Author Topic: How can we prevent tresspassers?  (Read 2452 times)

Ed Lecuyer

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How can we prevent tresspassers?
« on: December 13, 2008, 05:36:39 PM »
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How can we prevent tresspassers? has been converted from the pre-July 2008 WW&F Discussion Forum.
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Joe Fox wrote:
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How can we prevent things such as four wheeling, and snow mobiling from happening down the ROW? I noticed yesterday that up at Alna Center, snowmobiles completley avoided the crossing, and went right up over the siding and main line. If that continues, it could damage, or break the rail head. A snowmobile track went right beside the track for about nine hundered feet or so. Jason, and I were trying to think of some ideas that the museum could do to prevent that type of thing from happening.

I came up with the idea of using ties to put beside the track, running east west, and my dad came up with the idea of using three ties per side, one on bottom running east west, and two on top running north south, and have the ends that are pointing up face in different directions. If the museum did this, I would recommend bolting the ties together, and put up no tresspassing signs up. Alna Center seems to be the only problem for this sort of thing at the moment. Obviously new ties wouldn't be used, would it be ok to use the rotten ties for that?

If snowmobilers get in the gauge, there is no way that they can get out until they reach another crossing, or get stuck on a switch and sue us for the damage done to the snow machine. If they happen to be in the flange while a train is running, the results may be fatal, especially if the are just around a sharp corner, or starting down the ladder or coming up the ladder when a train sees them. Something has got to be done. Please state any other ideas that you guys might have.

P.S. Does anybody think it might be a good idea to put up an orange fence beside the track at Alna Center, so that the snowmobilers have to use the grade crossing, and put orange fences from tree line to tree line before and after grade crossings?
_________________
“We are extremely proud of our collection of historical railroad equipment, which is the largest of any U. S. railroad, especially our steam locomotives.”
-Steve Lee-

Joe

Josh Botting replied:
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Joe,

I think that one of the realities of liveing in main is that this stuff happens.  My experience has been that trying to keep people out of an areaa just encourages them to go there more.  Anyone out on sleds with as little snow as we have this year, is crazy anyway.  On a normal year when there is more snow, the most reasonable obsticles which could be constructed would be burried.  Besides, you can't obsticle the whole ROW.  There is no protection from stupid people.

Last winter, near where I was living at the time, there was a trail change on the snomobile trail down the road.  It was diverted around someone's yard.  However the sleds continued to roar thorough.  There were many tatics tried, all were demolished, for a trail head, which was 20yards futher along.  It went to the point where the sheriff had to sit there and babysit.   The next summer, the whole area where the yard could be axised from was piled high with large blow downs, such that it was no longer possible to get through.

That summer there was a similar problem with wheelers tareing through peoples yard, through the sherriff's yard. They were arrested before that changed.

All in all, I think the best we will do is hope they trash their sleds on the tracks, and learn that that weren't too bright.

Joe Fox replied:
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Hi Josh,

What makes me mad though is that they were only 30 feet, if that from the crossing at Alna Center.

Is it possible that we ask the Alna Snowmobile club to put up signs that say things such as stay on marked trails. The snowmobile trail doesn't even go across the railroad tracks at Alna Center, so they shoulden't be there any way.

If the museum decides to do as I had suggested with the ties, I will be more than glad to be sure  that those ties stay in the open, and that there is no way to get through beside the tracks. The way I see it, they can use the gauge all they want, but if they don't get out in the right crossings, they will find a hole in their treds, and probably a few broken parts. That is where the no tresspassing signs would come in handy, because they would probably try suing the railroad for the damage that was done to their sleds. Then we could say that we had no tresspassing signs up, and say the ties beside the track are just there for construction purposses.

Talk to you guys later.
_________________
“We are extremely proud of our collection of historical railroad equipment, which is the largest of any U. S. railroad, especially our steam locomotives.”
-Steve Lee-

Joe

MikeW replied:
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A couple of thoughts.  As a snowmobiler I know that the most effective thing to stop me from going where I should not are a) signs that say "PLEASE STAY ON MARKED TRAIL", and b) tree tops laid accross the path I should not take.    I am also a member of Maine Operation Lifesaver and we try to educate snowmobile clubs and their members about the dangers of illegal trespass on railroad right of ways.  In Maine you can be fined up to $1000 for trespass on a railroad.  Snowmobiles have been a problem for some time but generally cause less damage to railroad property than ATVs and dirt bikes.

I would stringly recommend that the WW&F become a member of Maine Operation Lifesaver.  MaineOL works closely with law enforcement to prevent tragedies such as what happened in Warren last year.  http://www.maineol.org/

Ira Schreiber replied:
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We have used scrap rails cut to length and driven vertically into the ground. Painted yellow and high enough to be seen over the snow, they are very effective at deterring traffic.
Ira Schreiber
(59" of snow so far)

Bruce Wilson replied:
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My own personal opinion is in agreement with that which has been posted by Mike W.

I would go on from what he has suggested to state that this issue should be brought to the attention of the Board of Directors for their study.

Again in my opinion, the construction of obstacles is not the way to go. These obstacles may represent a liability to the museum if a trespasser should collide with one.

Mike Fox replied:
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Probably the best way to stop this would be catch the person/persions doing this and just speak to them.Most likely it is a Teenager with nothing better to do. If you ask that they use a crossing and to stay off the right of way, maybe they will listen. I bet you will find it is someone nearby with a snowmobile. Maybe even over on West Alna Road. And we should start with signage. If we made a few signs up and put them up in the fall and take them down in the spring, perhaps it would help.
Mike

John McNamara replied:
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I would agree that providing appropriate "please go here and not there" signage would be the best course of action.

Josh Botting replied:
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I think it would be highly ineffective to try to protect every acess point which people can get on to the tracks.  Most know it is illegal to traspas on ROW.  However there is no visability to most law enforcement where the problem areas are.  We would be liable for most obsticles we can construct.  Also they would surely be an eye sore.  We could always put up barbed wire, as was original.  However this would be very dangerous.  I agree that the people on the tracks are most likely, kids and probally don't realize that they can hurt themselves or the track.

Signs are ok, but they will only keep the honest people out and they are few and far between these days.  As a side note, on my afternoon trip to Brunswick, there was a snowmobieler ignoring a very obvious "sign".  This person was on the New Meadows river, which is tidal, and about half frozen, was doing very high speed runs.......  I think that the unfrozen river would be a big "sign" to go elsewhere, but to some not so.

Joe Fox replied:
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Anything to prevent the further usage of the right of way as snowmobile, four wheeling, or hiking trails could help the museum out in the future. No Tresspassing signs are also good, so that way anybody walking on the right of way won't be able to have the railroad pay for them getting hurt, since they would be tresspassing.
_________________
“We are extremely proud of our collection of historical railroad equipment, which is the largest of any U. S. railroad, especially our steam locomotives.”
-Steve Lee-

Joe

BM1455 replied:
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I don't think we realy want to keep people from hiking or walking along the railraod ROW.  Partly because we have always had a policy of openess to the public.  also, if we were to post signs and get the authorities involved we will open up a real can of worms as all of our volunteers could be constued as tresspassers since we have no way of identifying them as authorized personael.  We have been fortunate that we have not had too much of aproblem with un-authorised visitors or vandals.  Until we start haveing a real problem with trespassers we should not get to reved up on this subject here in a public place like on this list.
Eric.

Joe Fox replied:
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Point well made Eric, but if they get hurt, the museum gets the blame. We wouldn't have to get the authorities involved, just because there would be no tresspassing signs, doesn't mean that the authorities need to get involved.

The yard is fine at the museum, because they should be on a guided tour, but anything North of the Yard Limits should be considered tresspassing.
_________________
“We are extremely proud of our collection of historical railroad equipment, which is the largest of any U. S. railroad, especially our steam locomotives.”
-Steve Lee-

Joe

Mike Fox replied:
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I don't think theere should be a no trespassing sign anywhere on the museum grounds or right of way. What should be posted is a no snowmobile/ATV sign in the problem areas only. But once again, I think the best way to prevent this is catch the one doing it. It's a snowmobile. It leaves tracks. Follow them to the house that is most likely near by. Then just speak to the owner and ask them to use caution around the railroad and to stay off the side of the tracks.
If you start posting everything "No trespassing", the public will feel unwelcome. The openess of the museum is one of the things I like best about it.
Mike

Dave Buczkowski replied:
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Posting our right of way is certainly acceptable. The signs could say "Authorized Personnel Only" rahter than "No Trespassing". I don't think we would want to deal with the consequences of injuries or death caused by obstacles we erected, legal or otherwise. I note that there were at least four deaths of snowmobilers this past weekend and at least five cases of injuries. All seemed to have involved stupidity and recklessness. Apparently Darwin's Law is still in effect. If a trespasser is injured by a switch, track or other normal railroad appliance that's one thing, but posts in the ground or wires strung that's another and invites a lawsuit. Properly posting railroad property should strongly be considered from a liability standpoint.
Dave

James Patten replied:
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We can consider setting up ropes or chains, which we could string at the tree line for each crossing, blocking off vehicle access to the railroad beyond that point.  However that has several negatives, including the need for a morning train which removes them and the need to remember to put them back up at night.  And it wouldn't solve any problems in the large open areas such as Alna Center or Albee's field.

As for people who like to walk the railroad, we don't like to discourage them but there comes a time when they may become a danger.  It happens a lot during the picnic, I think, for people striking out to find a good shot.  At some point it may be a good idea to incorporate a hiking path alongside the track, near the wood line, if at all possible.

Josh Botting replied:
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One further thought on the posting of signs, is that we do not want the land owners to feel as though we are restricting acess, especially where we are still aquiring the rights to some pieces.

As for the public, its part of  the learning experience to wander around the station, yard, and tracks.  We rarely have enough voulenteers to control a large crowd at any rate.

Joe Fox replied:
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Okay,

I don't think the public will mind seeing no snowmobiles or ATV's signs along the right of way. Has anybody spoken to the Alna Snowmobile club, to see what they can do to prevent that type of stuff from happening? All they need to do is put up please stay on marked trail signs, which usually works because most snowmobilers know that people can tell the club to get it off their property any time they want.

Does the snowmobile trail cross at Top of the Mountain?
_________________
“We are extremely proud of our collection of historical railroad equipment, which is the largest of any U. S. railroad, especially our steam locomotives.”
-Steve Lee-

Joe

James Patten replied:
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I'm pretty sure Alna doesn't have an organized snowmobile club.

The woods between 218 and West Alna Road is honeycombed with trails.  You could walk from the museum to Alna Center without ever walking the railroad track, and I'm certain you could keep walking north by keeping to trails.

Albee's Crossing used to be a snowmobiler trail which went down to the stream, and you could keep walking back to Alna Center.  While I've never tried to get from Trask's to Sutter's through the back woods, I'm sure there's a way.

Josh Botting replied:
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Joe,

Its not the public we would offend with signs, its land owners.  We are reaching agreements with them to use there ROW, and than restricting all acess, their acess, to the land.

Joe Fox replied:
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The no tresspassing signs woulnd't seem proper for a tourist railroad any way, but when the signs are put up, just tell them that we don't wan't any damage to be done to the railroad tracks, and that is the reason why we don't want any snowmobilers or ATV's on the right of way.

Joe
_________________
“We are extremely proud of our collection of historical railroad equipment, which is the largest of any U. S. railroad, especially our steam locomotives.”
-Steve Lee-

Joe

MikeW replied:
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Alna does have a snowmobile club: Alna SC, 708 West Alna Rd, Alna ME 04535

Josh Botting replied:
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I highly doubt the problem is from members of the Alna SC.  Most people know enough to stay off RR tracks, if not for the RR, than to save their own sleds.

MikeW replied:
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It would still be worth talking to them.  My experience with snowmobile clubs is that they are very concerned about responsible use of snowmobiles.  I would bet they would even help figure out who is doing it.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained...

Wayne Laepple replied:
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I agree with Mike. Enlisting the assistance of the snowmobile club can't hurt, and it might help.

As for signage along the railway, it probably won't do much good. However, if signs are erected and documented by photography, even if the signs are knocked down later on, there is proof of your intent. It also might be worthwhile to get a story in the newspaper about trespassers, so the local law enforcement people are aware of the matter.

Joe Fox replied:
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But the museum wouldn't bennifit from the authorities getting involved, seeing as we are a tourist attraction. If somebody contacts the snowmobile club, please make sure to ask them what else we can do, and how can they help us prevent these types of things from happening.
_________________
“We are extremely proud of our collection of historical railroad equipment, which is the largest of any U. S. railroad, especially our steam locomotives.”
-Steve Lee-

Joe

BM1455 replied:
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Again, I do not see a real problem here.  Yes we get an occasional unauthorized visitor in one form or another, but in the grand scheme of things we don’t have a real problem with this.  Do we really want to change the flavor of our museum with trespassing signs or highly visible notices asking people to stay of the ROW, or say go here or go there? As Josh mentioned earlier, we will just piss off the local landowners and hikers who currently support us.   Then we realy will ahve a trespassing problem.  If I saw more vandalism or dangerous situations actually happening, then we would have more of a reason to take some sort of action. If someone wants to take the argument that ”it only takes one”….well, then there is not a thing that we can ever do to solve the problem because we can-not counter every situation that can be imagined on this list. On the other hand, many of the suggestions that are being offered will cause a change in or attitude towards the public or a change in the public’s perception of us.  Until we see a real problem occurring with some frequency, lets not get too revved up on this subject.

….Perhaps the real solution would be to lay a minefield along the ROW,  (keeping sufficiently clear of John McNamara’s phone line of course) so that any violating thing such as a sled, ATV, trespasser, or any other dead horse that hasn’t already been sufficiently whipped by it’s specific mention in this discussion, would be completely obliterated.
Eric.

Josh Botting replied:
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Eric,

Agreed.
Signs only keep out honest people, and further incourage the dishonest folks, to think that there are things they want to see beyond the signs.

And as for the land mines, in my recent museings, I had envisioned a couple of large security towers, in stragitic places.  In these we could place one of those Garrett .50 cal sniper rifels.  We could all take turns, or better yet, rent them out for "sportsman". After a bit the bodies would pile up, and be a disinsentive to further intrusions.  Also we would get a few of the dummer ones out of the way........

Anyway on a serious note.  I think we have bigger things to worry about.

Mike Fox replied:
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I would hate to see everythibng we have worked so hard for taken away because of someones stupidity along the right of way. If someone slams into a pile of rail or ties on a snowmobile or ATV, who is liable? I know it has been said signs would encourage more activity of the same, but atleast then we would have a better chance of winning in court.
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"Properly posting railroad property should strongly be considered from a liability standpoint. "
Dave Buczkowski

Mike

pockets replied:
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I can't speak for the laws, in Maine, but in some other states that I am familiar with, signs won't keep anyone out. They do, however, cover your butt in court.

Greg B.

Wayne Laepple replied:
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We are only deluding ourselves if we think it is still 1910 and people respect private property. Society in general has changed much since then, and an "if it feels good, do it" attitude prevails today. If an attorney suggests that railroad property should be posted to protect us from liability, it should be done. We cannot pretend that people are not going to walk or ride ATV's and snowmobiles on railroad property, and that tie or piece of rail lying along the edge of the ballast could certainly harm an ignorant trespasser. It will only take one lawsuit to put an end to our dream railway.

Maybe we should consider cast iron signs, set in concrete, which would weather nicely and look authentic. I have fond memories of such signs along the Reading line near my home when I was growing up, including some that had very insistent yet poetic warnings about walking on bridges and into tunnels.

By the way, I have noticed that some of our neighbors have their properties posted, so if we put our signs on the other side of the tree, that should protect both of us.

BM1455 replied:
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You guys are opening a far bigger can of worms than you realize.  It is not as simple as you make it sound and the liability safeguards gained by simply putting up signs are not either.
Who's a trespasser and who’s a volunteer?  Who is authorized and who is not?  As an all-volunteer organization how do we prove that they are not authorized?  As an organization that encourages rail fans and tourists to "explore our museum" how do we prove that they were trespassing? How about using a policy of selective enforcement?  How would such a policy of selective enforcement hold up if challenged in court?    Coming up with a policy to define all of this in a way that would hold up legally if challanged would drastically change the entire structure of the all volunteer force and would also dismantle the free roaming concept for those who were not specifically authorized to be there as volunteers.
Perhaps in an effort to produce an effective protection against all that can go wrong we can do what the Durango and Silverton has done and just prosecute every one?  No volunteers and no hikers or railfans that are not under dirrect supervision.
.....so what do no tresspassing signs really get us into and what is the cost of this to the basic structure of an organization like the one we have?

Eric.

Steam replied:
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Perhaps a couple of well placed signs saying something like:

Notice to hikers, snowmobilers and others:

You are welcome to enjoy our railroad right of way, but please take care while doing so.
Also, any deliberately destructive activities will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Please stop in at our museum and ride our train when you can. Learn more about the history of this railroad.

Mike Fox replied:
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I am not so concerned with trespassers. If the neighbors would like to walk the right of way, so be it. But I would like for you to think what would happen if a snowmobile were to hit a pile of ties or something like that along the right of way and the rider get injured. The way lawsuits fly around nowadays, I think it would be worthwhile to investigate the options. What is the least we can do to protect the museum.
Maybe some orange snow fence put along the right of way an both sides of the track in the field at Alna Center would help direct them to use the crossing. I would hate to see some get hurt let alone have them sue the museum because they landed in the ditch there and fell off their sled and their head hit the rail.
And this fence could be put up in late fall and taken down in early spring. That might ruin a good winter photo shot, but I also think safety of even a trespasser should not be ignored.
Mike

Bill Sample replied:
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FWIW - Do we have any lawyers in our membership that are conversant with the local trespassing laws and potential liability issues? If we do, maybe they could donate their services to get some professional opinions on this subject.
Hopefully it won't come to the point where we will be challenged to provide identification.  As for separating volunteers from general trespassers, most of carry our membership cards.  If we had to, adjoining property owners could also be provided with a "pass" to access the property.

Dave Buczkowski replied:
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Bill;
I'm a Massachusetts lawyer though I specialize in real estate. Trespassing in any state can be a criminal or a civil act or both. If I get a chance I will try to research the criminal statutes in Maine. In a civil context, trespass is more likely to be raised a defense to a tort (civil wrong) action brought by someone who was injured on the defendant's property. Tort law is mostly case law rather than statutory. A trier of fact (whether judge or jury) makes their decision based on the facts presented pursuant to the law to be applied. In other words, each case is different and, where tried in front of a jury, rests upon the particular jury you get. I have no experience with Lincoln County juries but my hunch would be they wouldn't be overly favorable to a trepasser who was injured due to his own stupidity. Again, it would be based on the facts. A snowmobiler clipped by an invisible wire strung up to prevent trespassers might be more likely to collect. Obviously, this is an extremely concise discussion, but I invite other counsel who may be members to comment.
As an aside, carrying identification as a Museum member isn't something that I think will be helpful. The law distinguishes between invitees and trespassers. An invitee one day could be a trespasser the next.
Dave

Josh Botting replied:
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First of all,  I think we are more likeley to have a person, child, falling from climbing on the tie pile, than a snowmobile slamming into one.

Second, I believe it is already illegal to trespass on the ROW of a RR in Maine?  There would be no need to post the ROW if that is the case.

Finally, you are all getting all worked up about a couple of incidents.  I think as an organization, our efforts are better spent elsewhere.  We cannot protect the entire ROW.

It is a fact of life in Maine, a few bad snowmobielers will misbehave.  Nothing we will do will stop that.  My guess is that the snowmobilers have been using the area for a while.  We aren't going to stop that.  They will go where they please.  That is a fact of life here.

Mike Fox replied:
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Josh,
I am not looking to protect the entire right of way. I would like to know what we can do to protect the museum from a lawsuit that would be a result of someone getting injured on the right of way.
Anyway, I guess I'll give up on this. If you guys don't think one incident could severely change things at the museum, you are wrong. People in this sue happy world are just looking for way to get an easy buck.
Mike

John McNamara replied:
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1. I believe that property owners have a legal obligation to remove any hazards that they might reasonably know about, such as open wells. It is also their obligation not to install hazards. People who enter upon your land, whether authorized or not, are supposed to have a reasonable expectation of personal safety. If they trip over a tree root, that's something they should expect; if they fall into a trap, that's not.

2. One of our greatest assets is a friendly relationship with our neighbors. They give us easements across their properties; they ride our trains; they bring their friends and relatives to ride our trains; they don't complain about our noise and our crowds; they even give us stuff.

With these thoughts in mind, I think we should severely limit the scope of our response to this perceived problem.

Josh Botting replied:
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John,

Well said.

Mike Fox replied:
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I would like to know what we can do to protect the museum from a lawsuit that would be a result of someone getting injured on the right of way.

Ira Schreiber replied:
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That is why you buy an insurance policy. To protect, hopefully, in the event of a law suit, or other claims.
We all know how litigious this society has become.

Josh Botting replied:
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I think we have a higher probability of a voulenteer being seriously hurt on our grounds, and ROW than we do someone trespassing.   If there is any area we need to be worried about, that would be it.

mfrancoeur replied:
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John summed it up nicely and I can relate.  I recently purchased property that borders the B&ML.  I didn't think much of it at the time, but I have come to enjoy having a front row seat for some spectacular railroading.  I have walked the ROW many times inspecting the property line or just to enjoy the privacy of the walk itself.

ROWs come in several flavors which makes them a bane for lawyers. Unless the WW&F has an exclusive use ROW or owns the land outright, the WW&F is in partnership with the land owners.  Keeping them on your good side is the right course of action.

- Mike

Joe Fox replied:
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It is good to keep people on your good side. And since most of the people who have replied seem to dislike putting up some type of sign, then so be it. But the museum needs to at least put up signs along the ROW that say no snowmobiles or ATV's.

When I was at Railcamp, a guy who works at Steamtown was telling us about two boys who were four wheeling down the railroad tracks, when a train hit and killed both of them. The boys mother sued the railroad, and when they went to court, she lost. So the railroad said, we weren't going to be mean about this or anything, but since you tried sueing us, you can pay us $1500 for your two boys tresspassing on railroad property.

If something like this should happen to the museum, and it very well could happen, then that would be the end of the railroad. SOMETHING HAS GOT TO BE DONE! Even if just a sign that says no snowmobiling or ATV's would be a start and a big help.
_________________
“We are extremely proud of our collection of historical railroad equipment, which is the largest of any U. S. railroad, especially our steam locomotives.”
-Steve Lee-

Joe

MikeW replied:
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I have to agree with Joe on posting no snowmobile/no ATV signs.  I don't see how this would offend the neighbors.

BM1455 replied:
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It is already against Maine law for ATV people to ride on other people's land without permission.  There is a new and harsh law to that effect which seems to be working.  Big fines if you are caught.  Since the only ATV's or snowmobiles that are using our ROW are our neigbors, we should think twice about the signs.  There are currently ATV's travelling on the section of ROW that has no track on it yet and they come from people near were we are cutting trees this winter.  We do not yet have an agreement with them for the ROW so we should not be doing things that may make them back out of this deal.  We can talk to them and let them know what we need to see for safty but just posting signs will probably not go over that well.

Eric.

James Patten replied:
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Maine's Operation Lifesaver has just recently been in contact with me to set up a presentation/display at the museum at some point this summer.  Once we determine a date for them to come, we should invite members of the Alna snowmobile club to it.  We may be able to get some good ideas from the presenters for things we can do to be proactive but not iron fisted.

BM1455 replied:
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I spoke to the head of the Alna club two days ago on other subjects.  However, I did bring this issue up and was told that he doubted that the person who was going accross the tracks was a member of the club as they already actively discourage that type of thing.  He thought that it was more likely a younger neigbor who lives north of the Alby's property.
Eric.

MikeW replied:
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I don't see any problem with ATV's on the cleared grade with WW&F permission....however, if some of that grade being opened will be used with agreement of a landowner (ie., not WW&F property), the property owner may take issue with us allowing ATV's on THEIR property.

As for ATV's and snow sleds on the track, I think that is clearly a no-no.  There are safety and liability issues.  Also, if the museum is trying to recreate the experience of the original WW&F, then what place do ATV's and snowmobiles have in that?  Add to all this, the potential for damage to the ballast etc from ATV's (snow sleds generally cause little or no damage).

Can we ascertain who is doing it first?  If it is not a supporter of the railroad, then it is a no-brainer to ask them not to do it.
Ed Lecuyer
Moderator, WW&F Forum