I never cease being amazed at the amount of legislation the lawmakers in Harrisburg can manufacture. Let me give you an example.
Railroads would be an example of a subject that wouldn’t command a lot of their attention.
First, there are a lot of federal statutes dealing with the subject.
Second, in and of themselves, railroads aren’t terribly complicated.
I still have my model train from years ago, and it runs quite nicely on the track being pulled by the engine, and I have no rules or regulations about the train set except that the cat can’t play with it.
Just for fun, I counted the number of statutes or parts of statutes in my statute index under the heading railroads. Are you ready for this? Would you believe 346?
So, what kind of subjects are treated in this library of railroad laws? Well, one that caught my eye dealt with torpedoes and fusees. If your train stops and is about to be overtaken by another train, a member of your train must go back and forth with a red flag, torpedoes and fusees, and add a red or white light at night and place two torpedoes on the rail.
The railroad is also to cut or otherwise control the growth of brush and weeds upon property owned by the railroad within 200 feet of crossings on both sides and in both directions, so as to insure proper visibility by motorists. If you see anyone with a ruler at a railroad crossing, that’s probably what they’re doing.
If a train goes faster than 30 miles per hour, it has to have a speedometer, and the speed has to be recorded, and it must be able to be seen by the engineer.
Unlike the old cowboy movies, it is no longer legal to ride on the outside of a train or inside a box car. If you’re caught, it’s a misdemeanor of the third degree.
In addition to dealing with the people in Harrisburg, there’s another group in Washington, D.C., which also pump out bunches of rules.
Consider the predicament of the Consolidated Rail Corp. It stopped its train on a crossing to conduct brake testing. A motorist later hit the train and sued. The state law required the train to keep moving through the crossing while the federal regulations required it to stop. The only way to ensure compliance with both provisions was to regulate the train length, which was unduly burdensome on interstate commerce.
After going back and forth in the courts, the state won.
Thomas Young, a graduate of Pitt and Harvard Law School, has been a lawyer in Johnstown since 1958. He is a former professor of business law at Pitt-Johnstown. Readers may send questions to Young in care of The Tribune-Democrat. The opinions expressed in this column are general in nature and may not apply to your situation. Consult your attorney for advice on specific legal matters.