Railway Preservation News

Paved over crossing question
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Author:  elueck [ Mon Sep 05, 2016 8:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Paved over crossing question

Our museum has operating rights over a section of former common carrier trackage that was converted to industrial trackage after the abandonment of the common carrier. After 1969, when the sawmill served by the industrial trackage shut down, the state paved over
all three railroad crossings of a state highway that circles the mill on two sides.

Last year the state decided to re-pave the highway, and without notifying anyone, they ripped out two of the three crossings, and more than 250' of rail on both sides of one crossing by grabbing on to the rail with a dozer and just pulling. That rail was actually on private property.

After they started ripping out the rail, they asked the neighbors, who live in a house built in 2012, if there was ever a railroad around there, and of course the answer was no.

When I found out about it, and got to the site, they were already through and were negotiating with a scrapper to come and pick up the rail.

Needless to say, I blew up, chewed our the state guy in charge, and wrote lots of letters to the state, with no response.

My question is this, has any of you ever had anything like this happen, and is there anything that I can do on behalf of the landowners that have been preserving the track for our eventual use, as well as on behalf of the museum?

Author:  Robby Peartree [ Mon Sep 05, 2016 8:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Paved over crossing question

Hi elueck

First have you contacted the district engineer for Tex dot? The Huston Bio is here.
http://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/distr ... n/bio.html
You were probably yelling at an inspector who just reports what happened and where their any issues. Go to the district engineer or your local state representative with the complaint. I bone up on Texas law about crossings as it is unique. Each one of the crossings should have a grade crossing inventory number. If you do not get satisfaction from the state remember states get a lot of money from feds so talking to the Federal DOT will usually get your state agency to respond.


Author:  elueck [ Mon Sep 05, 2016 9:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Paved over crossing question


These crossings are in Louisiana. I did succeed in getting them to pave over one of the three without digging it up also, but I want something that would get the main one restored by the state should we ever need it.

I wrote to everyone that I could figure out how to contact using the state's internet page, and I complained to the one of the state's public service commissioners who literally lives 2 miles away from the crossing.

I know that the state is not going to put it back without a lot of influence, as they refused to admit any culpability at all, but somehow I want to write it in the record that they ripped it out without authorization and they will have to put it back if we need it.

Author:  Robby Peartree [ Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Paved over crossing question

I assumed Houston from your location sorry about that. You still probably ran into an inspector. Looking at Louisiana' DOTD's web site they have districts so do not be bashful about contacting them. Did you call the grade crossing coordinator?

Here is what I came up with.

Jamie Anderson
Railroad Coordinator/Permits
Department Of Transportation (DOTD)
Office (318) 342-0120

I still encourage you to get to know the applicable laws .


Author:  Randy Gustafson [ Tue Sep 06, 2016 9:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Paved over crossing question

Make sure you go onto the FRA web page at

http://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/OfficeofS ... ryloc.aspx

And see if it is still listed. Even if the signage and identification is gone, if it ever 'was' a public crossing it is still probably in there.

And you may find the smoking gun of how it was simply ripped. Look for obsolete owners, contacts, etc. That's usually at the root of the problem, it's still shown as for a predecessor railroad, predecessor owner, etc., and nobody has ever updated it. DOT may have tried to contact, got no response, and just went ahead.

Author:  elueck [ Tue Sep 06, 2016 9:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Paved over crossing question

Thanks for the tip about the FRA base. Not surprisingly, the crossing does not show up.

I am going to contact the person that Robby suggested and see if I can get a response.

Author:  DJSullivan [ Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Paved over crossing question

Check with the Public Utilities Commission to see whether those crossings were ever abandoned.

Author:  elueck [ Tue Sep 06, 2016 1:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Paved over crossing question

The PUC member that sits on the museum board says he cannot find a record of abandonment. Apparently they were just paved over. I have written to Jamie with the state and we will see what he says.

Author:  Train Detainer [ Tue Sep 06, 2016 4:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Paved over crossing question

And if you ever want it back in the future - DON'T WAIT. Get them to put it back asap, even if it sits dormant for years. The longer it's gone the less like likely you'll ever see it again without a huge fight/expense. Of course it sounds like you might already be there.....

Author:  Larry Lovejoy [ Tue Sep 06, 2016 6:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Paved over crossing question

“Not surprisingly, the crossing does not show up.”

If a crossings was ever included in the FRA’s inventory, it will be in the database. However if it was officially closed, you need to set the “crossing status” toggle to “All (Includes Closed)" See attached.

/s/ Larry
Lawrence G. Lovejoy, P.E.

Search.jpg [ 183.34 KiB | Viewed 3029 times ]

Author:  robertmacdowell [ Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Paved over crossing question

Appearance is everything. Consider a line left to lay fallow for years with trees growing up in the gage, and "hasn't been a train down this in 20 years obviously". Now consider one where there's a 14’ wide swath of brown from obvious multi-year weedspraying, and overreaching branches are cut back enough that a train could conceivably pass.

A contractor sent out to repave a crossing is going to have quite a different reaction in one case vs. the other. He'll be very reluctant to rip out the well groomed track without checking, double checking and triple checking ownership and permission.

Frankly the road commission's best bet is to err on the side of tearing out as much track as possible. It's unlikely that a railroad disused that long is going to go back in, and ripping out a significant length of it is another "nail in the coffin". If it does go back in - even if it's at state expense - the track and crossing will then be brand-new, which will be much easier to maintain.

Author:  elueck [ Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Paved over crossing question


Thanks for the tip on the "closed" tab, and there is also a "history" tab within the data base.

However, none of the 3 crossings in question show up in the database.

All three of them were active as late as 1969-70 but none of them show up now.

Author:  Larry Lovejoy [ Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Paved over crossing question

The initial AAR/FRA crossing inventory was compiled circa 1973. If these crossings have been out-of-service since 1969, and it's been even longer since a common carrier owned the route and routinely ran over them, that might explain why they are not in the database.

At the risk of hijacking this thread, I'll remind everyone that tourist and museum railways needed to have all of their crossings (at-grade, grade-separated, public, private, and pedestrian) in the FRA inventory not later than last March. I dutifully submitted our museum's ten crossings, but the FRA only uploaded one of them to their database - the one that was on the top of the stack of data entry forms. Go figure.

/s/ Larry
Lawrence G. Lovejoy, P.E.

Author:  Randy Hees [ Wed Sep 07, 2016 12:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Paved over crossing question

There are layers of laws and questions...

If this was common carrier, and not abandoned, then its a legal crossing which the state removed in violation of the law... in a sense the crossing could still legally exist even with the rails removed...

If a private crossing, then things get muddy... does the crossing exist via a legal right of way?

If embargoed it might still exist, even if it doesn't but this is legally even more muddy...

If legally abandoned, it legally does not exist... and the road folks can remove the rails and such ....

We have/had a crossing of a US highway, which was subject to a ICC/FRA filing for the railroad to stop service, but which was transferred intact to the state, for right of way preservation, eventually a railroad museum, who used the track... the crossing was first paved over (with a membrane to allow it to be easily reopened as needed) which was later paved over with no membrane, then some or all rails removed...

Legally, the right of way remained... and now a Federally funded project is building across the site of the grade crossing, and since it legally still exists, we get a bridge across the new freeway...

The end story is it is complicated, and legally challenging... but don't give up... the right of way can hold rights which may be significant.


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