Posted by CaliforniaRailroader on December 20, 2008 
Having that happen in South Carolina doesn't surprise me at all, the east, and especially the south seem to be really retentive about this stuff. I have photographed a ton of trains, civilian and military and have never been talked to or asked to leave here in CA, or the west. In fact, I've had crews come over and shoot the breeze with me.
Posted by Christopher Anderson on December 20, 2008 
Have to disagree with the previous comment. I've never had any trouble in the east. I've always heard that the western US is where you need to keep on your toes and not linger. It's not uncommon to talk to crews here whether train crews or MOW
Posted by Cary Milliner on December 21, 2008 
That's odd that that happened to you. I've photographed trains before in Yemassee and Hardeeville (south of Ashepoo) and have never had a work spoken to me at all. In fact, the few times that a police unit has ridden by, we have simply exchanged waves. As far as I know there isn't any kind of military destination that this light engine would have around the Ashepoo area. The only thing I can think of that would be even a remote possibility would be for this engine to turnout in Yemassee and proceed up the Augusta Sub to the Savannah River Site to haul nuclear material.
Posted by Jean-Marc Frybourg on December 21, 2008 
This is just another example of police harassment. I now use to carry copies of the excellent document "The Photographer's rights" from Bert P Krages with me when taking pictures in the US. See at
Posted by cavranger on December 21, 2008 
I have to agree with Jean, police harrassment. I've noticed that law enforcement in the south are more concerned with handing out fines for the poor counties projects than enforcing the laws. Of course, It all depends on where you are. If you are ever in Fayetteville, NC; you won't be harrassed. Most railroaders and Cops are good old boys.
Posted by Nikko P on December 21, 2008 
Well judging by Brian's caption, the police were only upset over *this* particular train. The way Brian says the police reacted, they seemed to suggest that this train would be on transportation of something important. It could have been moving something top secret or even as simple as a nuclear reactor or radioactive waste. My understanding is that our 'civil liberties' (in this case photography) are to be overruled for the sake of national security if deemed necessary. Obviously, there are ideological implications to that philosophy and how necessary is defined, but I guess they won't be taking any chances. Was the overhead helicopter a military/police vehicle or did it appear to not be associated with either?
Posted by Donald Haskel on December 21, 2008 
I love all of these comments. I can sympathize with you. All this for one shot of a light engine. H__y C__p. If you had been left alone none of us would have known this was top secret. Now with three cops and a helicopter the secret is out of the bag. The other explanation, the cops are Alco fans.
Posted by Peter Norman on December 21, 2008 
I was stopped and questioned photographing trains at the Port of Long Beach in California. Luckily I had tons of signs with me pointing to the fact that I was a train hobbyist and not a terrorist. They gave me the phone # of the watch captain on duty for the next time I wanted to take pictures. Since then I just give a call and now the boys in blue just wave.
Posted by abs on December 24, 2008 
Sorry you had such a bad experience. I'm in GA. My father and I go out railfaning maybe once a month. I can't count the times we've been asked by law enforcement to quit what we were doing or move along. All in completely public places mind you, and most the times not even taking pictures. Our rights are going out the door.
Posted by Garrett Robson on December 27, 2008 
I have to say, we have some lazy cops in this country! They would rather persecute us than bust a drug dealer! Plus if they bust the drug dealer, he is back on the street in no time thanks to our wonderful judicial system.
Posted by Michael Huggins on December 27, 2008 
That is interesting that you were harassed like that. There's nothing but swamp in that area. The nearest military bases are MCAS Beaufort and NWS Charleston, both about 30 miles from where you were. And unless there was nuclear material being carried on board the locomotive itself, there was no need for all of that to be going on. Similarly, I have friends who are aviation photographers, and they get asked what they are doing sometimes by the police, even if they are in a parking lot for a major business. A lot of times, someone passing by calls it in to the police that there's someone suspicious, and the police have to respond. After about 2 minutes, it becomes evident to the officer what my friends are really doing, and they let them continue with their photography. That just stinks because that is a really good photo!
Posted by Gordonhj on December 29, 2008 
My best friend and I go video trains often in West Tennessee on the CSX and it is non stop harrassment...Been accussed of being anything from terrorist to drug a 4 wheel drive truck with nothing inside but scanners and cameras...dont really understand it!
Posted by Michael Lindler on March 28, 2009 
That particular line is known for running spent nuclear (or other sensitive materials/shipments). In the past CSXT has ran a light locomotive ahead of EXTREMLY sensitive trains. That light locomotive can have Federal, Military, and other officials on board inspecting the line ahead. The actual train behind (with the sensitive equipment / material) may not even be calling signals; therefore you do not even know its coming. As a former employee of Amtrak in Charleston, we were once instructed by a federal agent to lock all our doors and to NOT dare walk outside on the platform for the next 30 min. We were puzzled, but when the light engine and then the other train followed we understood. Your statement of: "there are some trains you just don't take pictures of here in South Carolina and today is not a good day to be taking pictures of trains". There was even a helicopter flying overhead! reaffirms my belief that you had just picked the ONE wrong train to take pictures of. LE presence ahead of those type trains is very large and is probably what caused your unfortunate situation. I would dare say that you picked the one in a million bad time to rail fan that area. I have many shots from that same bridge and I know its a great place to take pictures. I hope you will reconsider railfanning in the Palmetto State as we would welcome your return.
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