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    Railroads

    So a coworker and I are floating the possibility of commuting to work on a mostly disused railroad track. Not on the track itself, mind, but next to it in the dirt. We were wondering if there's any experience out there about doing this, trains only come by once a week if that, so I wouldn't think it would be dangerous, anyone know if the railroad considers that trespassing enough to do something about it? The easement alonside the track goes through orchards, so it's much preferable to riding next to traffice, in my opinion at least. Any problems we need to think about before we try it?
    Thanks.

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    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    The railroads do consider it tresspassing. Once upon a time they might have looked the other way, but in todays so sue world they maight not. Also because of fruit theft many orchards take a hard line. Also there have been some cases of disease being transfered to trees with disasterous results for the orchard owner. So if you do stay on the hard pack near the tracks and away from the trees.

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    I'd check into whether the easement is a public right of way. Easy enough to do at your county records office.

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    it's only a crime if they catch you. but, as many chronic shoplifters learn: the more often you do something the more likely it is that you will be caught.

    that being said, if there are no posted signs then really all they can do is complain.

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    Lately I have been taking a route along side a railroad track, right thru a station mind you. The railroad bulls that have seen me just wave to me. This route keeps me off my most dangerous part of my commute. I figure that just by my dress alone they figure I'm not up to anything harmful, just taking a shortcut. If they acost me I'll understand and apologize to them. But so far so good.

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    I see people building fires and putting up tents along the heavily travelled set of rr tracks I cross over on a bridge. Seems like the rr either doesn't care enough to do anything, or lacks the power to do anything. Go for it. As americans we allow people to tread on our rights of way far to often. Particularly grevious are landowners with water front property who try to control access, but I think large tracts of rr right of way should be (if they aren't already) in the public domain.

    What is the deal in england? can't you walk anywhere or something like that? can you bike anywhere?

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    i was looking into this, but actually planned to set a bike w/supports to interchange on/off actual tracks themselves. it would cut new commute to about 9 miles (vs 13 dst each way). not much "support" here at bf, rightfully so. i went to local train center and was told "No" about use of the tracks or their land beside the tracks. there then is the legal issue.
    it's your choice. see if reward outweighs risk!

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    I'd say do it at your own risk. Just keep in mind that the RR has their own law enforcement, like transit cops, who occasionally patrol RR sections. Eventhough what you have in mind is completely innocent, you have to understand there are a lot of punk kids who dont mind messing with track switches. You know, the same kind of punk kids who throw concrete blocks off of overpasses. If a train derails, and its investigated by the NPSB, there will be a possibility of you being implicated in that, just because you were seen riding your bike along the tracks.

    Something to think about!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Severian
    it's only a crime if they catch you. but, as many chronic shoplifters learn: the more often you do something the more likely it is that you will be caught.

    that being said, if there are no posted signs then really all they can do is complain.
    It is a crime if they catch you or not. Even with no signs posted they can do a lot more then just complain. That is like saying I can not do anything if someone tresspasses on my property except complain if I have no signs posted. I have no signs posted because I do not like they look. But if someone tresspasses I can do a hell of a lot more then just complain about it, up to & including using physical force to remove the person from my property. Railroads can probably do the same thing.

    I advise the OP to check to see what is public right of way & what is property owned by the orchard & railroad. If there is any then the OP can probably ride on the ROW. If not then the OP needs to make the right decision based on his or her own moral values. If they think breaking the law is ok in this context then so be it, if he or she wants to do the right thing then they should make their deicision based on that.

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    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kwartz
    So a coworker and I are floating the possibility of commuting to work on a mostly disused railroad track. Not on the track itself, mind, but next to it in the dirt. We were wondering if there's any experience out there about doing this, trains only come by once a week if that, so I wouldn't think it would be dangerous, anyone know if the railroad considers that trespassing enough to do something about it? The easement alonside the track goes through orchards, so it's much preferable to riding next to traffice, in my opinion at least. Any problems we need to think about before we try it?
    Thanks.
    Technically any time your on private property without the owners permission, your trespassing, sign or no sign. This even applies to semi-public places like the local mall, where they grant permission, except to those they have expressely told to not enter the property.

    Railways tend to be strict about trespassing, but it all comes down to the fact trains are big, powerful, have very long stopping distances, and are very heavy. Because of these traits, a train collision with anything means injury and property damage. I saw the results of a Budd RDC vs Cement truck, this was 25 years ago, and they are still finding pieces of cement truck in a nearby field.

    Now there is an option, find out which railway owns the property, and talk to their Public Relations department, some railways may permit you to use the area, by asking you to sign an agreement that you absolve them of risk of injury, and promise not to get in the way of trains and track crews. Others will put up get lost signs. You might also want to talk to the city/town as they might be interested in putting a bike path or MUP through there as well, if the ROW is wide enough.

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    Senior Member tomcryar's Avatar
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    Railroads are federally regulated property. The local trainmaster will not, and can't give anyone permission to go beyond the road that crosses the track. It is illegal, and the FRA will detain you if they catch you. It is usualy very dangerous anyway, because of the trains, obviously, but without the trains, there are always track maintainence using high-line vehicles, and off-track people working next to the tracks. It's your call, but I wouldn't recommend it. It is illegal. And it can be very dangerous.

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    having hopped freight trains for a couple of years (this was a few years ago...), i would say go for it.
    most trainyard workers won't care unless you are on/very close to/vandalising one of their buildings or trains. if it is a disused track, i really wouldn't worry.
    trespassing or not, as long as you aren't a total a$$, it has been my experience repeatedly that train workers are cool folks and will wave at you more often than yell- which is more than i can say for most of the drivers i encounter on my commute.
    i can't decide if i like riding bikes more than i like riding trains...

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    Several communities in north coastal San Diego County, including mine, are bisected by a heavily used (50 trains per weekday) commuter, passenger, and freight line. Even though more than 90% of the pedestrian fatalities along the line are suicides, the authorities periodically go after folks who cross the tracks between signalized intersections, which are typically a mile or more apart. They have also occasionally cited those who walk, jog, or bike parallel to the tracks where the right-of-way gets narrow, but fortunately they seem to tolerate those within the corridor who keep their distance from the tracks.

    The safety argment is a bit specious, because unless one is very near the tracks, particularly on a narrow trestle, a train is remarkably predictable and easy to avoid. Crossing a train track is MUCH safer than crossing a road, irrespective of traffic controls.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bike2math
    I see people building fires and putting up tents along the heavily travelled set of rr tracks I cross over on a bridge. Seems like the rr either doesn't care enough to do anything, or lacks the power to do anything. Go for it.
    ^
    Sounds like the same kind of person who will walk on (or god forbid, cycle on), between, or within a few feet of the rails, without ever expecting that coming around the blind bend up ahead is a 7,000,000 ton, hotshot intermodal; headed by a trio of 4,500 H.P. General Electric Dash 9-44CW locomotives - outfitted with silencers, I should note; blasting down that line at 80 M.P.H.

    You'll never know what hit you until its too late.

    Did you say crossed the bridge? I hope it has a sidepath. If not, it sounds as if you are cheating the Darwin Awards out of another winner. You'll remember what I said here the day you aren't so lucky - hopefully for you, that day will never come.

    Furthermore, just because folks put up tents and build fires doesn't mean it is right or legal to do so. I dare say that an open fire anywhere is some sort of offense or violation in your county. I hope that I need not mention WHY an open fire set up by Mr. Joe Amateur is dangerous.

    The railroad is more then capable of taking care of this situation, but these actions obviously have not been reported. I gather that the general population in this vicinity are proponents of this behavor, and have not bothered to report themselves.

    Incedentally, most Class 1 railroads have 2000+ miles of trackage. Many Class 2s, 500+. How do you expect them to keep tabs on every single half-mile's worth of trackage without the locals doing their part to report dangerous trackside behavor? Find out what railroad the trackage belongs to, visit website to locate their safety report hotline, and always keep the number on hand to report anything on the railroad ROW that doesn't belong there.

    Take care,

    -Kurt

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    www.theheadbadge.com cudak888's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E
    The safety argment is a bit specious, because unless one is very near the tracks, particularly on a narrow trestle, a train is remarkably predictable and easy to avoid. Crossing a train track is MUCH safer than crossing a road, irrespective of traffic controls.
    I do hope you mean by "crossing" a railroad line, you mean the passing over a grade crossing - not lugging yourself over the rails in some spot between legal crossings.

    In the latter case, no matter how safe it might appear, I highly advise doing anything of the kind. Modern diesel units are quite quiet, and at the speeds that they travel, they can creep up on you before you realize that there is a train approaching.

    -Kurt

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    Senior Member tomcryar's Avatar
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    Also the track inspectors and other vehicles designed to ride the rails---you will not see or hear them at all.

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    People make a kinda little crunchy sound when run over them.Your bike would make a lot louder grating noise I bet--luckly for me I haven't run over a bicycle yet--three people weren't so lucky!Go play some place else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tomcryar
    Also the track inspectors and other vehicles designed to ride the rails---you will not see or hear them at all.
    Excellent point. Although high-rail vehicles can definitely come to a quicker stop (not to say it'll be as quick as an automobile on the road) then even a lone locomotive, chances are 9 out of 10 that you will not hear the vehicle until it is quite close.

    Oh, incedentally, here's something to put a damper on (or heat up) anyone's improper rides down the ROW, if you happen to come across one:



    It's a Loram rail grinding maintanance consist. Due to the intense heat and friction of the rails when the grinder...



    ...is in operation, multiple hoses spray streams of water...



    ...onto the ROW to lessen any chances of sparks causing a fire. Those water streams easily wet down the entire ROW on both sides.

    Yet another reason to stay off the railroad's ROW.

    -Kurt

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    I rode along the railroad going through my city a couple times. I got away with it, but I have no plan to do it again any time soon. Not because of the danger, but because it was a horribly sucky trail. If the area alongside your rails is anything like it is here, you're better off staying on the street. Unless you're on a full suspension MTB, it'll save you a lot of aches.
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    In English law trespass is a tort and not a crime, so you cannot be fined or imprisoned, only sued for the damage that you cause.

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    I work right next to a large railroad... my boss walks his dogs down the Railroad right of way every day, and on the occasions when I've walked the dogs for him, any people that I've seen just waved at me.

    Yes, it's trespassing, but if you're out of the way, and make it obvious you're just passing through, generally they won't do anything.

    This, of course, varies by area. If they've had problems with people in the past, they'll be sticklers about the no trespassing rules... if not, and you're not on or very near the tracks themselves, they'll probably leave you be.
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    As far as not hearing an approaching train... just remember, the engine isn't necessarily at the 'front' of the train! They run just as well 'backwards' as forwards and could be pushing!

    That said, the railroads that I'm near are all very near or part of yards... the trains through the area are moving quite slow and I've never had any problem hearing them before I can see them. (Even the one's 'pushing' a train of cars... the wheels are fairly loud)

    Luckily I don't normally have to cross any tracks (my route goes under them)... except on Friday afternoons, and that's at a marked crossing with gates and I've only encountered a train there once.
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    Trespassing on RR property is a seperate offense from simple trespass in most states. And in a few states, RR trespass has high fines--and even jail time--as a penalty. This dates back to the time when livestock wandering onto the tracks was a big hazard, and farmers HATED the RRs and vandalized the tracks. Even though the laws are ancient, they're still enforced. I watched a guy plead guilty to RR trespass in a circuit court. The judge fined him $99. When he said he couldn't pay, he got 15 days. And this from a judge who is considered "lenient."

    Quote Originally Posted by Federal Highway Administration
    Railroad Trespassing and Safety Trends
    A trespasser is someone who is on railroad property without permission. In 2000, the U.S. railroad industry experienced close to 900 trespassing casualties, including approximately 500 fatalities . Research produces no singular profile of a trespasser, although regional differences in trespasser profiles do exist. Close to the borders, railroads report problems with undocumented aliens. In the East, youth trespassers dominate because of nearby schools and shopping centers. In other areas of the country, reported trespassers include substance abusers, the homeless, sportsmen, snowmobilers, and cyclists. Some trespassers intend suicide.

    Because of this diversity, railroad companies use numerous measures, such as education programs and selective fencing, to help deter trespassing. The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company and Norfolk Southern Railway Company law enforcement departments have implemented comprehensive trespass abatement programs. While most States have trespassing laws for private property owners, only 32 States have trespassing laws with specific legal language for railroad property. Of those, only a handful prescribe a punishment for trespassing on railroad property and equipment. Enforcement of such laws is another problem. With this in mind, railroad companies are reluctant to support the idea of inviting thousands of people to walk and bicycle next to or on their property
    .
    http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/...wt/intro_a.htm


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    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cudak888
    Excellent point. Although high-rail vehicles can definitely come to a quicker stop (not to say it'll be as quick as an automobile on the road) then even a lone locomotive, chances are 9 out of 10 that you will not hear the vehicle until it is quite close.

    Oh, incedentally, here's something to put a damper on (or heat up) anyone's improper rides down the ROW, if you happen to come across one:



    It's a Loram rail grinding maintanance consist. Due to the intense heat and friction of the rails when the grinder...
    Not only that, but many railways use steam to keep weeds away from the tracks, it's cheaper and more enviornmentally friendly then chemicals. The result is the same, and again you might not hear it, or know what it is, if you do hear it, until you get the lobster treatment.

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    Senior Member tomcryar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kwartz
    So a coworker and I are floating the possibility of commuting to work on a mostly disused railroad track. Not on the track itself, mind, but next to it in the dirt. We were wondering if there's any experience out there about doing this, trains only come by once a week if that, so I wouldn't think it would be dangerous, anyone know if the railroad considers that trespassing enough to do something about it? The easement alonside the track goes through orchards, so it's much preferable to riding next to traffice, in my opinion at least. Any problems we need to think about before we try it?
    Thanks.

    Have you decided to do it? Have you taken into account some of the comments here?

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