Your own personal safety should be your greatest concern.
Stay off the tracks and stay back as trains go by.
Defective railroad cars throw brake shoes, rods and contents far
from the tracks that can injure or kill you. Trains also
derail, spreading their engines and cars hundreds of feet from
the right of way. A telephoto lens is the best safety
investment you can make. Also, be aware of your
surroundings. Railroads are often located in high crime
areas. Watch who is around you and stay alert. Go in
pairs or groups. In the worst neighborhoods, leave your
car running and be ready to drive off (if you must go there at
all). Take a cell phone with you.
Trespassing on private property is a misdemeanor. Theft of
property is a felony, if the value of the stolen items exceeds
$100. Both local police and railroad police have broad
powers to ticket or arrest offenders. Railroad police, in
particular, aggressively enforce trespassing laws on their own
right of way. Stay on public property, or get permission