12:55pm by Norm_Anderson » Logged
AstroN8
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Re: Advice Needed - Cameras on Tracks
 
« Reply #13 on: Aug 1st, 2012, 6:08pm »
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on Aug 1st, 2012, 1:29am, Norm_Anderson wrote:       (Click here for original message)
P.S.  You strike me as a man of integrity-- after all, you didn't have to come up here on this forum and ask for advice about the legality of gathering these types of videos.  Most folks, I'm sure, would just go ahead and do it, and brag about their achievement, and try to bluff their way past security if they were ever confronted.  You obviously care about doing things right, or this thread would not exist.  I take my hat off to you for that.  People with scruples are becoming increasingly rare, and therefore increasingly valuable, in this world.  In my life, I have rarely, if ever, been sorry I followed my conscience.

 
I really appreciate that, Norm.  All the advice is great, and my extra questions and justifications stem from my desire to make sure I'm not missing anything or potentially stepping on the toes of anyone in the business, as well as to make sure it's understood that I'm not some reckless, thrill-seeking goofball.
 
A good life-lesson I was given at an early age is this - "It never hurts to ask."  So next time I'm thinking about trying something like this, I'll give Union Pacific a call (they own the rail line going through town) and see what they think.  A related life-lesson was this - "The worst they can say is 'no'"
 
I'm planning to put together a compilation video of my train footage at some point, so whenever I do, I'll post it to YouTube and link it from this thread, if that's okay.
 
Thanks guys!


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ClydeDET
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Re: Advice Needed - Cameras on Tracks
 
« Reply #14 on: Sep 11th, 2012, 12:42pm »
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Legal Department isn't the one to talk to about getting clearance to do photography from railroad property. The PR folks are, however. If there is a local contact point for the railroad (a yardmaster, for example), they can tell you who to contact to get permission and provide a release.  You will get instructions as to who needs to know you are going to be on company property and where along with the permission (if you get it).
 
As others have mentioned, you cannot get a camera between the rails without enry on railroad property which is trespass UNLESS you have prior permisssion. 50 feet may or may not be on RR property.


« Last Edit: Sep 11th, 2012, 12:44pm by ClydeDET » Logged
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