UP declines to comment on viral videos from September

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OMAHA, Neb. — After nearly a month, Union Pacific officials still decline to comment on two viral videos posted online this fall depicting scandalous behavior on the railroad's rights-of-way. Both have raised concerns about copycat behavior.

The first video, dubbed “Flight of the Year,” depicts a drone flying around a Union Pacific freight train in Nevada and has been viewed more than 1.3 million times on YouTube. In the video, the drone flies into an open boxcar, zips through a truss bridge and even under a moving freight car.

Federal Aviation Administration representatives tell Trains News Wire that if the pilot were a hobbyist (instead of a licensed, regulated, pilot), that person would still have to follow local community safety standards such as ones spelled out by the Academy of Model Aeronautics.

“(The rules state), 'All pilots shall avoid flying directly over unprotected people, vessels, vehicles or structures and shall avoid endangerment of life and property of others,'" says FAA representative Les Dorr. "A train would qualify as a 'vehicle.'"

Dorr also cites UP's drone policy which requires prior written permission from the railroad before a pilot may takeoff, land on, or fly over UP property.

In the second video posted in September, a group of graffiti artists repainted a stored UP locomotive to look like a growling tiger. The video on the Vimeo platform and dubbed “Rail Beast,” shows the artists working through the night slowly but surely covering the entire locomotive with paint. UP eventually had the locomotive moved from the storage line and painted in primer.

UP declined to comment on either video despite multiple requests from Trains News Wire.

However, officials from Operation Lifesaver worry that videos like the ones that gained traction online will only encourage others to trespass on railroad property.

“Railroad trespassing laws are in place to protect the private property of rail companies and keep citizens safe,” Bonnie Murphy, OLI President and CEO, tells Trains. “The two videos are examples of illegal trespassing on railroad property, whether via drone or for vandalism. They set a bad example, and seem intended to spur copycat efforts by other thrill-seekers.”

— R.G. Edmonson contributed to this report.

Rail Beast from Indecline on Vimeo.

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