A railroad easement agreement typically gives one party the right to enter and exit a neighboring party's land or use shared structures for agreed-upon reasons. A railroad easement is legally binding on both the railroad company and the adjoining property owned once filed in the area land records.
The easement itself is a written document that defines the easement area, the granted rights and the agreement conditions. For example, the railroad can grant an easement to a neighboring property owner, giving the owner the right to step onto the railroad company's land when performing maintenance on his land. The owner can grant the railroad company an easement that gives the company the right to cross and access the property owner's land while performing work on the railroad land.
Both parties have the rights and responsibilities spelled out in the agreement. The party granted access can use the land or shared structure without interference from the other party. Maintenance duties become the responsibility of the party assigned upkeep or damage repair on the agreement. For example, a railroad company may agree to repair any damage caused to the neighbor's land because of easement-related activities, including seeding and growing new grass over a trampled patch.
A railroad easement may "run with the land," meaning the easement burdens and rights pass to future owners, or expire on specified date. The railroad company and other parties can agree to end the easement by filing a termination in the land records. Persons who own land next to "abandoned" railroad easements -- typically land with tracks or facilities the railroad no longer uses -- may have a legal claim to the abandoned land.
Some railroad easement agreements contain reciprocal terms. The railroad company and the other party grant each other rights over the land they own, and both parties typically share upkeep and damage responsibilities.
Easements typically do not grant legal ownership to the railroad company or the other party over the land area the agreement covers. However, the receiver of the easement has the right to enforce access granted on the agreement in court, and the granting party can enforce damage repair and upkeep in court. For example, a homeowner who granted a railroad company an easement over the rear part of her yard that gave the company damage repair liability can sue if the company failed to repair lawn damage caused by work done on the railroad.
A railroad company can formally assign the easement rights and responsibilities to a new railroad company if selling the railroad land or if the company dissolves.