Too often railway photographers seek ‘calendar lighting’, (over the shoulder three-quarter (morning or afternoon) sun, with a minimum of shadows, diffusion, or other natural lighting effects).
There’s nothing wrong with these classic conditions, but when applied repetitively in exclusion to other types of lighting it can result in a predictable body of work. Formulaic is a term that comes to mind.
Consider cross lighting; when the sun illuminates from an angle opposite the subject, yet not in the photo. This offers bright light on the front of the subject, but shadows on the side creating a more dramatic angle.
This effect can be tempered when the lighting is low, diffused (by clouds, mist or pollution) and/or when bright foreground (such as snow) reflects light into shadow areas.
I made this cross-lit view on the New England Central at Stateline Summit in late afternoon. Notice my use of foreground.
Tracking the Light Posts Daily!