Capture the fall colours—but keep clear of tracks

The heat of summer is finally over and the snow has yet to fall—at least in most of Canada! That means it’s the perfect time to capture the myriad of fall colours all around us. But if you’re out taking photos of the autumn leaves, be sure to keep away from railway tracks.

Trains may make great subjects for photos, but photographing while on rail lines isn’t only illegal, it is downright dangerous.

Photographer Steve Boyko admits he’s seen his fair share of unsafe behaviour around railway tracks over the years. The Manitoba rail fan has been taking pictures of trains for almost 20 years. But he knows that keeping a safe distance from the tracks is just critical as capturing the perfect shot.

“I have seen videos on YouTube where the camera, or the person themselves, is way too close to the train,” says Boyko. “You have to stay a good distance from the train because you never know what could be hanging out of it. And with a fast-moving train, just like a fast-moving truck, there’s also a lot of wind and debris that could be blown up.”

Don’t let your next photograph be your last. Follow these rail safety rules when photographing near tracks:
  • Stay off railway tracks, trestles, yards and equipment. They’re private property and trespassers can be fined. You could also be seriously injured or even killed.
  • Never assume a rail line is abandoned. You might never see a train on a particular section of rail, but that doesn’t mean it is abandoned. Often, tracks can be deactivated and reactivated, so once-quiet tracks could feature a train at any time.
  • Keep your distance. Trains overhang tracks by at least three feet in both directions and loose straps hanging from rail cars may extend even further. If you are in the right-of-way next to the tracks, you can be hit by the train.
  • Use a zoom lens. That way you can keep off tracks and out of harm’s way while still capturing a great shot.
  • Find an alternate location. If you don’t have permission from the railway company to shoot on its property, find another location so you don’t endanger yourself or your subjects. Shoot from public property near a railway, where you can capture the track or train from a safe distance.
  • Look for another train before crossing tracks. Do not cross the tracks immediately after a train passes. Trains can come from either direction. Wait until you can see clearly in both directions before crossing.
  • Be aware that trains do not follow set schedules. Trains travel up to 160 km/h and can come at any time, from either direction, on any track.

Check out other important rail safety tips on our website. Read them, share them, heed them—it could save your life.