Railway Preservation News

Operating on government r.o.w.
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Author:  Andy Nold [ Wed Nov 29, 2017 3:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Operating on government r.o.w.

Many times here on RYPN I have read about organizations that are using government owned right-of-way or depot space lose their space when the elected officials change or they get tired of a collection of rusty, derelict equipment. I’d like to know more about groups who are successfully operating on municipal/government owned properties and maintain good relationships.

A non-profit I am involved with has the opportunity to use a city-owned right-of-way (former railroad r.o.w abandoned by the railroad and sold to the city). I know the admonition that it is best to own your own land, but we are not in a position financially to do so. At this point, I think we can get a long term lease and then I’d ask for easy renewal terms or the option to purchase in the future. We are preparing a proposal for the city but I am looking for examples of successful agreements that both protect the operating organization as well as give the municipality assurances that their land will be protected and not turned into a railroad salvage yard.

I know at some point it will be in our best interests to get an attorney involved to assist with the drafting of the final document. Does anyone have any recommendations for someone in Texas who would be familiar with our specific needs.


Author:  Lincoln Penn [ Wed Nov 29, 2017 4:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Operating on government r.o.w.

Not only an attorney, but one experienced and knowledgeable about this kind of thing.

You want an agreement that protects the organization and it's equipment to the maximum extent possible, and that prevents sudden, unilateral changes.

You also want to specify a LONG time to move stuff after the entity decides to kick you out. Like at least a year.

Author:  jayrod [ Wed Nov 29, 2017 4:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Operating on government r.o.w.

A lot will also depend on the owners long term plans for the ROW. Get the longest lease you can and always be aware that the lease will end and may not be renewed. A purchase option would be nice, also. I agree with Mr. Penn - you'll need at least a year to clear out when you get the notice to vacate. We left our leased property in 6 months and it was a mad scramble and expensive to do so. And we had a place to move to (purchased by us) by rail 2 miles away. That was our saving grace. Most operations that lease don't have that option.

Author:  jayrod [ Wed Nov 29, 2017 4:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Operating on government r.o.w.

Another item to be stipulated.... Who is responsible for maintenance? Track repairs are not very cheap and is hard work to say the least.

Author:  Bowmore [ Wed Nov 29, 2017 6:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Operating on government r.o.w.

Dealing with a government entity, especially with a change of personnel can be trying. The Santa Paula, CA branch line was abandoned by the railroad and purchased by the County of Ventura.
A for profit tourist line, the Fillmore & Western, had a lease to run trains and maintain ROW. Enter a new commissioner, and the whole thing went sideways. It was finally settled, but after lengthy legal battles.
I am a member of the Santa Clara River Valley Historical Society, and volunteer on the F & W. I am also the one working on the 23 ton switcher.
If the County had prevailed, there would be no running trains or a reason for our society to exist.

Author:  Alexander D. Mitchell IV [ Wed Nov 29, 2017 6:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Operating on government r.o.w.

Two examples I can think off off the top of my head:

Western Md. Scenic RR, as I recall, is basically a county-owned/run operation. But that's probably not quite what you had in mind.

The Baltimore Streetcar Museum operates on former Maryland & Pennsylvania RR right-of-way that was part of what the City of Baltimore acquired from the company ca. 1959 after its Maryland abandonment. My understanding is that the Visitors Center built by the City, the former freight house now used as a workshop, and the car barn as well as the right of way are all leased to the BSM for a modest annual fee. The now-derelict, semi-collapsing roundhouse was retained by the City for road salt storage until about a year ago, and is in limbo--the City wants the Museum to take it; the Museum won't take it until remediation is done lest it becomes their liability albatross.
Bluntly put, what helps keep them there is that no one else has ever come up with any other decent use for the flooding-vulnerable land or property, although a road contractor occupies what had been a Ma & Pa-served coal yard. It's also, sadly, an area prone to vandalism and heavy graffiti. The rest of the R-O-W in the city was at one point used for dumping of construction debris, but a local nature group is redeveloping a portion of it as a hiking path (NOT a "trail"--that would require engineering, paving, and other expensive, nature-intrusive measures!).

Is the National Capital Trolley Museum on county parkland?

Author:  RCD [ Wed Nov 29, 2017 7:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Operating on government r.o.w.

If I recall correctly the Railroad Museum of New England runs on track owned by the Connecticut Department of Transportation. I think they might have a 99 year lease on it.

Author:  PMC [ Wed Nov 29, 2017 10:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Operating on government r.o.w.

One possibility that comes to mind to me that I have followed is Berkshire Scenic Railroad Museum operating on a former New Haven branch from its connection on the old Boston & Albany at North Adams MA south to Adams, partially on ROW that had the tracks removed and replaced with a trail, now it is rail with trail.


"Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum’s new Hoosac Valley Service offers fun and educational train rides between North Adams and Adams in the beautiful Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. This new seasonal passenger train service is a collaborative project between BSRM, City of North Adams, Town of Adams, and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Hoosac Valley Service is a community and economic development project designed to provide an attractive seasonal tourist transportation link between downtown Adams and North Adams, connecting with the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in Adams. A living history exhibit, Hoosac Valley Service will offer fun, entertaining, and educational train rides exploring the rich railroad history of the region and complement the already popular cultural attractions located in the Northern Berkshire area."

They also have a museum located on the Housatonic Railroad in the station in New Lenox, and formerly operated excursions there until they had a falling out with the railroad, I believe the Housatonic line is state-owned also.

Author:  Alan Maples [ Thu Nov 30, 2017 8:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Operating on government r.o.w.

Use of publicly-owned right of way should be consistent with the purpose for which that property was acquired and create public benefit, which can be in the form of cash income, public amenity, economic development, or any other perceived public gain. If you use publicly-owned property to gather rusty equipment and create an eyesore, you are going to be fighting city hall pretty soon no matter how your lease or use agreement is written.

The needs, interests and perceptions of the public and their elected representatives do evolve over time. That can be driven by your own stewardship of the public asset, or by third parties with competing uses and agendas.

There are many examples of successful museum and tourist railroads using publicly-owned right-of-ways. The Valley Railroad in Essex, CT, comes to mind.

- Alan Maples

Author:  Alan Walker [ Thu Nov 30, 2017 1:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Operating on government r.o.w.

Old Pueblo Trolley, Inc.'s North 4th Avenue street railway operation was unique in that it operated solely within the public right of way of city streets. Operation was with the cooperation of the City of Tucson Transportation Department and Risk Management. We proposed the operation and had significant negotiations with the City that resulted in the approval of agreements. We dealt with staff, who do not have a high turnover rate and are as non-partisan as government employees can get. We also courted support of the elected officials whose precincts would be served by the streetcar.

Our agreements stipulated the requirements for operation, including operator training standards, insurance and a voluntary agreement to be bound by state motor vehicle code. At one time, due to significant increases in insurance premiums, we were unable to afford the stipulated insurance requirements. Rather than shutting down, we brought this to the attention of the City officials and they were able to rework the agreement to have the City cover our insurance during that period. Because of our relationship with the City, the City has seen the value that OPT provides and has been very helpful in many ways. They have permitted us to rent City property for storage and restoration at rates which we could afford. The Transportation Department is aware of our mission to preserve and document the transit history of the City. Whenever Sun Tran retires an entire class of transit coach, they have earmarked one example for preservation and donated it to us, along with service manuals and parts specific to that model.

Author:  crij [ Thu Nov 30, 2017 2:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Operating on government r.o.w.

A few points that came up during the last time the museum I volunteer at renewed their leases, at the same time the state was modifying how the land around us was being used.

Make sure liability responsibility of non-visitors/non-customers to your portion are spelled out in the lease/agreement. This is especially pertinent if the town/county/state has parkland, nature preserve or forest surrounding you with common access point.

Make sure it is spelled out how things are handled if the town/state needs to access infrastructure within the leased property and or to access areas surrounding the property (where they need to pass through your property).

You might also want to see if it procedures can be spelled out how either party can go about modifications of the lease. i.e.: renewals, extending terms, adding land, removing land, purchasing the land, adding structures, modifying existing structures, etc...

Maybe spell out DEP Brown-zone responsibilities, what you are responsible for and what the town/state is responsible for. This would be to protect you from a misunderstanding later (or mis-remembered verbal agreement) about who is responsible about what, especially if something is found later, like a leaking buried 100 year old oil tank that is not on any map (hasn't happened yet with us, but it wouldn't surprise me).

The the museum I volunteer at is about 80% town lease and the rest is State DoT/DEP property. Our 1/2 mile driveway and parking lot area, is also the common access point to the Rail-Trail, River Trail, canoe ramp, and `town nature park'.

Good luck and try to cover as many bases as possible.

Rich C.

Author:  Andy Nold [ Thu Nov 30, 2017 6:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Operating on government r.o.w.

Alan Walker wrote:
Old Pueblo Trolley, Inc.'s North 4th Avenue street railway operation was unique in that it operated solely within the public right of way of city streets. Operation was with the cooperation of the City of Tucson Transportation Department and Risk Management.

If I recall correctly, MATA provided a copy of our franchise agreement to OPT when it was still a nascent organization. I'm thinking that type of agreement doesn't quite suite what we are working on here.

Author:  Andy Nold [ Thu Nov 30, 2017 6:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Operating on government r.o.w.

crij wrote:
Good luck and try to cover as many bases as possible.

Rich C.

Those are some great points, Rich. It's hard to imagine the unimaginable sometimes.

Author:  Civil_Engineer_Mike [ Sun Dec 10, 2017 4:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Operating on government r.o.w.

Hi Andy ... We went through a similar situation with a state-owned railroad branch in the mid-Atlantic. The lease presented had a lot of issues for the preservation group... I'll try to outline them...
1) The lease is often written as if the road is operating with no anticipated construction work. These are examples of the recitals change that had to be made ...
* WHEREAS, the mission of the Operating Railroad as a public charity is to preserve the .... Track, to educate the public on the history and historic significance of the railroad, and to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for (the) railroad
* WHEREAS, Operating Railroad desires to lease a portion of the ... Track (the “Railroad Line” as more particularly defined herein) on an exclusive basis from the State to operate excursion service by rail, to provide public education and to conduct other activities consistent with its mission on the terms and conditions provided herein.
* WHEREAS, the State of .... recognizes that interim use of railroad rights-of-way such as the .... Track for public recreation other than excursion service produces transportation benefits such as maintenance of right-of-way, prevention of vandalism or other deterioration.

The State had done little in the way of encroachments over the years and that had to be addressed.

Structure loadings... The original lease required maintaining bridge structures to Class one E-80 loads which were about twice what the railroad would actually use in service. We modified those to lower levels as well as specified lifecycle limits for maintenance ... we specified as part of the restoration and maintenance scope, the service life for track structure and bridges was 25 years and 10 years for grade crossings and assumed only passive traffic control devices.

The really bad part of railroad leases in my humble opinion is the termination clauses. there are a number of examples out there where the leasing railroad has only 60 days to get off the property with no allowance to be reimbursed for unrecouped investment costs in maintaining the track or structures. We developed this language as a proposal...
With respect to the Operating Railroad property, the State may either purchase the property, (whole or in part) or require the Operating Railroad’s property be removed within twelve months of the date of any written notice under this section except that;
(a) Operating Railroad at its own discretion may remove selected material it owns such as track hardware, rail or ties, as identified in maintenance-of-way plans without replacement and;
(b) Modified or realigned track work, special trackwork, appurtenances and sidings that are Operating Railroad property shall be removed and the right of way restored to its original condition with any remaining State property such as track or ties stock-piled on right of way centerline and;
(c) Upon removal, all adjacent facilities except crossings and roads shall be restored to their original condition.

This analysis required an engineering analysis and review that resulted in a draft that was then submitted to an attorney for review ...

We offer this technical assistance to preservation organizations such as yours and would be pleased to work with you on a limited basis to develop your lease draft. ...

Our website is http://www.fplmuseum.org look at the contact info ...

Best wishes to you ..

Mike OConnor
Chief Engineer, FPL RR Museum

Author:  Civil_Engineer_Mike [ Sun Dec 10, 2017 4:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Operating on government r.o.w.

An earlier post asked the question ...

Is the National Capital Trolley Museum on county parkland?...

See this site: https://www.montgomeryparks.org/parks-a ... ey-museum/

"The Trolley Museum, operated by a private nonprofit organization but located in the M-NCPPC’s Northwest Branch Recreational Park, opened to the public in 1969. Its mission includes preserving and interpreting the history of Washington’s electric street railways." ...

Best wishes ...
Mike OConnor
Chief Engineer, FPL RR Museum http://www.fplmuseum.org

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