Being the serious anorak and foamer that I am, I had my share of disagreements and run ins with various law enforcement officials while taking photographs of trains. It is well established law here in the US that generally anything that can be seen from a public place, can be photographed. Trains, trams, buses, bridges are all fair game for the photographer, if he/she is in a public space.
Just about two months ago I had a discussion with one of Washington, DC's finest. I was taking pictures of the new street car line on H Street, NE when I was stopped by the young officer. He demanded to know what I was doing. Upon being told that I was taking some photos of the street car for a blog, he proceeded to tell me that I could not do that. I will not bore you with the details of the ensuing discussion. Suffice it to say that I made him aware that I was a police officer myself some years ago and that I was quite familiar with my constitutional rights because of that. He backed off.
Of course I broke my own, cardinal rule: never argue with a person in uniform!
I relate this story because my friend Michael (www.macfilos.com) has sent me a link from the Daily Mail in London. Looks like a group of rail fans from the UK got themselves into a bit of trouble while chasing trams and trolley buses in a city in Russia. Read about their adventure here.
The USA is not Russia by a long shot. However I find that the "militarization" of civilian law enforcement here has reached an absurd level. Walking down Wisconsin Avenue some of the cops look like they belong to an occupation army.
This is NOT legal advice. I am NOT an attorney.