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Walking near railroad tracks?

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I do not know about laws regarding walking along the railroad tracks, but I did have to walk along a scary stretch of tracks to find an Oklahoma Historical Marker last year. It was very scary since there were some areas where it was difficult to get out of the way!

I worried that if a train came and I was spotted, he'd be forced to stop, and I'd be in big trouble!

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A train can't stop like truck. It takes a loooong distance. A place like that probably also had short sight distances, anyway. You would have been in more than legal trouble.


It is generally illegal to trespass on RR property. In some open areas of the country this is not enforced much and people routinely get away with it. In other areas and on some RR lines, the enforcement is stringent.


Walking along the tracks is quite dangerous. If there is wind or traffic noise, people do get surprised by approaching trains and sometimes don't get off the tracks soon enough. Attempting to cross a bridge with no provision for pedestrians is particularly band and takes a few lives every year. Two kids died that way in our city a few years ago, and it wasn't a particularly long bridge.


Walking a long a fence line might be harder and might still get you in trouble, but you won't get hit.


Take your chances of getting caught if you want, but don't take chances where you will get killed.

Edited by Bill93
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Most of the benchmarks near me are along the railroad tracks....which I'm perfectly happy to look for, but I was curious if anyone knew the legality of doing that...??


If there are still trains running and "No Trespassing" signs up, you could get arrested and fined.


Try to find the person in charge of that railroad and get permission from them to go recover survey marks. You should get a piece of paper of some kind from the official that you talk to, for showing to anyone who might stop you. Better to be on the cautious side these days.



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As one of the resident railroad employees here, you can get in trouble for walking along tracks - they ARE private property - even if the state owns the ROW, it's leased to a private carrier.


Other various ramblings from me:


The ultimate worst - other than getting killed - is if a train crew sees you and has to put the train into Emergency - you could face Federal charges, for obstructing railroad operations.


IF you go out, wear a high-visibility vest, do *NOT* wear any iPod or MP3 player, and when you hear a train coming, get more than 20 feet from the rails. (Lading can slide unbeknown to the crew, and you really don't want to be pile-driven by a 2x4 traveling at 50Mph.)


The first train that passes you WILL report you to the dispatcher, and if you show respect, they will note that - you have a better chance of not getting the railroad police after you the more respect you give crews.


Do NOT walk in the gauge, on a rail, or between two mainlines.


Depending on land features, it is VERY possible that you will not hear the train until it's less than 10 seconds from you, possibly even less. (Thanks to the EPA and new emission laws, idling engines are now very quiet due to smog-reducing equipment. On a downhill slant, those engines are idling, and I'd hate to see anyone be surprised by an Alco.)


Do NOT climb on a signal, 'nuff said.


Do NOT walk on a switch. 90% of them are now automated, and it could move at any moment. If your foot's in the wrong area, you could lose it. Those things can crush rocks. Your foot means nothing to them.)


Do NOT climb on or under a car or locomotive. Just because it's been sitting there all day probably means that it WILL start moving as soon as you get on it. (Even when on a train crew, we have to clear with the engineer that we're going into the 'Red Zone', and the engineer has to assure us that the throttle's off and the reverse lever is in neutral.)


..Okay, this was my bi-yearly post on railroad safety. :) I'm happy now.

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Great advice above.


What I will say is on this topic is - it does seem to be regional. Growing up on Long Island - I was chased as a teen by the "railroad" police (though they never caught us!)


Now - living in WV - I can tell you enforcement of trespassing laws is basically zero. If they called the dispatcher about you being near the tracks - it would be days before someone would make it there......


I like the advice about being respectful. If you are looking for a benchmark and move away from the tracks when the train comes by - wave and smile - and you will get a wave and smile in return - and that will be that. Just my experience here in WV.

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The fine in my neck of the woods is $750.00.


Our local RR lines property line is 25 feet from the center of the tracks. I manage a building that sits 19 feet from the center of the tracks. :) Working on the structure gets interesting.


Foxtrot xray's advice is sound and appreciated. The points are good for all of us to remember.

Edited by TheBeanTeam
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Great advice above.


What I will say is on this topic is - it does seem to be regional. Growing up on Long Island - I was chased as a teen by the "railroad" police (though they never caught us!)


Now - living in WV - I can tell you enforcement of trespassing laws is basically zero. If they called the dispatcher about you being near the tracks - it would be days before someone would make it there......


I like the advice about being respectful. If you are looking for a benchmark and move away from the tracks when the train comes by - wave and smile - and you will get a wave and smile in return - and that will be that. Just my experience here in WV.


This is basically my experience here in Arizona.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that trains are not always as noisy as you might think, and can sneak up on you if you are not paying attention.

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The discussion about respect reminds me of a story a local train aficionado told me.


He was once carrying a camera and leaning on his parked car on what was obviously railroad property but a reasonable distance from the tracks. A couple young guys came along and started playing around or snooping around the boxcars on a siding.


After while somebody showed up in a RR truck and very sternly chased the young guys off the property. My friend was wondering if he should leave before he got arrested, but decided to just wait it out. The RR people never bothered him.


Even though the RR people call the guys with cameras FRNs or FTNs (as in railroad nuts or train nuts) they don't perceive them as a threat as long as they behave themselves.

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I recently hid a geocache under a tree marked as the edge of the 200' R/W of the UPRR mainline over the Cascades. The reviewer gave me a hard time because it was less than 150' from the nearest rail.

It would take me more than a minute to scramble up over the bank to the new rails.

I am considering putting a cache on top of a tunnel more than 150' from the mouth.

If you want to know what you should or should not do check out Operation Lifesaver.

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Well I have to ask.... if it's illegal to walk along the railroad tracks where I live, why would the city spend all that money to put a huge historical marker there for people to see? You HAVE to cross/walk on the tracks to get to it!

I DO understand the necessity to be extremely careful and use extraordinary judgment when in this situation, but I'm just saying.... the city put it there for people to VISIT!!


Maybe they did get permission from the RR so that people could come see the marker? I'm curious about that.

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Well I have to ask.... if it's illegal to walk along the railroad tracks where I live, why would the city spend all that money to put a huge historical marker there for people to see? You HAVE to cross/walk on the tracks to get to it!

I DO understand the necessity to be extremely careful and use extraordinary judgment when in this situation, but I'm just saying.... the city put it there for people to VISIT!!


Maybe they did get permission from the RR so that people could come see the marker? I'm curious about that.

Can't speak for every municipality or state, but in the two I have now worked in (Georgia/Maryland), any crossing is like an allowable path. I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know the terms, but that path sounds the same as a sidewalk or road across the tracks. You have permission to walk across the tracks while in that ROW. If you step off of the path/designated road/crossing ROW, then you're back to trespassing. (The ROW - right of way - can vary from crossing to crossing. In Georgia on my old line, for example, it was 10 feet beyond the sidewalks.)


As to who approves it - will vary depending on who actually owns the land the railroad is on. <shrug>

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Trespassing on a railroad’s private property and along railroad rights of way is the leading cause of rail-related fatalities in America. Nationally, approximately 500 trespassing deaths occur each year, the vast majority of which are preventable. Since 1997, more people have been killed while trespassing than as a result of motor vehicle collisions with trains at highway-rail grade crossings.

By definition, trespassers are on railroad property illegally without permission. They are most often pedestrians who walk across or along railroad tracks as a shortcut from one place to another, or they are engaged in loitering, hunting, dog walking, bicycling, or riding on all terrain vehicles, snowmobiles or even horseback.

Overall, the railroad operating environment is an inherently hazardous one for which railroad employees receive extensive safety awareness training. Trespassers do not have the benefit of this knowledge nor are they are aware of current and pending train movements, and by failing to properly use designated crossing locations such as highway-rail grade crossings and dedicated pedestrian access paths, are susceptible to life-threatening injuries or death.

In most states, trespassing is codified as a property crime and a general offense. A number of the states specifically forbid trespassing on railroad property.


Key Safety Tips to Avoid Becoming a Trespass Fatality Statistic:

Always expect a train! This is the most important thing to remember. Whether one is near a seemingly inactive rail line or at locations where there are multiple tracks, a train may approach very rapidly from any direction at any time.

Cross the tracks only at designated locations. Crossing tracks at any other place is illegal and puts you at risk of tripping or slipping on rails or ballast. There is no margin for error if a train is approaching.

Don't try to beat a train at a crossing. Detecting or accurately sensing the distance and speed of an approaching train is difficult if not impossible.

Don't stand close to railroad tracks. A train is at least three feet wider than the tracks on each side.

Don't ever walk along tracks, over rail bridges or in tunnels. There is often only enough clearance on bridges and tunnels to accommodate a train.

Don't climb on, over, under or in between moving or stationary rail cars. Even a freight car that is standing on a siding and isn't attached to a train can be dangerous.

Never try to hop or jump aboard a moving train; and don’t try to cross the tracks between cars of a stopped train because it may start moving at any moment.

For more information contact:

FRA Office of Public Affairs


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"Yeah, right! How can a freight train possibly sneak up on me without my hearing it?"


Out in the winding river canyon of the Deschutes, (Central Oregon), the freights coast through the corners without applying power and without breaking. The joints in the rails are welded and smooth so there's no "click/clack, click/clack" of the wheels running across the gaps in the joints.


Silent, and deadly. Whether or not it's lawful to access the property, you really need to pay attention on RR tracks. Seems obvious enough, but no one expects a freight train to "sneak up."

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This was a very sad story locally some years ago:


YORBA LINDA, CA — A police detective was killed by a freight train Wednesday while searching for a baseball bat believed to have been discarded near the railroad tracks after an attack, authorities said.


As another officer waved his arms and shouted a warning, Terry Lee Fincher, a 16-year department veteran, apparently took a step away from the approaching train, police said. But the 48-year-old detective was sucked into the side of the locomotive by the pressure of the passing train, which was moving downhill about 50 mph, Brea police investigator Bill Hudson said. Fincher was hurled down an embankment, where he was pronounced dead.


"It's such a shame that he was killed over a baseball bat," said Hudson, who had worked closely with Fincher. The accident occurred about 8:30 a.m. when Fincher and several other officers were searching the area near Esperanza Road and Hickory Drive. Hours earlier, police had arrested four young men on suspicion of following a couple from a bar and beating them with a bat near some railroad tracks. The detective had been combing a rocky area near the tracks with his back to the oncoming train, police said.


The train was just rounding a turn, and the view was partly obscured, said Mike Martin, spokesman for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Co. The train's crew spotted the detective walking on the tracks when the train was about a third of a mile away, Martin said. By the time crew members hit the brakes, they were about a sixth of a mile away, he said. "There's not a lot of time to react when you're traveling at around 75 feet per second," Martin said. Fincher stepped back when the conductor blew the horn and flashed the lights, Martin and police said. Although he stepped away, Fincher was pulled into the train by what engineers call the Bernoulli principle, the same phenomenon that causes a piece of paper thrown out of a fast-moving car to fly back toward the vehicle.


The train, with two engines pulling 19 cars, originated from Kansas City and was heading to Los Angeles. Because it was heading downhill, the train might have been less noisy than usual, Martin said.

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We had a similar incident here. The bridge over the railroad tracks was built in 1935. Depression Era project to eliminate grade crossings on the local railroads. We have 'bridge people' who spend the nights under bridges for protection. One cold night, they started a fire to keep warm. The fire department was called in to put out the fire. The fire engine was backing into place. BEEP BEEP BEEP. The Erie-Lackawanna was taken over by NJ Transit, which spent a lot of money upgrading the tracks. One no longer hears the 'Clickety-Clack'. They are very quiet now. A police officer was directing the fire engine. And was killed by the 10:45 pulling into the station. The new bridge is 'bridge people unfriendly'.

Railroad ROW varies considerably. Especially in an older state like New Jersey. It is not uncommon to find buildings within twenty feet of a railway. NYS&W does not run trains on weekends. Safer, but still probably illegal, to walk along their tracks. Though there are legal crossings.

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I am pretty sure the Bernoulli principal, as it applies to trains sucking people into them, was debunked on Mythbusters a few years ago. They noted turbulence but not enough to suck a person into a train.


The vortex from a passing train can suck a person onto the tracks.




Although small scale testing with model trains in a wind tunnel showed a vortex, the more dominant force when running the full size train was the air turbulence running alongside and away from the train. The force caused Ted, a dummy made of ballistics gel, to simply fall down where he stood rather than be drawn into the train’s wake, and also violently pushed around an empty stroller tethered onto the platform alongside. Despite the lack of suction, the MythBusters agreed that the turbulence was powerful enough in its own right to make standing that close to the train as it passes very dangerous.


Although they pretend to be fully scientific, the Mythbuster team tends to focus on one tactic and ignore others. I ended up only believing them partially. For one thing they didn't take a person's reaction into account at all. Also, they did the test at much below Acela speeds--I can believe that there is enough force to affect a person when a train is going 100+ mph, but I am not so sure about 50 mph.


I found one study that actually shows the pressures at various points when at train passes, but I don't know enough about air pressures to know if the measurements would matter to a person standing trackside. One thing that I can tell from the graphs in the report is that there is an initial POSITIVE pressure followed by a NEGATIVE pressure. In theory this would affect a person standing trackside by first pushing them AWAY from the train, then pulling them BACK to approximately the same spot they started from. This happens in 0.2 seconds, and is followed by a lighter negative pressure that, if it is strong enough (I don't know what the forces in the graphs translate to in terms of "person pulling power") could have some affect.


It seems odd to me that the detective didn't react when he heard the train's horn and I can't think of any reason for his lack of reaction other than him being deaf (and that seems unlikely). The train was traveling at 75 fps according to the railroad spokesman, which gave the detective 20 seconds to react after the train crew saw him at 1/4 mile and, I would hope, immediately blew a warning. Even after they started braking (at 1/6 mile) he would have had over 13 seconds remaining to get off the tracks. Maybe it was vertigo, the same thing that threatens to pull you off a cliff when you stand near it. Being close to a large moving object can do the same thing (although I tend to doubt that it would happen as quickly as it did--he hit the locomotive after all).


If you do go on the tracks, be very aware. No matter what you may believe to be the traffic level, always treat this particular set of tracks as if a train is due at any time, and assume it will be coming quietly and at high speed. A set of shiny tracks usually means frequent traffic. Tracks with a light coat of rust tell you there hasn't been a train in hours (typically the dew will put a light spotty coat of rust on tracks that sat unused overnight)--this means that the tracks ARE used and you can expect a train any minute. Old rusty tracks with pitted heads mean nothing has been by in months. If you know the tracks are abandoned, proceed without caution. If not, you should still assume a train could be along. It will most likely be going very slow and making a lot of noise though. (I have learned that I can sit trackside as a railfan waiting for hours to see just one train, but if I head up the tracks to find a benchmark I will almost guarantee one coming along within 15 minutes)!

Don't count on sound to warn you. As others said, trains can be very quiet, especially if they are heading downhill, or if the wind is in the opposite direction. Don't walk on the tracks if you can avoid it. Don't walk between the tracks EVER. If two trains pass where you are you will have no escape route. There are places where there is not enough room between two trains for you to fit.

In double track locations don't assume that the trains run one direction on one track and the other direction on the other. In the old days (up until the '80s on many lines) that was true, but modern signal systems allow trains to easily switch tracks to overtake a slower train or avoid track maintenance. It happens so often that you cannot even consider one track to have a normal direction.

Keep an escape route in mind at all times. If there is no clearance on one side of the tracks, walk on the other side to keep your options open. If there is no clearance on either side, find another way past the problem area!

If a train comes, get as far away from the tracks as you can. I try to get out of sight because, as someone else said here, if you are spotted, you are reported. This can mean as little as nothing if the train crew doesn't think you are a problem and if they are in a good mood, or if there are no railroad police nearby, up to a fine or arrest if there is someone close enough to get to you quickly. If you can't get out of sight, look innocent (you ARE innocent aren't you?) and wave pleasantly. Then hope.


I have hunted along miles of railroad tracks. In only two situations did I feel unsafe, mostly because I couldn't follow my own guidelines. In one I was beneath a small bridge looking for a chiseled shelf, and by "looking" I mean hammering grout off the rocks to confirm what I thought was the mark. There was zero clearance where I was standing, little visibility to the north, and a drainage ditch across the tracks. I had nowhere to stand if a train came by so my plan was to A) run to a steep hillside beside the bridge and lay down on it, or :laughing: jump in the drainage ditch. I had good visibility to the south and there was a grade crossing there so I knew I would hear a train from the south long before I saw it (small consolation). It was the north that concerned me. I managed to find the mark but was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs the entire time, looking up and down the tracks every 10 seconds or so and perking up like a meerkat at every sound--it was a nice day and lots of people seemed to be out on their Harleys, making suspiciously train-like sounds. I had no sooner found the mark and walked back up the tracks (along 100 feet of unscalable stone wall) when a train came from the north at about 40 mph, much faster than I had anticipated. I was off the tracks less than 30 seconds when this happened! Had I been under the bridge I would have had to use one of my escape routes.

The second time was when I walked a half mile along Amtrak tracks east of Lancaster. This is the home of Amtrak's Keystone trains and they hit about 100 mph along this stretch. In addition, they are electric, and never make any appreciable noise. I figured the most warning I would get would be about 10 seconds, most likely less, so I kept a good eye out in both directions. To add to the stress I HAD to walk on the tracks. The roadbed sloped of steeply and at the bottom of the ballast was a steep hillside covered in 3 foot high weeds. Again, my plan was to dive into the weeds if necessary and deal with the consequences later. Luckily no trains came along during my time on the tracks so I didn't have to use my well formed (but poorly considered, I would say) plan. The bench mark itself was well off the tracks on a bridge abutment, so there was no danger when I had to dig it out.

Because I was being vigilant both times I was never in any real danger, but I could have ended up looking pretty stupid, lying in a foot of stagnant water or a patch of weeds.


I would have to say that if you have ANY doubts about walking along the tracks and the possible consequences, stay off them. If you feel confident enough to venture onto such territory, make sure you keep safe.


Edited because I spent all afternoon writing it while doing other things and lost track of some of what I was saying!

Edited by mloser
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Because I was being vigilant both times I was never in any real danger, but I could have ended up looking pretty stupid, lying in a foot of stagnant water or a patch of weeds.



Better looking pretty stupid that dead or maimed.


There are many anecdotal stories that prove the importance of this topic.


Here is another one. Unfortunately this pair took it to another level and were sunbathing on a live track. Makes me shudder to think.


I have trained my almost eight year old boy so well on respecting trains and tracks that he almost refused to walk down an abandoned line with me last year in search of a benchmark. He also points out when others are not being careful enough along RR right of ways.

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I certainly am not suggesting that anyone follow my lead! And yes, stupid trumps dead.


I recall walking to (TO, not across) a bridge to find a survey mark on a fairly busy mainline to find about 10 people fishing from the bridge. Most had chairs set up in the middle of the tracks, bait buckets, coolers, fishing poles and all sorts of stuff spread out all over the tracks. I am pretty sure they were fairly savvy about what they were doing and visibility was good in both directions, but have to admit the thought of them scattering and leaving their stuff to be run over amused me. They were likely locals and knew the "schedule" of trains in the area. Others along that line seemed to know the standard running schedule very well, telling me that trains didn't run much during the days on Saturdays, but there were quite a few in the evenings and nights.

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You not only have to worry about getting hit by a train but also something that can fall off a train. Up here the trains carry logs and iron ore. The tracks are riddled with iron ore pellets which are like marbles and make walking difficult. I have seen logs laying along the RR grades also.


Once many years ago we were mapping for a new overpass along US Hwy 2 (over the rr). We had to map the rails and rail ROW for 1000 ft in each direction of the new C/L for the new overpass. One day we were taking elevations along the RR when a train came. So Earl and I stepped off the rails. It was a long train so we sat down on a log. We were on the inside of a very long curve (approx. mile) and about 20 ft off the track, near the base of the cut slope up. As we were sitting there it dawned on me the log we were sitting had fallen off the train car in past and we were in a dangerous area to be taking a break considering all the cars on this train had logs on them stacked at right angles to the train cars.


So while you may think you are safe from the train, something on the train could still hurt you.


Btw-Our jobs, surveying in the middle of highways, over rivers and along rr's was not considered hazardous work by civil service.

Edited by Z15
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So while you may think you are safe from the train, something on the train could still hurt you.

..Exactly, like I said earlier - loads can shift. The biggest culprits are usually lumber (center-frame) cars - those 2x4 and plywood sheets can come loose, and can stick out from the car by 10-20 feet, trimming anything it hits.


When I was in Georgia, we used to lose more than a few signals due to 2x4's and 4x4's hanging off from cars. :)

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Very good points. And another reason I get well off the right of way when a train comes by. If the area is clear I will head 30 or more feet away, both for safety and to look innocent to the train crew. If I am hemmed in a bit I will climb a hillside, down or up (I prefer up because stuff doesn't usually "fall" up) and wait until the train has passed.


I guess I should break out my old scanner and try to figure out where the dragging equipment detectors and hotbox detectors are in my area.

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I was out a little while back, checking on the status of a couple of benchmarks at an I-10 exit (they're doing construction nearby, so was hoping these would be safe. One of them is second oldest in Pima county ) There is a lot of state trust land out there, and a few dirt roads taking off from the exit. I was on the "wrong" side of the fence :blink: and saw a white truck with a logo on the door pull up near the gate I was about to pass through. Uh-ooh. Yup, a Union Pacific truck. He asked it I was part of the construction crew, I told him no, I was just here checking out the historic benchmarks. He said," oh, ok, just be careful, we got one (a train) coming through soon. " Then he drove off.


Of course, a diffent day different person might have ended differently :(

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Getting permission is absolutely the best way to go, and sometimes even with it you can get called in. I work for a Pipeline company that has a legal ROW along a rail in a large Texas city. We were mowing the ROW and had permission to be there, but the first rail safety officer that came along didn't know about us being there and all He** broke loose. If we hadn't told them beforehand we were going to be there, even though we have a deeded ROW, we could have been fined $10,000 a day for the trespass!! Luckily we got it straightened out and we finished our job, but they watched every thing we did the rest of the week on that ROW. The magic number we came up with from them was 50' from the center of the track, even with permission! The thing you have to remember is that several of those engineers on those trains have hit cars or something else and they do not want to do it again, so if they see someone or something near the tracks they hit the brakes, and then you will be in deep kimche!!!

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You had the benefit of having a real reason to be near the tracks. I doubt any of us hobbyist folk will get permission from the bigger railroads (or ANY railroad with any sense) to be on their property. They simply don't want the hassle of cleaning up your mangled body, or the legal issues. Most companies realize that even if you sign a waiver of liability you can, and may, still sue them if you do something stupid and get injured, resulting in legal costs, bad publicity and time wasted for them.


If you don't like skulking about you may want to just pass on railroad benchmarks.

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Bear in mind that while they may be abandoned, someone still owns them. The laws differ by state and possibly locality, and sometimes are interpreted differently. One person told me that the abandoned rail line that went through his property reverted to his ownership by some default law, but had no other proof of that (I wasn't concerned about actual ownership, since it was his implied ownership I was asking to access). You may walk up what you think is an abandoned rail line just to find that an adjacent property owner believes it to be his property. Although I am probably the person here most likely to disregard trespass laws when it comes to railroads, when I see an abandoned line (one without tracks), I try to find an adjacent property owner to see how he feels about me walking along it. (note that when I say "he" I mean "he/she" but just get tired of typing that. We need a unisex pronoun!)

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The actual laws on ownership of abandoned RR land are indeed complex and vary. I have a guide written by the Iowa DOT which breaks down the situations according to when the land was taken for RR use, the wording when it was taken, the year of abandonment, and other factors. I get lost trying to read it. Sometimes the adjacent land owners get it, sometimes the RR can sell it, and sometimes it gets turned into a rec trail. And there have been a lot of court cases, some of which are not consistent.


So Matt has it right, get the approval of somebody nearby and hope there isn't a war going on between neighbors.

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I am not sure about exact terminology - but....... here in the Charleston WV area they recently announced a very old and historic line would be revitalized and used again sometime soon. So... what looks like "abandon" track isn't really - its just that its been unused SO long that surrounding property owners figure it will never be used again and therefore they can build on it. Rude awakening about to occur!


Like i have said before - i really think this has to do with where you live - here in WV there is ZERO trespassing enforcement. All tracks that are unused are walked by everybody and anybody and in use tracks are walked to - with great caution. If I was still on Long Island (where I grew up) my feelings would be MUCH diferent.


Bottom line for the rural south is - go looking for the marks - don't bother with getting permission - and if you see an engineer as they pass on by simple smile and wave - you will get the same in return - a split second later you will have been forgoten - then you can keep on walking and hunting.

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Here in the Boston area, the MBTA, which oversees the old B&M track network, is getting much more active in hunting down and chasing off folks who stray onto their property. When I started off, three years ago, I was attracted to the near-RR marks, particularly since these include a lot of the not-seen-since-the-1920s variety. I recovered a dozen or so, but more and more often got intercepted by MBTA track guards riding the rails in p/u trucks with RR wheels attached. I believe they were alerted by train crews that spotted me along the tracks (wearing my safety vest...which does nothing to protect me there but is very effective at alerting the crew to my presence). I was even run off from a position 50' from a gated (and belled) crossing in a nearby suburb, where I was rooting in the ballast about 10' off the nearest rail.


We've recently had a rash of commuters and kids who have been killed in encounters with trains here, and a few more who have jumped to their death in front of Amtrak and commuter trains. This seems to have sensitized MBTA personnel.


In my youth :) I went out and recovered a couple in somewhat narrow cuts along active tracks. I now believe this was dumb, and regret the folly of my ways. (See load-shifting comment above.)


We do have a number of abandoned track beds, however, and these have been fascinating to hunt along, yielding a number of 1920's-era marks. These are often quite hard to find, since many of them are now deep in the woods, referenced structures are long gone, and things like overpasses have disappeared as well (filled in and planted over).

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