Did You Know It’s Illegal To Take Photos on Railroad Tracks in Idaho?
While we were scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed tonight, we saw a friend asking for recommendations for where to shoot her daughter’s senior pictures. A few people chimed in with photos of teens on railroad tracks. Those pictures may be beautiful, but capturing them is very, very illegal.
A good photographer will immediately turn the request down. They know that it's illegal to shoot photos on all railroad tracks in all 50 states. Is it illegal because it’s dangerous? Partially. Over the years, modern locomotives have become quieter than ever. Some don't sound their horn. That means there's a chance that you may not hear a train coming.
Idaho Operation Lifesaver, Inc, an organization that aims to prevent railroad deaths at railway crossings and rights-of-way, also explains that there's no way for a train to stop quickly. By the time a train conductor sees pedestrians on the tracks, it would take the train about a mile to come to a complete stop even with emergency braking activated. For some trains, it can take a mile or more for them to stop. It's pure physics.
The organization reveals that there have been at least 20 photography-related deaths or injuries on train tracks since 2011.
Now, we know you might be tempted to reason with “The tracks at the Boise Depot are safe! There are no trains there anymore." That's not entirely true. Occasionally special anniversary celebrations for the Depot bring trains back to the track, like Union Pacific 844 that traveled from Cheyenne to Boise for the Depot’s 92nd anniversary in 2017.
For the most part, Amtrack and Union Pacific stopped using the depot in the late 90s, but in America, all railroad tracks and trestles are privately owned. Your presence on them, even if they are seemingly abandoned, is considered trespassing and you're putting yourself at risk of a fine or criminal charge for being there. Criminal trespassing fines in Idaho range from $500-$1000 and a potential 6-12 month jail sentence.
If you do find a photographer willing to risk it, remember your images are proof that you too were trespassing where you shouldn't have been making you subject to fines and jail time as well. In other words...just don't do it!
There are plenty of other gorgeous places in Boise that will give you that same vintage feel you're looking for. The cute trestle bridges that connect the two sides of the Greenbelt are a great place to start!