THE magazine of railroading

SEARCH TRAINSMAG.COM

Enter keywords or a search phrase below:

Amtrak's ban on photographers on station platforms

5521 views
23 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    July, 2008
  • 7 posts
Amtrak's ban on photographers on station platforms
Posted by big G rr fan on Thursday, May 21, 2009 1:27 PM

I was in Fullerton at the Fullerton train depot to spend a day railfanning & taking photographs & recording videos of BNSF,Metrolink & Amtrak trains[, later that morning a agent from Amtrak approch me & told me that I cannot take photos or record  videos on the station platform.:(!] I'VE FIND THAT A BIT RIDICULOUS!!SoapBox I know we're all a bit edgy since 9/11/2001 BUT banning railfan that just to see trains go by & take photos because they need a ticket to take photos at the stationDisapprove?!?  Fullerton is a small depot not like the larger depots in Los Angeles,Portland Oregon,New York City,Chicago & the other large train stations. This "ruling" is going to hurt Amtrak in the long run & I should think that they should lift this "noobish" ban FOR THE SAKE FOR ALL RAILFANS!!Black Eye

  • Member since
    August, 2006
  • 624 posts
Posted by fredswain on Thursday, May 21, 2009 1:42 PM

There was a discussion about this a couple of months ago. If you want to record video, just don't do it on station property. As long as you aren't on RR property they can't really do anything about it. Just move a block away and stay out of the RR right of way. I have no idea why standing on the station platform as opposed to being a block away or on the other side of the tracks is an issue but they apparently have some reasoning for it. Even if it is a bit awkward.

  • Member since
    November, 2004
  • From: On Track LaGrange IL.
  • 171 posts
Posted by RABEL on Thursday, May 21, 2009 4:16 PM

The Amtrak Agent is mistaken.

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Villa Park
  • 185 posts
Posted by CMucha on Thursday, May 21, 2009 5:29 PM
Something doesnt sound right here, Fullerton sees a lot of railfans, its a basically a railfan landmark. It sounds to me there is more to this. Colin
Metra is the Real Way to fly!
  • Member since
    February, 2008
  • From: Eureka, IL
  • 167 posts
Posted by TPWRY on Thursday, May 21, 2009 5:53 PM

this rule is absolutely ridiculous. Im only thinking they did cause people getting on trains probably have been complaining and amtrak is trying to reduce people on platforms. When I railfanned at an amtrak station i usually stood near the end of the platform away from people get nand off trains. Also whatare they going to do at stuff like Galesburg RR days where there is usually a lot of people watching trains go they are gonna have to kick quite a few people off

  • Member since
    July, 2005
  • From: Northeast Missouri
  • 869 posts
Posted by SchemerBob on Thursday, May 21, 2009 8:31 PM

I agree with everything stated above, the rule is incredibly ridiculous. Though, a few thoughts:

1. Try (again) try to not let this get you steamed! (I know it's hard!!) As others have stated, try taking your photos off of the platform. I do this all of the time, and actually, you sometimes get some better shots if you're a ways back.

2. If you still want to take pictures on the platform, just go some other day. Really, I've taken photos and video on the platforms of two Amtrak stations since this rule was enacted, and so far I've had no problems at all. And on each occation I was in plain view of the Amtrak conductors and engineers, and they never approached me about it, and frankly, I knew they wouldn't. And if you do this and someone says "get lost", just do what they say, and try again later, or go somewhere else where people aren't so annoying about it.

I do remember hearing that if the photo policy didn't work Amtrak would "look into" changing it, or something like that. Maybe if they see that railfans aren't going to give in that easily to a dumb rule, they'll change it or get rid of it completely.

Long live the BNSF .... AND its paint scheme. SchemerBob
  • Member since
    July, 2008
  • 7 posts
Posted by big G rr fan on Thursday, May 21, 2009 9:18 PM

I know what you mean by thatBig Smile. Iwonder if Amtrak going to uplift the "Railfan ban" when (or if) the City of Fullerton host "Fullerton Railroad days" in 2010.

  • Member since
    November, 2004
  • From: On Track LaGrange IL.
  • 171 posts
Posted by RABEL on Thursday, May 21, 2009 10:20 PM

I don't see where the Amtrak policy pertains to Fullerton and many other Stations.

The station platform is not exclusive use to Amtrak.

http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/am2Copy/Simple_Copy_Page&c=am2Copy&cid=1178294272520&ssid=11134

 

  • Member since
    December, 2004
  • 339 posts
Posted by Jack_S on Friday, May 22, 2009 2:45 AM

 I don't know if you are familiar with the layout of the Fullerton station, but here goes.

 The "other side" is also a station platform, so going there changes nothing.  And if you move a block away you won't be able to even see the station or the tracks.  In fact the nearest space from where you can see the tracks at all is the station parking lot and the location is not amenable to photos. 

On the "other side" you could back off the platform but that puts you in the middle of a rather busy street or in the middle of an apartment complex.  From the station side parking lot there are obstacles (hedges, buildings, private rail cars, etc.) to photography.  Remember that the station is in the middle of a rather heavily built-up urban area right in the center of town.

 A thought: the pedestrian bridge is not really part of the platform, I wonder if they would kick you off of it?  Probably yes.  Once these guys get officious they don't stop.

And I think that the city actually owns the station platform.  I know that the city is responsible for repairing the elevator when it breaks down.  Anyone know?

I have GOT to get over there some Friday afternoon and evening when the railfans congregate in large numbers.  Lots of serious photographers.  Should be interesting.

Jack

  • Member since
    January, 2009
  • From: Norfolk Southern Lafayette District
  • 1,642 posts
Posted by bubbajustin on Friday, May 22, 2009 7:35 AM

Yes, this is rediclous! Like said in another thread, I can see this ruel in Penn Station. But in little bitty po-dunk towns like say for example Granby CO. What???

The road to to success is always under construction. _____________________________________________________________________________ When the going gets tough, the tough use duct tape.

  • Member since
    May, 2006
  • From: Richmond, VA
  • 199 posts
Posted by penncentral2002 on Friday, May 22, 2009 3:21 PM

This is my survey of stations I have seen since the new policy - Rocky Mount, NC - doesn't seem to make any difference - the station is used for other uses as well as Amtrak and it is still totally open to the public as far as I can tell. 

 Greenville, SC - the station is in the NS yard and has always as far as I can tell not been open to the public.

Spartanburg, SC - the station was labeled as a visitor's center, but did not appear to be very welcoming to visitors since it was totally locked up - I'm not even sure if the station is still open, it seemed rather deserted so Amtrak might have moved to a different location - I really didn't have a lot of time to linger.

Gastonia, NC - the station is also at an NS yard - there were no trains present so I didn't stop.  It probably is not open when NS is active since it is a station where only one train stops late at night and it is also in a NS yard.

High Point, NC - the platforms do appear to be off limits - the station is still open to the public. The tracks are not really visible from street level. 

 My reading of the Amtrak policy was that out of those listed stations, only the Rocky Mount one and the Spartanburg one if is it still the Amtrak station whcih I really couldn't tell would not be covered (Rocky Mount's station is city owned and open to the public as an attraction complete with rolling stock display on the platform and a museum inside).  High Point would be covered because the platform is separate from the street and labled only for passengers only.  I think that Gastonia and Greenville would not be covered, but still not open to the public because they are both on NS property.

Other stations I am familiar with - Ashland, VA - is a visitor's center so should still be open - also it really does not qualify as a platform.

Ettrick, VA - may be closed off, but not sure.

Richmond Staples Mill Road - probably closed off

Richmond Main Street Station - Platforms have always been closed, but station which is owned by the state has been open with historical displays and as an attraction and has an open porch on track level at the front of the building

Fredericksburg, VA - its always been open and unmanned as far as I can tell - CSX may still own the station considering that VRE stops there and there are machines to buy both Amtrak and VRE tickets on the platform,  you can probably get away with being up there.  Last time I was up there was before the new policy, but I got absolutely no hassle from anyone for being there.

Alexandria, VA - think that station has been generally closed to the public but not sure

Washington, DC Union Station - the platforms have long been closed to the public - no difference.

Staunton, VA - the station is unmanned open to the general public and is considered a visitor's attraction - no difference.

Danville, VA - station is now a museum - last time I was there, the platform appeared to be open to the public but that was a few years ago.

Selma, NC - station is advertised as an attraction on I-95 and contains a historic exhibit - doubt that anything has changed.

Hamlet, NC - station is a museum/attraction - railroads are the primary attraction in Hamlet, doubt that anything has changed.

Southern Pines, NC - station has always appeared to be open to the public - think it is a visitor's center - last time I was there, there were some people standing on the platform waiting to see a freight train go by - I actually didn't wait there because a better view was available

Baltimore Penn Station - again, the station has always been open and the platforms were always closed - do not see a difference

Rockville, MD - that is really a MARC station and it is totally open (it is a flag stop on the Capitol Limited) - I've gone on there once to photograph a MARC train with no problem

That is my quick survey - it seems that most of hte stations with platforms that were not open to the public (e.g. Washington Union Station, Baltimore Penn Station) are off limits without tickets - the stations that were always open to the public appear to still be open and while the Amtrak policy seemed to be a bit confusing on that regard to me, it seems that the jist of the matter is that places that have traditionally been open to the public (such as a city owned station/visitor's center/museum) will still be open for photographs.   At least that is as far as I could tell.

Zack http://penncentral2002.rrpicturearchives.net/
  • Member since
    September, 2002
  • From: Rockton, IL
  • 4,783 posts
Posted by jeaton on Friday, May 22, 2009 5:16 PM

Here's a little something on the subject.  The head of Amtrak's police department has said he will not have his people enforce the 'not on our platforms" policy.  Get a copy of Don Phillip's column in the last issue of Trains and offer to "enlighten" the agent.

"We have met the enemy and he is us." Pogo Possum "We have met the anemone... and he is Russ." Bucky Katt "Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." Niels Bohr, Nobel laureate in physics

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: BNSF MP968.3 in California
  • 243 posts
Posted by BNSF_GP60M on Friday, May 22, 2009 5:17 PM

Around here in Central California its business as usual. I haven't heard anything about agents telling people to leave. Here's a quick rundown:

Bakersfield I think is still open. I haven't been there in a while. Wasco, Madera, and Turlock/Denair are just platforms only, no building. Corcorcan is a unmanned building (with Santa Fe and Wabash (!) info inside). Hanford is where I railfan (and live) at and I have been out there with a group of railfans and the agent came by with the baggage cart and did say a thing. Also it may help because I am the volunteer station host here. In Fresno I know the agents there (Fresno agents split time between there, Hanford and Merced) so no problems. And Merced has had problems either.

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Northern New York
  • 13,481 posts
Posted by tree68 on Friday, May 22, 2009 5:20 PM

The Utica, NY station platforms are completely open to the public - you don't even have to enter the station to reach track 2.  Track 1 requires a trip over the overhead walkway, but unless you're causing a fuss, I doubt anyone would hassle you.  And the walkway is a great place to watch trains - especially in the winter.

Despite this apparent affront to our rights, the operative thing here is to remain cool and collected.  As was pointed out, some platforms have always been closed to the general public.

All we do by raising a big fuss is reinforce the will of those who think they're doing the right thing.  Kick back, relax, take pictures elsewhere.  You never know - you might find someplace you like even better!  Eventually the storm will blow over.

LarryWhistling
Resident Microferroequinologist (at least at my house) 
Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
My Opinion. Standard Disclaimers Apply. No Expiration Date
Come ride the rails with me!
There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

  • Member since
    September, 2001
  • From: US
  • 1,009 posts
Posted by RudyRockvilleMD on Friday, May 22, 2009 10:19 PM

For Zack: An interesting survey

Rockville, MD is an open platform station in the sense that there are no barriers or gates to access its platforms. It is a regular stop for the Capitol Limited and for MARC trains. It has an agent for MARC while it is unstaffed for Amtrak. I have never photographed trains there, but I have never heard of any railfans being hassled for photographing trains there. 

Alexandria, VA has always been an Amtrak station in the past, but it is now a VRE station as well. Earlier its platforms were open in the same sense as Rockville, MD, but I haven't been there in a while so I don't know if its platforms are still open.

On the other hand Fredericksburg, VA is posted against tresspassing in that there are signs to the effect that only passengers intending to travel on the trains are permitted on its platforms; nevertheless I have noticed people on the platform that the VRE uses waiting to greet arrivals.

To all: I have read Amtrak's photo/video recording policy, and it appears that the platforms at all of its stations are restricted to passengers only, so never mind if the the stations are owned by a community or the host railroads so railfan photographers can't photograph trains from its platform.  

  • Member since
    November, 2004
  • From: On Track LaGrange IL.
  • 171 posts
Posted by RABEL on Friday, May 22, 2009 11:49 PM

To all: I have read Amtrak's photo/video recording policy, and it appears that the platforms at all of its stations are restricted to passengers only, so never mind if the the stations are owned by a community or the host railroads so railfan photographers can't photograph trains from its platform.

There's a difference between Amtrak Stations and stops. Stations owned by communities

are open to the public.

  • Member since
    December, 2004
  • 339 posts
Posted by Jack_S on Saturday, May 23, 2009 1:38 AM

big G rr fan

I was in Fullerton at the Fullerton train depot to spend a day railfanning & taking photographs & recording videos of BNSF,Metrolink & Amtrak trains[, later that morning a agent from Amtrak approch me & told me that I cannot take photos or record  videos on the station platform.:(!] I'VE FIND THAT A BIT RIDICULOUS!!SoapBox I know we're all a bit edgy since 9/11/2001 BUT banning railfan that just to see trains go by & take photos because they need a ticket to take photos at the stationDisapprove?!?  Fullerton is a small depot not like the larger depots in Los Angeles,Portland Oregon,New York City,Chicago & the other large train stations. This "ruling" is going to hurt Amtrak in the long run & I should think that they should lift this "noobish" ban FOR THE SAKE FOR ALL RAILFANS!!Black Eye

 

OK.  I went to the Fullerton station today and talked to several knowledgeable railfans who are Friday regulars there.  The station, the platforms, pedestrian bridge, parking lot, and just about everything at Fullerton belongs to the City of Fullerton.  Amtrak leases their space in the depot, as does the Santa Fe Cafe.  Amtrak has no authority over the platforms.

 That being said, there have been some problems with two of the Amtrak employees at Fullerton.  They apparently think they have the mandate of God to police the platform.  One has been been corrected and has seemed to back off.  The other is a pure jackass and can be a problem.  The only people with any enforcement powers at Fullerton station are the Fullerton City Police Department.  And the Fullerton PD is far too bright to hassle railfans.  Instead they copy the BNSF and see railfans as an asset.

 It would be helpful if, when having a problem with extra-officious types at Fullerton, you get the names or a description of the hasslers and provide them on this forum.  Then local railfans with a little clout can see that these twits are corrected.

This Friday the Fullerton Foamers were out of town on a field trip to Tehachapi but there were plenty of others there.  Many were taking pictures, unmolested. 

Jack

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: US
  • 1,197 posts
Posted by overall on Monday, May 25, 2009 7:31 PM

No more scenes like this;

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/239/523875351_6291a99358_b.jpg

I took that one in Birmingham Alabama.

George

  • Member since
    October, 2006
  • From: Chicago, Ill.
  • 2,843 posts
Posted by al-in-chgo on Monday, May 25, 2009 8:01 PM

ELKHART, IN: I  was photographing in Elkhart, Indiana, the other day, almost entirely on the Amtrak station platform.  A local  man who seemed to know what he was talking about said that I had the run of the place since it was wholly owned by the local Park District and merely rents Amtrak their space. 

The NY Central Museum, on the other hand, closes its grounds when it closes its exhibits and gift shop.  There's barbed-wire around the place, even the gate entrance, which is closed and locked at five p.m. barring any special (private, I guess) events.  If I had an un-graffitie'd GG-1 in my yard I would want to keep vandals away, too.  (Remember what happened in Baltimore?)  

OT but I liked the museum even if the hours of its grounds are restricted.  Officially it's called the "National New York Central Museum" (some sites show the word "Railroad" in there but apparently it isn't there officially).  The museum's homesite seems to want it both ways, look at where the letters are unbolded: nycrrmuseum.org.  With the perfect idiocy of computer logic, google map has the location, rather chillingly, as the "National New York Control Museum."  I do hope tourists looking for further control aren't too disappointed.  -  a.s. 

 

 

 

al-in-chgo
  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Northern New York
  • 13,481 posts
Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, May 26, 2009 8:42 AM

overall

No more scenes like this;

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/239/523875351_6291a99358_b.jpg

I took that one in Birmingham Alabama.

George

I could probably take a shot like that today at Utica, NY, with no fear of reprisal. 

As for the overenthusiastic "guardians of the castle,"  I wouldn't post their name here.  Given the information about the attitude of the local police, and assuming that they have some measure of presence around the station, I'd simply ask the problem agent to I'd prefer to speak with law enforcement about the issue, if he'd care to summon same.  If the officer asked me to leave, I'd be gone.  I get the feeling that the employee would soon find himself facing some peeved officers and would get straightened out. 

 

LarryWhistling
Resident Microferroequinologist (at least at my house) 
Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
My Opinion. Standard Disclaimers Apply. No Expiration Date
Come ride the rails with me!
There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

  • Member since
    May, 2006
  • From: Richmond, VA
  • 199 posts
Posted by penncentral2002 on Tuesday, May 26, 2009 4:38 PM

RudyRockvilleMD

For Zack: An interesting survey

Rockville, MD is an open platform station in the sense that there are no barriers or gates to access its platforms. It is a regular stop for the Capitol Limited and for MARC trains. It has an agent for MARC while it is unstaffed for Amtrak. I have never photographed trains there, but I have never heard of any railfans being hassled for photographing trains there. 

Alexandria, VA has always been an Amtrak station in the past, but it is now a VRE station as well. Earlier its platforms were open in the same sense as Rockville, MD, but I haven't been there in a while so I don't know if its platforms are still open.

On the other hand Fredericksburg, VA is posted against tresspassing in that there are signs to the effect that only passengers intending to travel on the trains are permitted on its platforms; nevertheless I have noticed people on the platform that the VRE uses waiting to greet arrivals.

To all: I have read Amtrak's photo/video recording policy, and it appears that the platforms at all of its stations are restricted to passengers only, so never mind if the the stations are owned by a community or the host railroads so railfan photographers can't photograph trains from its platform.  

At Fredericksburg, the main (only?) way to buy tickets is using machines on the platform - the "no trespassing" signs that were posted at least the last time I was there dated from RF&P Days and were not posted on every entrance to the platform.  It is true that lots of people are there to meet trains - I have seen people watching trains there too.  Maybe something new has been posted, but I would still consider that to be an "open" station based on actual practice.  There are other places to see trains in Fredericksburg than the station, so even if the station is now definitively closed it is not a huge loss (I rather like the view from street level there) - http://penncentral2002.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=1246588

I read the Amtrak policy too - and I think it raises far more questions than it answers - and I'm an attorney (of course, maybe me being an attorney is why I have so many questions as to exactly what the policy means).

Zack http://penncentral2002.rrpicturearchives.net/
  • Member since
    October, 2006
  • From: Chicago, Ill.
  • 2,843 posts
Posted by al-in-chgo on Tuesday, May 26, 2009 7:03 PM

The British sell, or used to sell, a platform-access ticket for a few pence.  It was enough to see people to the train and watch it leave. 

I wonder if some stations might find it worth their while to something do that?  Maybe charge a dollar for a station pass from the same vending machine that sells tickets?  Access to the platform could be turnstiled or on the honor system but regular photographers would soon catch on that it is something they really can't be without on the platform, unless they have a valid travel ticket. 

Go ahead, shoot it full of holes.  I can't think of any big objections once it is stressed that this is a voluntary program on the part of the rwy operating agency, and if it is terribly difficult to put in such a system (or terribly ridiculous if the platforms are way open in different places), they don't have to do it.  

al-in-chgo
  • Member since
    September, 2001
  • From: US
  • 1,009 posts
Posted by RudyRockvilleMD on Tuesday, May 26, 2009 8:13 PM

Al:

The British still sell platform tickets at some stations, mostly the large stations such as Victoria Station in London. However, a few years ago I asked a gate person who inspected tickets to go out a few feet on the platform to get a shot without a platform ticket, and she said," ok."

I am not going to shoot your idea full of holes, it's a good idea in some stations where access to the platforms is restricted to ticket holders. However, I think Amtrak's ban on photography from station platforms, except for ticketed passengers, is for liability reasons so this might be the only argument against the platform pass.

  • Member since
    October, 2006
  • From: Chicago, Ill.
  • 2,843 posts
Posted by al-in-chgo on Tuesday, May 26, 2009 8:37 PM

RudyRockvilleMD

Al:

The British still sell platform tickets at some stations, mostly the large stations such as Victoria Station in London. However, a few years ago I asked a gate person who inspected tickets to go out a few feet on the platform to get a shot without a platform ticket, and she said," ok."

I am not going to shoot your idea full of holes, it's a good idea in some stations where access to the platforms is restricted to ticket holders. However, I think Amtrak's ban on photography from station platforms, except for ticketed passengers, is for liability reasons so this might be the only argument against the platform pass.

I agree with you, but it's a sad story.  Consider how trivial the distinction is, in real-world terms, between a depot Amtrak rents and an Amtrak-owned depot (there are other variations, but these seem to be the main ones).  Guess we'll all have to think like the legendary "Philadelphia Lawyers" to make sense of all this!  -  a.s.

 

al-in-chgo

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Trains free email newsletter
NEWS » PHOTOS » VIDEOS » HOT TOPICS & MORE
GET OUR WEEKLY NEWSLETTER DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Connect with us
ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER

Loading...