I don't know about the blurry part for the first photo, but back when I was trying to get shots onto RP, one of the big things that I was told was that RP likes to have the whole train in the photo or to have something between the the edge of the photo and the end of the visible part of the train. For example, the train is rounding a curve and you get the front half of the train, but the other half (or 2/3s, etc) is behind the visible part of the train, leaving room for scenery in the photo on both sides of the train.
Something else I've noticed as well, outside of the things RP has done to boost their site appeal (i.e. NS' Heritage units) even though most of their content features trains, the trains aren't the only thing in the photo. Usually there are other elements to the scene. While the obvious point of taking the picture is the train, the train is supported by the other objects. Kind of like Y@'s shot of the Farmall (sp?) tractors he posted this week (in the Illinois forum, IIRC), where there was potential for a decent shot already with just the tractors, but by waiting until the train was in the image as well, it really set off what would have been an average photo of some obsolete farm equipment, making it RP worthy. Forgetting the RP thing, it was a really cool picture anyway.