How wide is a railroad right-of-way?

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How wide is a railroad right-of-way?

Unread postby mikekmac » Fri May 16, 2008 5:24 pm

Reading about CN's crackdown on trespassers, I found myself wondering--and unable to readily find an answer Googling--if there's anything like a standard railroad right-of-way.

Obviously when there's a fence with a sign that says "CSX Property--No Trespassing" you know where the line is. And just as obviously the answer would vary depending on the facilities present

But in this area, there's a lot of public land adjoining railroad rights-of-way--not just at crossings, but long stretches of parkland, wild & nature preserves, etc. In such areas there's no clear delineation of the boundary that changes railwatcher into trespasser, and I often have no idea which side of the line I'm on. BNSF's Citizens for Railroad Security says 'stay 15 feet from the nearest rail,' but that's not quite on point (and of course the toe-line in many stations is about 4 feet back from the rail at best).
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Unread postby trainjunkie47 » Fri May 16, 2008 5:45 pm

TITLE 43 > CHAPTER 22 > § 934

Right of way through public lands granted to railroads.

The right of way through the public lands of the United States is granted to any railroad company duly organized under the laws of any State or Territory, except the District of Columbia, or by the Congress of the United States, which shall have filed with the Secretary of the Interior a copy of its articles of incorporation, and due proofs of its organization under the same, to the extent of one hundred feet on each side of the central line of said road; also the right to take, from the public lands adjacent to the line of said road, material, earth, stone, and timber necessary for the construction of said railroad; also ground adjacent to such right of way for station buildings, depots, machine shops, side tracks, turnouts, and water stations, not to exceed in amount twenty acres for each station, to the extent of one station for each ten miles of its road.
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Unread postby mikekmac » Sat May 17, 2008 12:27 am

I should have been more precise in forming the question. My bad.

The "public land" I'm alluding to isn't Federal land, it's township land--local parks, etc. No way the right-of-way is 100 feet to either side of the mainline--at one such spot, I'd be trespassing just sitting in my car on the other side of the basketball court. It has to be more like 15, 20 feet on this side, somewhat more on the other (this section used to be double-track).

A 100-foot-from-centerline right-of-way is one thing when you're building the Union Pacific through uninhabited Nebraska. Here, it would mean the railroads could build right through a lot of back yards (including my ex-wife's), offices, fast food restaurants, convenience stores...

Contradictions abound. There's a convenience store across the tracks from the East Lansing Amtrak/Greyhound station. Waiting passengers and even station employees cross the tracks there all the time to get coffee or a donut. No doubt it's trespassing, but they'll never enforce it.

However, five or six hundred feet west is the Trowbridge Diamond. Cross the tracks there to get the sun behind you for a better photo, and I suspect your risk of an arrest is somewhere above zero.

I just wish the lines were more clearly and consistently drawn. I hate the looking-over-my-shoulder feeling. I'm out there to relax as much as for anything.

-Mike-
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Unread postby trainjunkie47 » Sat May 17, 2008 12:34 am

I thought about that after I made the post, myself.

It all depends on the person. Some rail cops and train crews figure if they can see you, you're trespassing. (Yard Foreman at CSX Stanley Yard and CN cops in Port Huron are good examples of this.)
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Unread postby intocable83 » Fri Jun 13, 2008 2:06 pm

I've even seen Amtrak conductors walk over to that Quality Dairy if the train is early. :) Does that count as trespassing too? lol
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Unread postby leo28150 » Fri Jun 13, 2008 3:54 pm

:wink: :wink: I hear the ice cream is good there....
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Unread postby GTW6401 » Fri Jun 13, 2008 9:00 pm

The Egg Nog is also good...depending on the season.
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Unread postby Kartracer » Sat Jun 14, 2008 11:24 am

I had the guys from the CP get off and walk over to the bar across the tracks from my house to get a burger. The bridge in St. Joseph was out of commission and they had time to waste.

I would have to measure how far my property line is from the tracks. I do have a lifetime lease of the railroad right-of-way up to the tracks for "landscaping and beautification purposes" or something like that on my deed.
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Unread postby Justin » Mon Jun 16, 2008 9:37 am

I have been told that it is 25 feet either way from the tracks. Looking at this number it is about the distance between the rails to the telegraph poles if they are still along the tracks. However I don't think this applies to the rails in Bay City as there are houses that are this distance themselves away from the tracks and peoples yards come right up to the tracks. I some areas of town the tracks are pretty much in peoples front yards.
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Unread postby Raildudes dad » Wed Jun 18, 2008 11:30 pm

"Typical" RR row is 100 feet wide, centered about the center of the track. Having said that there are exceptions. The GT Durand to Muskegon is 100 feet, but split 60 / 40 for a second main line (they planned way ahead back in 1850's 60's :lol: ). Some places (very few) are 50 feet even 25 depending on what they could buy at the time. Land grant ROW is 100 feet.
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Unread postby tsinoms » Wed Jun 18, 2008 11:54 pm

Kartracer wrote:I had the guys from the CP get off and walk over to the bar across the tracks from my house to get a burger. The bridge in St. Joseph was out of commission and they had time to waste.

I would have to measure how far my property line is from the tracks. I do have a lifetime lease of the railroad right-of-way up to the tracks for "landscaping and beautification purposes" or something like that on my deed.

They also stop at the Silver Beach Pizza...... If the bridge has problems or they just need lunch they go there. Good food there. You agree steve?
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