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I know of an abandon railroad near me. The date on the tie plates says 1925 and it looks like they have not been touched in at least 50 years. The brush has overgrown and in most places the trees growing up through the rails are doing a better job holding the rail to the ground than the rotted out ties. The rail is ripe for the picking. It is one thing to go and swipe spikes that are lying around but another thing to pull up the rails without asking. I am a chemistry major not an engineer but I think anyone could tell that trains will never again run on this line. I am more worried about the legal ramifications of taking the rails more than anything. I have a possible owner of the tracks, it is a shortline company not some bigwig name like CSX or Norfolk Southern. 

 

I have yet to contact them but do any of you think I have a chance of them giving me permission to take some rail? I feel my chances are better since they are a shortline company. 

 

Also does anyone know if there is incentive for them to keep the tracks at this point? I would assume that they would be a liability risk and they would want them gone, but I have not researched the topic. 

 

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I would think that as long as the rails are in place, it is still considered an active line.  And taking rail without permission is probably considered Grand Theft.  Homeland Security also does not think too highly of anyone trespassing on rail property.  I would not go near any rail line in this day and age.

 

Find out who owns it first, then ask.  They might even have pieces they would give away or sell for scrap prices.

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Hard to say what the original contract with the landowner said. For a shortline that was abandoned here about 15-20 years ago, the RR did salvage the rails, then ownership reverted to the original landowners. Fortunately about 20 miles was on the National Forest and was converted to a trail system once it went back to the forest service. Sounds like overgrowth may make your line too difficult and expensive to recover the rail  and if it did revert to the landowner, there should be several to approach and at least one may welcome you.

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Actually, nowadays, a railroad has to file a request to abandon a section of railbed that is acted upon by the Federal Rail Administration.  Not sure of what was done 15-20 years ago, but if you know the name of the shortline, I'm sure the FRA has a database or listing of abandoned rail requests if you want to start there. 

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There's an old rail line up here that was closed down and not maintained for a number of years, but the Federal Government classified it as a strategic resource since it was ran to old mines for precious metals (titanium I think).  They're in the process, now, of getting the line up and running because technology has progressed enough to where they can extract more mineral out of the tailings than they could before.  You never know what the story behind that rail line is, best to ask permission before forgiveness on this one.

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I have heard that you possibly could get charged with terrorism if you are caught with messing with intact rail and its hardware. I would talk to everyone and make sure you know exactly who owns it and have written permission and phone numbers before any rail and hardware was taken. good luck on the rail :)

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i would go ahead and check with the county seat. around here the railroad just filed a quit claim deed and the property reverted back the the origional owner or whoever owned the property at the time the deed was filed. not sure what the railroad has to do before they let the property go back but woul be woth checking out

 

Fred

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I used to own a section of railroad like that. It went to my grain elevator. BUT...the adjoining rr system shut off the spur junction leaving me without any marketable resources. When I sold all that was there I had to have notorized copies from the local rr system that what I was selling was indeed ok to be scrapped. Until recently all rr salvage went to only a few scrap dealers in the whole USA and that kept down rr scrap theft.

 

As I have found out the rr system can cry foul for even walking down the rr track, as they are under the scrutiny of the Feds. Imagine being thrown in Fed jail for hiking down the tracks! But getting caught for removing a spike or plate could be worse...as you under their regime. Yes...we all see people that have rr spikes..but only FEW are legally acquired.

 

Moral of the story: If I took something from the rr it would be only for personal use cause selling stollen Fed regulated property may put you under the jail.

 

Think about it: What is soooo valuable to risk a lifetime reputaion of +++++ from a rr. IT AIN'T WORTH IT.

 

 

Carry on

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better talk to  the rr  first before you do anything. theft of rail is not a light matter and all the rr's that i know prosecute. even if there are trees growing through it. as stated before, dept. of homeland security, fbi, and a host of other agencies get involved.

i am a retired railroader and my son still works for a railroad and this type of situation is not taken lightly. good luck.

seldom

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The local real estate assessor did not help. They did not even have a railroad on the map, it was just some weird easement. However the active lines were present on the map. I am still going to find the legitimate owner of the rail before I try anything as I know how hard the railroad companies can come down on people who mess with their property.

 

Has anyone ever had any luck approaching them and getting permission to even collect spikes scattered about? 

 

Is there any incentive for them to keep the line, even in the present condition?

 

I heard one story of them wanting to keep another line because they were selling the land and they wanted to claim it had rail access. The line was just as old or older and in no better shape.  As questionable as that sounds it is still their property and they can do with it as they choose. 

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My ranch has a 100+ year old RR easement across it that has never had a rail laid or even dirt moved.. I suppose I could legally get it abandoned (the holder of the easement seems to no longer exist) but haven't seen the need .There will never be a reason for a line here. I know at least one other nearby easement where the bed was constructed (including a tunnel), but the Union Pacific( the big kid on the block) just threw their resources at going around the little guy before he could finish. Apparently that was the best ROW, but UP went around rather than meet the price to buy it. UP pretty well controlled Wyoming in the late 1800's early 1900's.

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Remember those old Westerns where the Railroad was coming thru town, and that meant everything? At that time, Congress gave free reign to them: eminent domain, private police, tax exemptions, the works. They are also immune from adverse possession and other standard real estate laws in many jurisdictions.

 

Those laws still stand, and they have those rights and right-of-way forever, unless they actively seek to give them up. They just roll over to the next corporate entity. They know that getting it back is much harder than giving it away.

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I don't understand the fascination for RR spikes. If I desparately needed some I would find a source of new and buy them. As far as rail goes, how much do you think a person can carry? Find what you want at a metal recylcler.

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It has to belong to someone, if it don't belong to you and you take it, that is theft, take enough of it and it is grand theft. What is the closest active railroad, that would be a good place to start asking questions.

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What are you planning on doing with the rail anyway? I have a section (about 4 or 5 ft. long) that with the exception of an anvil, I have no idea what to use it for. It's too much work to slice it into hardy size pieces (at least with the few tool i have).
I can't imagine what you could have in mind to undertake the long heavy process of aquiring some for yourself...

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I have used rail anvils and I do not think highly of them. I see it more as a source of hot rolled 1085. The head could be cut off and made into hammers and anvils tools. The web and base could be split into stock for any tool really. I would wager that some very nice stake anvils could be forged from the rail. I also think it would be fun to make miniature anvils to sell as door stops. Do not forget the mountain of railroad spikes that would also accompany the rail. It would be a lot of work and it is probably not the most efficient way to get steel, but I am a blacksmith and am resourceful. I'll find a way to make it work.  I know it is a large undertaking but I like these sorts of jobs. The kind that are so hard no one in their right mind would undertake. Nothing ventured nothing gain right. But as everyone has already said it has to be legal first before any thing can be done. This is always the first priority. 

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I can pick up rail in anything from 6" to 20' sections at the scrapyard for US 20 cents a pound.

 

A friend once started giving me an old cattle guard made from RR rail once piece every time I drove the 2+ hours to visit him.

 

If you are near to my scrap pile stop by and I'll give you a 5' piece.  Seems like I can scrounge the stuff faster than I can use it---tossed a piece back onto the pile last weekend as I didn't want to pay for it right then---found some better stuff to fill up my "scrap budget" for that week.

 

Of course we see mine rail too if you like miniatures...

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I'd definitely err on the side of caution.  The railroad industry may be old, but at one time it was one of the most powerful lobbies in the US.

 

Theft of any railroad property is a felony in many states.  Many states also grant the railroads their own police force that have wide police powers in all states the railroads own property in.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Not a good idea, especially not a good idea to post an "can I do it" topic and then do it. Even if the track is no longer in service it's doubtful the company will let you just have some track, that's essentially money out of their pockets when they sell the rail as scrap. Whatever you do don't just assume the track is never used, it might go back into a seldom switched industry. If you wanted to grab some RR spikes or tie plates that are just laying between the gage or off to the side I doubt anyone would have much of any problems with that though

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The issue is not really that you may be stealing property,,even though that is wot you are doing. Trespassing is maybe the biggest issue.

We have not had any of the members here give us a update on how it worked out for them iif they were caught.

When and if that happens maybe we can know for sure.

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