Generally, state and federal regulations require railroads to return corridors to their original condition upon abandonment, which includes the removal of tracks, ties and other structures.
In most cases, the railroad will remove all salvageable materials before the final property transaction of a railroad corridor; however, potential revenue for your trail project could be gained by salvaging existing steel rails. Additionally, some physical structures may need to remain for trail use, such as bridges, tunnels and culverts.
The National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRCMA) provides a member directory that includes a list of salvage companies.
Railbanking and Salvaging
If you are acquiring a corridor through railbanking, you may be in a position to finance your acquisition through the purchase and subsequent resale of all railroad-related material in the corridor. This step is called a “line buy.” Line buys are very complicated transactions that require extensive understanding of the value of the entire corridor (not simply the real estate) as well as the costs associated with dismantling the corridor.
Line buys can work if you are able to manage the salvage of a corridor profitably. Learn more about line buys and other types of financing methods in Chapter 7 of Acquiring Rail Corridors: A How-To Manual.