PHOTOGRAPHY

Dead or Alive? Taking photos on Train Tracks…

do not shoot on train tracks

I recently had someone show me photos a local photographer did on some tracks in our town.  She claimed the tracks were “dead” so it was perfectly fine.  I asked how the photographer knew they were “dead” and received a blank stare and a shrug in response….

I thought this same thing almost 10 years ago and sadly, I even risked the lives of every. single. one. of my yearbook students by taking them on a photo excursion and shooting above on the tracks and bridge.  After hearing of the dangers several years later (and discovering it’s actually illegal and considered trespassing) I have been on a mission to educate the public about this popular and highly controversial subject.  When hearing of this recent photographer’s shoot with a senior, I decided to Google Earth the tracks at Westside Park (the same place I took my students and where this other photographer did their shoot) to see where the tracks led and who could I call to verify if they are still in use or not. I should have done this years ago but had already decided I would never shoot on tracks again so why bother?  I’m glad I bothered today.  Those tracks lead directly into Huber Engineered Materials.  In fact, the image from Google Earth actually SHOWS trains on the track!  The tracks are perfectly clear of overgrowth and debris and obviously still in use.  To think otherwise would be ludicrous and idiotic but I figured I would still consult with Huber and see what they had to say about it.  Robben Thompson graciously responded to my inquiry and here’s what she had to say about it…

“Thanks for trying to keep our community safe and I assure you the tracks that are near Westside Park in Marble Falls Texas ARE NOT DEAD.  We have trains in and out several times a week and there is no particular schedule as to when they come and go.”

Robben Thompson
Customer Service
Huber Carbonates, LLC
Marble Falls Texas Plant

Westside Park Google Earth

I’m pretty sure most budding photographers make the mistake of thinking tracks are “dead” because they never see the trains running, someone they know says they are dead, or they think that even if the tracks are still active they will be able to hear/see the train well in advance and would have time to get off.  I have since attempted to pull/delete all photos I have ever posted with train tracks in the hopes that no one ever thinks they should attempt it themselves.  Realizing that people still don’t understand how dangerous this is, I feel I must absolutely share this in hopes that anyone out there (whether photographer or subject) will fully educate themselves and make the correct choice.  That choice is NO tracks.  Period.  Never, ever.

The story that changed me forever was the ABC News coverage of, John DeReggi, a young man in Maryland.  He, his girlfriend and her sister were taking photos on the tracks when his life was suddenly cut short.  By the time they heard the train and tried to get off the tracks it was too late.  Even if you are able to get off in the knick of time, did you know that the aerodynamics of a passing train can suck you back into it’s path, killing you?  This is not the only tragedy that has continued to shape my sense of conviction on this topic.  It’s happened way too often.  There’s the story of an Oregan Teen that died during senior photos, A fitness guru killed while filming a video, An up and coming pregnant model hit and killed on the tracks, Three young girls die taking a selfie….  There are so many stories that I can’t begin to post them all.  Just do a GOOGLE search and you’ll see what I mean.  Even the TODAY SHOW did a segment showcasing how hard it is to hear a train coming and it’s eye opening!

Per Wikipedia, More than 7,200 pedestrians have been killed by trains in the United States since 1997. An additional 6,400 have been injured. Each year on average about 500 are killed.

NBC NEWS reported that trespassing fatalities have reached an all time high and risen by 10%.  The FRA data concluded that train deaths have grown steadily in the past 10 years, peaking in 2017 [the year of this report]. The federal agency said that 888 people died due to train-related incidents last year [2017], and 575 of them were considered trespassers…

“Trespassers are people who are on the tracks illegally,” said Dr. Allan Zarembski, director of the University of Delaware’s Railroad Engineering and Safety Program. “People who go on the tracks without permission. Most of the time they do not appreciate railroad safety and they get hit by trains walking down the track.”

Railroad trespassing is an outsized problem for rail companies and the FRA, since all train tracks are considered private property but remain easily accessible. Anyone walking along the wooden crossties that make up a track are considered trespassers, from those taking selfies next to a passing train to those using it as a pedestrian shortcut.

In Sri Lanka, it is now punishable by law to take selfies on railways.  They are cracking down and arresting those that do.

Here is my question to you….. EVEN IF the tracks are truly dead/not-in-use (verified through the proper authorities not just assumption or word of mouth) WHY would you ever want to encourage someone else to attempt their own fate by taken photos on tracks?  I can’t even begin to imagine how I would feel knowing that I killed someone, ME…  by putting them on the tracks.  Is that “cool” picture really worth risking your life or the lives of your subjects?  It is never, EVER worth it.  If you don’t believe me, just ask every mom, dad, sister, brother, spouse or friend of someone that tried to get that “shot” and never made it out.  What will it take to get it through our heads?  Will it take a local news report about someone YOU know getting killed doing this?

Please, please, please share this post and remember one thing….. you are not invincible, I am not invincible, WE are not invincible.  Stupid choices kill, trains kill.  Please don’t be the next person featured on a heartbreakingly tragic news story.

It doesn’t matter if the tracks are “dead or alive”, what matters is if you are.  Just say “NO” to shooting on train tracks.

 

 

 

 

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2000 US-281 North, Ste 110 Marble Falls, TX  78654

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