A big challenge we often have to deal with from a title perspective are easements in favor of the railroad.
An easement with a railroad is difficult because first we have to determine whether the railroad right of away area was acquired in fee or whether it was acquired as an easement. Back when a lot of railroad rights-of-way were created back in the late 1800s / early 1900s they didn’t use the terminology that we like to see today to determine whether it was a fee interest, an ownership interest that was acquired by the railroad, or an easement interest.
There have been so many mergers and changes that tracking who the current owner of a railroad is today can be a bit of a challenge. With big railroads it’s not as much of an issue, but smaller railroads can present problems in determining historical ownership.
Another issue we have to deal with when it comes to railroads is abandonment. We have run into a few occasions where somebody thinks that they own an area that they believe was abandoned by a railroad. In Minnesota, we would generally require a court order to determine that the Railroad easement has been abandoned. If we determine it’s a fee interest then we’ve got to go back to the railroad and get a deed from the railroad for that piece of land. In some states, you can prove abandonment without going through the courts. We tackle those on a case-by-case basis.