Brightline photography, a cautionary tale

Posted by Brian Schmidt
on Friday, April 12, 2019

Before you set out to photograph Brightline/Virgin Trains USA, here are some tips you may find helpful:

  • The trains are quiet, and all the crossings are quiet zones. Sometimes, the only advance warning I had that a train was imminent was the “singing” of the rails ahead of it. If you are close to a crossing, you will have a little more warning if you can see or hear the gates go down.
  • The non-traditional locomotives lack common visual cues we use to frame railfan pictures, like nose couplers, step wells, and cab outlines. That can make it difficult to frame traditional railfan photographs.
  • Access to the line is limited by lineside fences and parking can be challenging. In urban areas around the three stations, plan on parking in a garage or feeding a meter during your stay. The photo above shows a southbound train passing through Delray Beach, with the right-of-way fence clearly evident. In more suburban areas, there are a few businesses by the tracks that shouldn’t mind your brief stop, such as fast food restaurants and convenience stores. As always, be respectful of posted signs and respect the property owner’s or manager’s policy.
  • Platform access is limited to ticketed passengers at train times, so don't expect to spend significant time milling about there waiting for trains. At best, you'll get to photograph your train from the platform before before boarding.
  • If you are riding from West Palm Beach, note that the passenger lounge has a great view of the mainline tracks. The Smart class lounge is at the north end, affording a view of southbound trains while the Select class lounge is at the south end, affording views of northbound trains.
  • Tracks at Miami Central are elevated, limiting photography from nearby streets and sidewalks in the immediate area. Even after its construction, however, Florida East Coast's freight spur to the port runs nearby, so there's hope of seeing a train even downtown.
Even with these drawbacks, there is a lot of opportunity along this route, and I look forward to seeing what railfans can accomplish out there with Brightline!
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