While you and other readers have touched on some of the safety and legal concerns regarding the use of railroad tracks as G.O.O.D. routes, I’d like to add a couple of points.
My wife and I live in a city surrounded by major rivers, so my plan assumes that in an emergency situation it will be difficult – if not impossible – to get a vehicle across any of the bridges out of town. Thus, we have to be prepared to travel roughly 100 miles on foot. A couple of years ago, as I was planning the route my family would take to our retreat area, I realized that old, mostly inactive railroad lines offered a far more direct route than the country roads that we would otherwise utilize. I tentatively included travel along these tracks as an option. Last year, I committed myself to a practice evacuation to assess firsthand the strengths and weaknesses of the route I’d selected and to make any necessary adjustments. Sure enough, what looked easy enough on a map proved to be far more challenging on foot – especially the railroad tracks.
As you might imagine, given the proximity of the rivers, much of the terrain we’d have to cross is frequently muddy and difficult to negotiate. From that perspective, the railroad tracks would seem to be a God-send because they are built to remain high and dry above even flood-stage waters. But as I considered more carefully I decided that while the tracks might offer some conveniences, their potential dangers made them unacceptable as part of our bug-out route. First, being elevated above most of the surrounding terrain makes you an easy target. Second, the elevated sections of track are sometimes eight to ten feet above the normal ground level, and the embankments beside the tracks are exceptionally steep and covered with gravel; it would be very dangerous to jump off the tracks in these places if some threat required taking cover. Third, even with a map of out-of-service rail lines it may be impossible to predict what has become of the tracks since they were abandoned. At one point the map indicated that the tracks would provide bridges to cross over some wetlands, but when we arrived there the bridges had long since disappeared and we had to go nearly a mile out of our way to get around a lake.
So the lesson I hope my fellow readers will take away is that you should at the very least put eyes on any railroad track you’re considering as part of an evacuation plan and carefully consider whether that specific track is really suitable for they way you might use it. – Rollie D.