Photographers welcome! (Amtrak, take note)

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Saturday, December 5, 2009

I invite you to compare Amtrak’s legalistic rules on photography with the policy of Virgin Trains, which operates passenger trains over much of Great Britain.

First of all, I dare you to find Amtrak’s policy on photography. Okay, that’s a joke because it took me 15 minutes. Here’s what you do: Go to, click on Plan and then Policies, and prepare to spend a while figuring out what it says. I can help you on that, too. What it says is that unless you’re a ticketed passenger, you cannot take photographs on station platforms without the permission of the station manager. And guess what the station manager will say when you ask?

Amtrak’s rules on photography are restated more simply on page 117 of its current national timetable. But in both instances the policy is misleading in that it first says you can photograph in public areas of its stations and then goes on to say that platforms (where you can actually see Amtrak trains) are not public areas—gotcha!

Virgin Trains’ policy on photography is very simple: Please do. That’s about it. Plus, it’s not hidden on a Web site, as is Amtrak’s, but posted at the stations for one and all to see (as in Paul Bigland’s photograph, above). Here it is, in its entirety:

“Virgin Trains welcomes rail enthusiasts and passengers who wish to take still or video images at our stations. We ask that you do not interfere with the flow of passengers and respect the wishes of both passengers and staff not to be photographed. If you are filming for extended periods and/or using bulky equipment you should make yourself known to our station staff so that the reasons for filming are clear. Flash photography is not permitted at any time and the use of tripods should be avoided wherever possible. If you wish to use a tripod you should locate and speak with the Station Team Leader to ensure you are in a safe area.”

Now that you’ve read them both, it’s time to vote.

1. Whose policy is more easily understood? 
2. Whose policy is more likely to be respected?
3. Who employs more lawyers?

Fred W. Frailey (

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