Responsible Railfanning: A Commentary on Common Sense


By Giles Kennedy

Founder The Ohio Railroader Website

Chief Editor and Founder Ohio Valley Rails Facebook Page


Any views stated in this commentary are solely the views of me. They may be similar views who agree with points made.

These views do not reflect the administrators of the OVR FB page or long time members; again however they may agree with said statements.

Let’s face it folks. Social media can be a double edge sword.

It can be a force for good. Many causes have been rallied to help those in need.

Social media can be a display of the “circus of the unintelligent”.

The founder members of Ohio Valley Rails did not intend to have our forum to be a display for stupid human tricks. Nor a venue for folks behaving badly.

For this, several instances of misconduct at railparks and rail fan spots; I have been called to address key points of railfanning responsibly.

Obey the law

If at a public park, keep it clean. If at a dedicated railfan park; keep it clean and do not go on railroad property to get your shot. Act like a law abiding citizen and do so to reassure local law enforcement; we can act and behave normally.

Building relationships with railroad professionals and law enforcement helps our reputation.

That means treating local, regional, and railroad police officers with respect.

We have had many stories of local officers finding out what we do and why we do it. The officers interacting with railfans find our hobby interesting and cool.

Debunk the whole belief deputies, marshals, and police officers hate railfans.

Build those relationships by being law abiding citizens. By the way, some of those law officers are railfans, too.

Act like adults

If over the age of 18; do not act like buffoons. Joking and kidding around is all good.

But leaving trash around does not show we know how to behave.

Sure, I have been around railfans who like joke and kid. Who hasn’t?

But getting shots on railroad right of way and other stupid behaviors do not fly with me or anyone else with common sense.

Common Sense

We as railfans do get excited when our favorite engine, trains, or railroad are in play.

But, we should exercise common sense when out and about.

Parking a vehicle mere inches away from the railroad right of way ballast in not smart.

When getting ready to get a shot; figure these things….

If taking the picture here; will I be in harm’s way?

Am I blocking someone else’s shot?

Do have time and patience to stay for the shot I want?

Am I being mindful of other photographers if not budding railfans in the area?

In order to get more folks interested in our hobby; we need to exercise common sense when out and about. Which leads into my next point.

Lone Wolf or Social Railfan?

I respect both. Those who chose to railfan alone; I highly respect. However, if a solo railfan is approached by an interested party; do not freak out. Explain you prefer to railfan alone and if wish to talk later; let them know.

Now for those who like to share their hobby with folks; don’t be a fanboy/fangirl. People generally don’t understand why we railfan. Explain to them why we do what we do and your interest in railroads.

Lots of moms and dads will take their kids to see the trains go by the train tracks. Be the ambassador. Help explain why railroads are so important.

Speaking to both types of railfans; don’t get angry people are in your shot. Other people that are equally interested in trains?!? That is a bonus.

We have had too many railfans try to scare people out of a shot. That gives us a bad reputation.

Recently brought to attention by actual shortline railroad employees; a renegade videographer continues to disobey railroad property.

This same individual continues to troll actual legitimate railroad interest groups.

This behavior is not only far from okay. It is frowned upon. It not only get an individual banned from our Facebook page, period.

Acting like adults is not only paramount in this age of pandemics, it is looked as civil and responsible behavior.

These are just a few points I have noticed in the past few years. The majority of us do act like adults, treat others with respect and do the right thing.

Those who don’t; we will figure out who you are and move on.


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