Train Facts

  • ​Today’s Trains and faster and quieter than ever before.  You will not hear the clickity clack of old.  In fact, many are hybrids and if they are coasting you may not hear them at all.  Most train engines make very little noise and the sound waves of a train go outward not forward.
  • Trains are moving faster than you think.  Because of their size they appear slower, much as a plane taking off seems to hover even though the plane is moving 150 mph.  The vanishing point or one point perspective illusion that photographers love is actually a main reason you can not see how fast a train is moving.  
  • A freight train weighing over 6,000 tons or 12,000,000 pounds moves upwards of 55mph and takes over a mile (18 football fields) to stop after the emergency brake is pulled.  This means if you see a train a mile away, it will be where you stand in about a minute... and it can not swerve
  • A train over hangs the tracks by 3 feet on either side.  Often straps and chains come loose and reach further.  You should never be closer to a track than 15 feet.
  • No tracks should ever be assumed abandoned or inactive.  They can be used at anytime.  Freight trains do not run on a schedule, they can run on any track, any direction, at any time.   

Your Responsibility

  • It is your responsibility as a business owner to follow the law and keep your clients safe.
  • As a photographer you have the potential to influence new and amateur photographers, including the general public.  They will mimic what you do.  Keep them and their subjects safe by setting an example, that you would never endanger your clients or break the law.
  • If taking photos on safe tracks the Professional Photographers of America recommend that when posting to social media or your website add a disclaimer “These portraits were staged at a railroad museum”, “This photo was taken on safe public property away from the tracks”, “These photos were taken at a park on inactive tracks”, etc.
  • As a photographer you have a passion for preserving memories and life’s precious moments.  We plead with you, to not let that passion be the very thing that leads to a memory being all that remains.​

The Legal Business of Track Photography

  • Railroad tracks are private property and being on them is Criminal Trespassing per K.S.A. 21-5809.  Not just is it illegal in Kansas but in All 50 States.  In Kansas, a Class A Misdemeanor is punishable by up to a $2,500 fine and 1 year in prison. 
  • If a client is hurt or killed while on a shoot you could be held liable by the State, the Railroad, and your client.

Please feel free to refer your clients to this page so they can understand why you will not take railroad track photos

Photographer Resources

The Statistics*

  • In the United States, in the last 10 years 4,313 pedestrians have been killed and another 4,085 injured while, walking, running, biking, etc. by the railroad tracks
  • In Kansas, 92 pedestrians have been hit by trains.  This averages to just over 9 a year.  

*these numbers do not include vehicle injuries or fatalities,

total number of train incidents in 10 years; the U.S: 30,192.  Kansas: 516 

Federal Railroad Administration

The Bigger Picture

A great photo inspires.  It creates a feeling.  More often than not railroad pictures create a sense of peace, calmness, or fun and adventure.  This inspires the trickle down effect.  An effect that causes new photographers, students, and shutterbugs to head out to the tracks, rail yards, and trestles (train bridges) to get that amazing shot... but these photos also give the misconception that the tracks are a safe place. So people go for walks, kids play, teenagers party... all while somewhere on those rails there is a 6,000 ton train speeding at over 55 mph. 

Please take a moment to watch this report from USA Today  or this one from ABC News