This information is provided from various sources and updated as often as we can, for the most current information please visit the FAQ at https://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/division/rail/faq.html or contact the local railroad operations company at https://www.up.com/aboutup/contact/contact_faq/contacting_up/index.htm
Texas Department of Transportation FAQ about Trains and Crossings:
Copied from (in-part): https://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/division/rail/faq.html
- How long can a train block a railroad crossing?
- Who can impose a law regulating how long a train is allowed to block a railroad crossing?
- If a train is blocking a crossing, what should I do?
- What information should I collect if a train blocks a crossing for an extended period of time?
- How do you identify a railroad crossing or locate the Emergency Notification Sign (ENS)?
- What should I do if I think a railroad crossing signal is malfunctioning?
- Can a city require a railroad to operate at a specific speed?
- Can a city require a railroad not to sound the horns on a locomotive?
- Where can I find schedules for trains in my area?
How long can a train block a railroad crossing?
States lack authority to enforce time limits on how long a railroad company can block a crossing. In 2001, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal laws preempt state anti-blocking statutes. Section 471.007 was removed from the Texas Transportation Code per the Texas attorney general’s opinion in June 2005.
Who can impose a law regulating how long a train is allowed to block a railroad crossing?
The only legitimate authority to regulate blocked crossings is the federal government.
Multiple times in the past the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has been requested to begin the rulemaking process to determine effective measures to regulate blocked crossings. Federal Railroad Safety Authorization Act of 1994 (FRSA), 49 U.S.C. § 20101 et seq. (2000), is the main source of the railroad industry’s contention that state and local laws are not enforceable.
If a train is blocking a crossing, what should I do?
First, be patient. Railroads and railroaders do not intentionally block crossings; unavoidable circumstances and rules to protect public safety sometimes necessitate that trains block intersections.
Common reasons for a blocked crossing are waiting on the arrival of another train to pass or waiting to enter a rail yard. Occasionally, there are minor mechanical problems with locomotives or cars. By federal law, railroad employees cannot work more than 12 hours per day, so there are instances when a crew has met those limits ands are waiting for another crew to relieve them.
What information should I collect if a train blocks a crossing for an extended period of time?
First, write down the time, date and how long the crossing was blocked. Note the county, city, street or route that you were traveling on. If possible, write down the numbers on the side of some of the rail cars. Even better, record the number on the lead locomotive, which is usually in a format similar to “HLCX 1234”. Most helpful is the DOT Number posted at the railroad crossing that is blocked.
How do you identify a railroad crossing or locate the Emergency Notification Sign (ENS)?
Each public railroad crossing should have a blue ENS sign that includes the name of the railroad company and a unique DOT identification number posted somewhere in close proximity to the crossing, such as on the railroad sign’s post or the post that the railroad lights are on. On a crossing with flashing lights and/or gates, the DOT number will be painted on the side of a small silver building (called a bungalow) near the crossing. The number can also be found on the signal mast, the metal pole the flashing lights are attached to. The DOT number on the mast or the crossbuck pole can be found on a 4-by-9-inch embossed metal tag attached to the mast or the pole that holds the standard “Railroad Crossing” black-and-white-lettered sign in the form of a large X. It is a six-digit number followed by a letter, such as “987456 A”.
What should I do if I think a railroad crossing signal is malfunctioning?
To report malfunctioning signals, call the railroad’s phone number on the side of the small silver building (called a bungalow) nearest the crossing or on the signpost”s placard. Be prepared to give the “DOT number” (see the question above to locate the DOT number). If you are unsuccessful or cannot get in touch with the railroad, contact local law enforcement. If still unsuccessful contact TxDOT for assistance during regular business hours at (512) 416-2376.
Occasionally, railroad crossing warning signals will appear to be malfunctioning, and in extremely rare cases may actually malfunction. It is important to report all suspected malfunctions directly to the railroad so they can be corrected as soon as possible since the railroad is responsible for maintaining the warning system and each railroad has its own procedures for correcting such malfunctions. Active warning devices are designed so that if they do fail, they do so in the safest position — lights flashing and gates down. There are many reasons signals might malfunction, but weather conditions are the most common .
Can a city require a railroad to operate at a specific speed?
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) governs many of the operational aspects of railroads. Federal regulation preempts any local speed restrictions and most operating practice procedures on trains. (Section 20106 of Title 49, United States Code.)
Can a city require a railroad not to sound the horns on a locomotive?
Federal law requires the sounding of the locomotive’s horn at least 20 seconds before the train approaches a rail/highway crossing of any public road. Trains or engines must sound the horn as they proceed through the entire crossing.
The Federal Railroad Administration has an administrative rule which allows certain communities to apply for “quiet zones” if the rule’s requirements are met. Once the rule’s requirements are met, locomotives may not sound their horns when passing through the crossing in most instances. See 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 222 for those requirements. Cities may also wish to investigate the use of “wayside horns,” which are horns mounted at the signal post of a public rail/highway crossing so that the locomotive does not have to blow its horn. Wayside horns are generally believed to be less disruptive than locomotive horns because they are directed at traffic in the street.
More information about quiet zones can be found on the FRA website.
Where can I find schedules for trains in my area?
Freight railroads do not publish operational information due to security and other concerns. The times at which freight trains operate often vary. Passenger train schedules are available from the passenger service provider on their website.