• Walking along, not on, the tracks?

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by lateralus
Hi guys,

I'm a newbie to this board but I have a question for railroad employees and I figured I would go to the source. I just moved back home for a job (Northern NY) and I was telling my girlfriend about this swimming hole I used to go to as a kid. Unfortunately, the land surrounding it is all grown up with shrubs and all sorts of stuff I don't want to walk through. Luckily there is a single-track railway that passes less than 50 yards from it. My question is about the legality of using the path to get to the swimming hole. Obviously I wouldn't walk on the tracks, thats just plain idiotic IMO, but rather use the cleared area next to the tracks. I live out in the boonies, the nearest town is 10 miles away. Any reservations against strolling alongside the tracks? Any info would be helpful.

  by Otto Vondrak
Railroads technically own a right of way that extends anywhere from 10 to 20 to 50 feet in either direction from the tracks, so even walking along the railroad could be construed as trespassing.


  by Lehighton_Man
Yes, but if your on the daring side, its somewhat alright to walk along if your quick, and get to your destination without being noticed. Also, depending on the Rail Line, that might affect your liability. If its like NS or CSX, then yor S.O.L.
If its a Shortline, then your fine, just time your walk to this swimming hole when the train isnt going by.

I'm with lehighton Man here. Be sure to pick up anything that looks valuable to sell later, too. As long as no one's noticing you, that is. You might even carry this into all aspects of life, climbing over fences, walking into houses, crawling through open windows, "borrowing' cars, with the keys in them, taking things you "find" abandoned in peoples yards. (as long as no one notices you) . you get the picture, right? On second thought, maybe this would be a BAD idea.......... :(

  by Gadfly
I dunno...................................... ROW's are not public 'highways". Some railroads react very sternly to people trespassing on their property. In the 90's when I was still working, Norfolk Southern told us to report ANY trespassers or "hobos" immediately, and the railroad dicks would respond. Maybe some aren't so severe, I can't tell ya.

NS had some good reasons for this after a young boy was killed because he went out onto a trestle and got caught out there with nowhere to go. A news magazine program went for the jugular with a bleeding heart "they-oughta-be-sued-into-oblivion" show that failed to mention that the tragic death was the child's own fault because the trestle was marked clearly with "DANGER! NO TRESPASSING" signs. The parents were after blood---anybody's blood, and the news reporters were more than willing to make hay with this event.

Prior to this event, NS had been pretty lenient with walkers and trespassers. After that program, NS flew into a rage and ordered employees to report, detain, deter, or arrest (NS railroad cops) ANY one found on the ROW without permission NO exception! It made it pretty rough on railfans as well as NS took a very grumpy (or snotty) attitude towards trespassers. In one sense, I can't blame them; that program even ticked off many regular agreement employees! Nobody liked that network after that, vowing to forgo their programs, etc.

The bottom line is, while YOU may mean no harm, the railroad doesn't KNOW that and can't identify someone who might damage, steal, or sabotage RR property. They really don't want you ON their property if no other reason that you might fall down and try to sue the company even tho the injury was the result of your OWN negligence! Here's ONE railroader that RESENTS that! :( It's like the driver that drives around the down crossing gates and gets hit by a train. THEN he sues the railroad for "gross negligence"---and WINS from a bunch of snot-nosed bleeding heart IDIOTS. Hey, I'm sorry he got hurt, but he doesn't deserve a DIME!!!!!!!!!!!! It's called "PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY"!

Finally, put the shoe on the other foot: how would YOU like it if I trespassed on YOUR property, fell down and then sued YOU? THAT'S how (and why) the railroad feels and doesn't want you prowling around on their property!! That property likely extends quite a distance from the tracks themselves!

  by RussNelson
lateralus wrote:Any reservations against strolling alongside the tracks?
Beside the obvious (one would think) risk of being hit by a train, the less obvious risk of being arrested for trespassing (typical ROW is 66' wide, that's 33' on each side, so assume that the entire cleared area belongs to the railroad), there's the less likely risk of being mangled by a loose chain or strapping being dragged by the train. There's a mile marker a hundred feet north of the CSX intersection with Pleasant Valley Rd. north of Potsdam, and the mile marker has a 3" notch torn from the bottom of it. It's concrete. Whatever did that could also do something undesirable to your body as well.

Realistically, in the boonies, with only a few trains a day, you're safe enough and not likely to get caught. More than three or four trains a day, and you really should stay away.

  by BR&P
Sean, whatever "points" you had started accumulating by trying to get involved just went out the window with that post. You have a SERIOUS problem with posting ideas you know nothing about. I suggest you lay low and try to learn some things, the first of which is that responsible fans respect private railroad property. There are some out there who do NOT, and find themselves shunned and ostracized by the responsible ones. It's the ones who feel it's "no problem" to trespass who make it hard on those who do the right thing. And I'm sure many others on here will tell you the same thing.

  by RussNelson
lateralus seems not to be a railfan ... rather somebody who is looking for the facts on the risks of trespassing. He suspects he's going to be trespassing (which is why he's asking rather than just doing it), and he *knows* to stay off the tracks. If we told him "stay off all ROWs all the time" we would be misleading him, because we know people don't do that. Can we just give him accurate information and let him make his decision and take his risks?

I did give him the right info. It is a bad idea, to trespass, whether it's one train a day, or one hundred. If your gonna break the law, why come here, and give yourself up? There's no excuse for justifying someone's illegal behavior. If he's gonna do it, that's his problem. Don't encourage that type of behavior. (in the real world, we all know the "real deal".) Just my .02 cents..... :(

  by BR&P
"Accurate information" regarding whether he will get hit by a train? If he can't see or hear one coming, we can't help him here.

And what Lehighton Kid posted is certainly NOT accurate information. It's "somewhat alright" to walk along quickly? Trespassing - "depending on the rail line, that might affect your liability"?

The fact is that railroads wage a constant (and usually losing) battle to keep people off their property. In spite of their efforts, each year people are killed and hurt taking shortcuts along and across railroad property. The survivors frequently sue the railroads claiming somehow it's the company's fault that they were someplace they should not have been.

And in today's world, railroads also have to be concerned with homeland security. The person walking along the tracks HAS to be viewed not as the guy talking a shortcut to a swimming hole (which he 99.99% probably is) but as a possible terrorist looking for a way to do damage.

Two ways railfans can help the railroads is first by being responsible themselves, and second by spreading the word to those who may not be aware, be they fellow fans or John Q. Public inquiring about swimming hole access.

(PS - wonder who owns the property that the swimming hole is on? It's possible the increase of litigation has changed their mind about allowing people to swim there)

  by UPRR engineer
Otto Vondrak wrote:Railroads technically own a right of way that extends anywhere from 10 to 20 to 50 feet in either direction from the tracks, so even walking along the railroad could be construed as trespassing.

Theres your answer there buddy. Dont do it.