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the_hogman

Newbie needs help wth railroad references

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As a newbie to benchmark hunting, I have the basic of all questions and can't seem to find answers by searching the forum.

Most of the benchmarks in my area are in some way referenced to a railroad track. Although the owners (names) of the railroads have probably changed, they are still there with new welded rails.

 

My questions:

 

Do you measure from the center of the railroad or from the nearest rail to the benchmark?

 

What do you do if the description counts the rails if it is a welded rail now?

 

What if the description counts the poles but they are basically non-existant now?

 

Thanks on advance for your thoughts and help!!

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My expereince finding benchamarks related to RR is limited. However RR in general is a tough thing. They didn't mark their land all that well, the tracks may not be on the centerline of the ROW and so on.

 

RR can be difficulty even if you hire a surveyor. Extra challenge for you. Wish I could help more.

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As a newbie to benchmark hunting, I have the basic of all questions and can't seem to find answers by searching the forum.

Most of the benchmarks in my area are in some way referenced to a railroad track. Although the owners (names) of the railroads have probably changed, they are still there with new welded rails.

 

My questions:

 

Do you measure from the center of the railroad or from the nearest rail to the benchmark?

 

What do you do if the description counts the rails if it is a welded rail now?

 

What if the description counts the poles but they are basically non-existant now?

 

Thanks on advance for your thoughts and help!!

1) Descriptions I have seen almost always say which rail. For example for LX1097:

IN THE TOP OF THE NORTH CORNER OF AN ABANDONED SIGNAL BASE, 9 FEET NORTHWEST OF NORTHWEST RAIL OF NORTHWEST TRACK

 

2) use 39 feet per rail, that was the most common standard.

 

3) can't help you there, except to say around here they seem to leave the old poles up long after they stopped using them.

 

Watch out for RR police. They are pretty strict, and will (practically) never give permission to enter the Right of way.

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When it comes to railroads, the bridges are the easiest. Disks on culverts, tunnels, and signal bases can usually be found. Those set in rock outcrops and concrete especially those below track level are tough. Most of the ones around here were set a long time ago and there has been a lot of erosion and ballast built up over the years.

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What they said!

And an additional challenge is that the mileposts may have been updated (moved) since the mark was monumented, be wary of them.

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Poles were set on some standard distance that may vary by RR. I think 40 poles to the mile (132 ft) was very common, but some places may have used 48 to the mile or another number.

 

Holograph's wiki glossary points to good information that includes these facts.

 

This distance can be confirmed even if there are only a few poles remaining and applied to the whole line in an area. That solves the problem of "x poles from the station" if you can estimate where the station was. Be aware that sometimes they may have counted extra poles put in at the station or a bend.

 

As pointed out to use the milepost numbers, you need to find some data sheet that has an unmistakable point such as a bridge and check whether the milepost numbering remains the same.

Edited by Bill93

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I am a railroad employee, and like I've said in other topics - BE CAREFUL when looking for marks on or near tracks! I can NOT stress safety enough. I've seen too many unpleasant accidents that could have been avoided by simple thinking.

 

(In fact - quick and recent story - A few days ago the office got a call from a conductor, stating that they 'almost ran over a construction worker'. Not knowing what was going on (we had no maintenance crews in that area) my boss went over there to check it out. Seems that a maintenance guy for a building that backs up onto our property was doing his 'round' and was walking down our track, listening to music. He couldn't hear our train coming up behind him.)

 

As for the poles - the 'standard distance' may be true out in flat-land, but here in the southeast, poles went in when they were needed. Some of our poles are left - many are not. None are numbered anymore. :D

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Most descriptions I've seen either reference a specific rail, like the one you posted, or the center line:

 

RK0171'AT PLAINS, MARQUETTE COUNTY, 30 YARDS NORTHWEST OF THE CHICAGO

RK0171'AND NORTH WESTERN RAILWAWY STATION SIGN, 22 FEET SOUTHEAST

RK0171'OF COUNTY ROAD 553 CROSSING THE TRACK, 46 FEET NORTHEAST OF THE

RK0171'CENTERLINE OF THE TRACK, AND 7.3 FEET NORTH OF A POLE. A

RK0171'STANDARD DISK, STAMPED ELEV 1163.357 FT. E 22 1917 AND SET

RK0171'IN THE TOP OF A CONCRETE POST FLUSH WITH THE GROUND.

 

I would agree with everything that's been posted above. Only tip I would add on poles would be that sometimes if the poles have been removed, I've seen them cut off just above ground level rather than pulled out of the ground. Check for "pole stumps." :)

 

Oh, and yes. Sometimes poles are left intact LONG after a railroad has been abandoned. Check out this recovery I made last year: RL0013.

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All of the above is excellent info. I am happy to say that I would be in a rural setting and know too well the dangers of the RR being the country boy that I am. Thanks for the concerns and help in getting started. The benchmarks I am interested in finding are described as 100+ feet from the tracks as it is.

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"2) use 39 feet per rail, that was the most common standard."

 

any explanation on this would be greatly appreciated, as I have seen references to rail distances and have never really understood it (such as "10 rails from the station" etc.)

 

Thanks.

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Someone posted this long time ago and I keep it.

 

The most common length for segmented rail is 39 feet.

The reason? It had to fit onto 40' rail cars for transport.

 

If you're pre-1900, 31 feet was popular because it fit on the early 33' rail cars.

 

Of course, other sizes were seen, it was far from a "standard" thing.

Edited by Z15

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My expereince finding benchamarks related to RR is limited. However RR in general is a tough thing. They didn't mark their land all that well, the tracks may not be on the centerline of the ROW and so on.

 

RR can be difficulty even if you hire a surveyor. Extra challenge for you. Wish I could help more.

 

Wow, thanks for the information, I specifically was searching for RR marks because I figured they were easier because they were places that usually haven't been moved or destroyed.

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As a newbie to benchmark hunting, I have the basic of all questions and can't seem to find answers by searching the forum.

Most of the benchmarks in my area are in some way referenced to a railroad track. Although the owners (names) of the railroads have probably changed, they are still there with new welded rails.

 

My questions:

 

Do you measure from the center of the railroad or from the nearest rail to the benchmark?

 

What do you do if the description counts the rails if it is a welded rail now?

 

What if the description counts the poles but they are basically non-existant now?

 

Thanks on advance for your thoughts and help!!

1) Descriptions I have seen almost always say which rail. For example for LX1097:

IN THE TOP OF THE NORTH CORNER OF AN ABANDONED SIGNAL BASE, 9 FEET NORTHWEST OF NORTHWEST RAIL OF NORTHWEST TRACK

 

2) use 39 feet per rail, that was the most common standard.

 

3) can't help you there, except to say around here they seem to leave the old poles up long after they stopped using them.

 

Watch out for RR police. They are pretty strict, and will (practically) never give permission to enter the Right of way.

 

Is it legal to be searching for benchmarks on the rail? I was told it was a felony, but then I read somewhere that it is only a felony if you are trying to deface property or whatever.

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Watch out for RR police. They are pretty strict, and will (practically) never give permission to enter the Right of way.

 

Is it legal to be searching for benchmarks on the rail? I was told it was a felony, but then I read somewhere that it is only a felony if you are trying to deface property or whatever.

You're on your own with that question. I'm no lawyer. I just try to be careful.

 

Today I was looking for marks off to the side of a RR, and not one but two cars drove along the Right-of-way (probably involved in with construction). Both waved at me!

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Is it legal to be searching for benchmarks on the rail? I was told it was a felony, but then I read somewhere that it is only a felony if you are trying to deface property or whatever.

 

It is always trespassing, so in that sense it is never legal. The consequences vary by state. In some states, trespassing on railroad property is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine, in other states the law can be quite draconian, resulting in prison time and felony on your record.

 

A short summary of laws is here. As with other information on the web, it is hard to tell how up to date or complete that table is. Using the web for legal advice is a particularly bad idea, in my opinion.

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Is it legal to be searching for benchmarks on the rail? I was told it was a felony, but then I read somewhere that it is only a felony if you are trying to deface property or whatever.

The short, non-legal answer is this: No, it's not legal unless you have permission from the railroad to be there. ROW sizes vary, but it's good practice that ROW extende from the rails out an additional 75 feet on either side of the tacks(s). (This isn't always the case, of cvourse, but to be safe, assume it's 75 feet.) It's trespassing, so it wouldn't be a felony, *UNLESS* - You interfere with the movement of any train or MOW (maintenance) vehicle. This is true regardless of whether or not the railroad is interstate or local.

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