The company that owns an unused rail line in Cape Breton has taken an interest in photography, but apparently only to warn locals not to get too close to the tracks to take selfies.

The issue has hit a nerve with the Scotia Rail Development Society, which has sponsored a selfie contest to raise awareness of the importance of the line to the future of the island.

​Co-chair Patricia Morrison said the contest asked people to take photos with the abandoned line in the background, although the group's website, Facebook page and an ad in the local newspaper said "near abandoned rails."

That caught the attention of the rail line's owner, Genesee and Wyoming Inc. A junior communications advisor, Claudine Bois, sent a letter reminding the volunteer group it's very dangerous and illegal to trespass on railway property.

"An abandoned line doesn't mean there is absolutely no activity on it," Blois told CBC. She said it could have a locomotive or inspection equipment on it.

Bois wanted the warning included in the society's contest information. "It's all about safety," she said.

'Ironic'

Freight hasn't moved on the line for some time. Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway, a subsidiary of Genesee and Wyoming, has received Utility and Review Board approval to abandon it after arguing it's unprofitable. 

Morrison took offence to the company's warning for shutterbugs, and accuses the company of "marking its territory." 

"It was a simple contest to create awareness," she said.

Society co-chair Greg MacLeod finds it ironic, given there are no trains running on the line.

"We would be very happy, if there were trains running, to keep clear of the whole thing," he said.

Morrison said the rail company's letter came too late to change the contest. A winner will be awarded on Sunday.

MacLeod plans to ask his group to set up a legal fund just in case Genesee and Wyoming sues anyone who may have strayed too close to the abandoned rail line for the contest.