N.Y. Railroad Law Section 51-A
Clearances


Clearance distance between adjacent tracks and between tracks and adjacent structures or obstructions and between the top of the rail and any overhead wire, bridge, viaduct or obstruction. All tracks hereafter constructed or reconstructed by every railroad in this state shall be laid and maintained so as to provide the following minimum distance between adjacent tracks and between tracks and adjacent or overhead structures or obstructions:

1.

Twenty-two feet between the top of the rail and any overhead wire, bridge, viaduct or other obstruction when operating conditions require men to ride or work on the top of cars, except as hereinafter provided. Structures constructed, or under construction, prior to the effective date hereof, including the extension of said structures by the erection of abutting buildings, may be maintained at existing clearances and additional tracks may be constructed and existing tracks reconstructed thereunder at the same clearance. Overhead clearance above the top of the rail of such tracks located at the entrance and inside of buildings may be reduced to eighteen feet, provided that, when an overhead clearance of less than twenty-two feet exists on tracks inside such buildings, movements of railway equipment shall be brought to a stop before entering such building. In switching movements requiring a number of entries, stop shall be required only upon initial entry. Clearances provided in this section shall not apply to electric wires and equipment required over present and future tracks for operation of trains by electric energy, provided the railroad concerned promulgates and enforces rules that prohibit any employee from being on top of cars while being operated under lower clearances than provided for in this section. Clearances provided in this section shall not apply to engine houses, engine house facilities or tipples. These clearances shall not apply to facilities used for servicing cars, nor for loading or unloading of bulk commodities, where such compliance is not reasonably practicable.

2.

Side clearances from the center line of tangent railroad tracks, used or proposed to be used for transporting freight cars, except as hereinafter provided, shall be as provided herein. However, structures, including platforms and tracks, constructed, or under construction, prior to the effective date hereof including the extension of said structures by the erection of abutting buildings, may be maintained and extended at existing clearances. All structures and obstructions above the top of the rail except those hereinafter specifically mentioned are to have a side clearance of not less than eight feet six inches as measured from the center line of the track. Platforms, except platforms adjacent to the main or passing tracks, four feet or less above the top of the rail may have lesser clearances than eight feet six inches from the center line of the track on one side of such tracks only and where a full clearance of eight feet six inches is maintained on the opposite side of the track or track centers to adjacent track are not less than fourteen feet. Platforms four feet six inches or less above the top of the rail when used principally for loading or unloading refrigerator cars may be constructed eight feet from the center line of the track. Platforms previously constructed at less than clearances herein prescribed may be extended at such lesser clearances unless such extension is in connection with the reconstruction of an original platform. Low passenger platforms not over eight inches above the top of the rail may be five feet one inch from the center line of track. High passenger platforms four feet or less above the top of a rail may be five feet seven inches from the center line of the track. Side clearances, other than for platforms, on sides only, at entrances to and inside of buildings shall be not less than eight feet from the center line of the track. Switchboxes, switch-operating mechanisms and accessories necessary for control and operating of signals and interlockers projecting four inches or less above the top of a rail shall be not less than three feet from the center line of the track. The center spindle of signal and switch stands three feet or less above the top of a rail and located between tracks, where not practicable to provide clearances otherwise prescribed herein, shall be not less than six feet from the center line of the track. Through bridges supporting the track affected, tunnels, water columns and oil columns shall be not less than eight feet from the center line of the track, except where special protection is required for unusual commodities. Clearances for through bridges supporting the track affected, water barrel platforms and refuge platforms on bridges and trestles not provided with walkways, handrails, water barrels, water columns, oil columns, block signals, cattle guards, and stock chutes, when all portions thereof are four feet or less above the top of the rail, may be decreased to an extent defined by a line extending diagonally upward from a point level with the top of the rail and five feet distant laterally from the center line of the track to a point four feet above the top of the rail and eight feet distant laterally from the center line of the track, provided, however, that the minimum clearance for handrails and water barrels on bridges with walkways shall be seven feet nine inches, and, provided further that the minimum clearance for fences of cattle guards shall be six feet nine inches. Lesser clearances authorized herein for handrails and water barrels shall not be applicable to through bridges where work of trainmen or yardmen requires them to be upon the decks of such bridges for the purpose of coupling and uncoupling cars in the performance of switching service on a switching lead. Side clearances specified herein shall not apply to mail cranes during such time as the arms of such mail cranes are supporting a mail sack for delivery, provided the top arm is not then higher than ten feet eight inches above the top of the rail and neither arm extends within six feet five inches from the center line of the track. Icing platforms and supports shall have side clearance of not less than eight feet. Operations over portions of track adjacent to icing platforms heretofore constructed with side clearance of less than eight feet shall be restricted, except in emergencies, to movement or switching of trains containing refrigerator cars to be iced, and necessary use of such track for unloading of supplies required for operation of icing dock. Side clearances specified herein shall not apply to intertrack fences located on the center line between tracks. Clearances provided in this section shall not apply to an engine house, engine house facilities or tipples, facilities used for servicing cars, or for loading or unloading of bulk commodities, where such compliance is not reasonably practicable. Side clearances specified herein shall not apply to car retarders, derails, switch point protectors, guard rails and similar appurtenances projecting three inches or less above the top of the rail. All minimum side clearances prescribed in this section are for tangent tracks. Structures adjacent to curve tracks shall have additional minimum side clearance compensating for curvature.

3.

Overhead and side clearance prescribed herein may be decreased to the extent of a line extending diagonally downward from a point four feet from the center line of the track twenty-two feet above the top of the rail to a point eight feet from the center line of the track at sixteen feet above the top of the rail. For tracks located at the entrance to and inside buildings with eighteen feet overhead and eight feet side clearances as prescribed herein, the overhead and side clearances may be decreased to the extent of a line extending diagonally downward from a point four feet from the center line of the track eighteen feet above the top of the rail to a point eight feet from the center line of the track at fourteen feet above the top of the rail. Canopies at one side of a track at freight platforms may be constructed at not less than four feet from the center line of the track provided the height of such canopies is at least seventeen feet six inches above the top of the rail and further provided full clearance of eight feet six inches is maintained on the opposite side of the track from the canopy or track centers to adjacent track are not less than fourteen feet. Shelters over platforms used for passenger car operation may be constructed at not less than four feet six inches from the center line of the tracks, provided the height is not less than fifteen feet above the top of the rail and provided the railroads promulgate and enforce rules prohibiting employees from riding on the side of equipment when standing above car floor height.

4.

The minimum distance between the center lines of parallel tracks shall be not less than thirteen feet six inches for main tracks and not less than thirteen feet six inches for yard and side tracks except as hereinafter provided. The center line of any track, except a main track or a passing track, parallel and adjacent to a main track or a passing track, shall be at least fifteen feet from the center line of such main track or passing track; provided, however, that, where a passing track is adjacent to and at least fifteen feet distant from a main track, the other track may be constructed adjacent to such passing track with clearance of not less than thirteen feet six inches. The center line of any ladder track, constructed parallel to any other adjacent track, shall have a clearance of not less than eighteen feet from the center line of such other track except parallel ladder tracks shall have a clearance of not less than nineteen feet center line to center line. The minimum distance between the center lines of parallel team and house tracks shall be not less than thirteen feet six inches. Tracks constructed, or under construction, prior to the effective date hereof may be extended without increasing distances between tracks.

5.

No merchandise, material or other articles shall knowingly be permitted to remain for an unreasonable time piled or assembled on the ground or on a platform adjacent to any track at a distance of less than eight feet six inches from the center line of the track. Space between tracks ordinarily used by train and yardmen and other employees as a walkway in discharge of their duties and space beside such tracks within eight feet six inches of the center line thereof shall be kept in reasonably suitable condition for such purpose.

6.

Except as otherwise provided herein, where the overhead or side clearances between a track and any building, structure or facility are less than the minimum prescribed herein, but were created prior to the effective date hereof, minimum clearances prescribed herein shall be provided whenever a building, structure or facility is relocated or reconstructed; however, upon petition, the commissioner of transportation may grant specific requests for future continuance of such prior clearances at such reconstructed building, structure or facility when application therefor has been made as provided herein.

7.

Nothing herein shall be construed as restricting the temporary distribution of materials or the performance of work on, over or adjacent to tracks, when such distribution or performance is necessary in the construction or maintenance of facilities or equipment, provided such distribution and performance shall be carried out within a reasonable time under conditions reasonably necessary to provide for the safety of all concerned, including proper notice by train order, message or bulletin. If, in any particular case, exemption from any of the requirements herein is deemed necessary by the railroad concerned, the commissioner of transportation may grant the application of such railroad for such exemption when accompanied by a petition setting forth the conditions existing and the reason why such exemption is asked. Any exemption so granted will be limited to the particular case covered by the petition. In connection with any construction under his jurisdiction, the commissioner of transportation need not comply with this section if in his judgment such compliance is not feasible and he obtains a written statement from the railroad concerned that it has no objection to such noncompliance.

8.

Wherever the words “railroads”, “railroad tracks”, “tracks”, “buildings”, “entrances to and inside of buildings”, “structures”, “facilities”, “platforms”, and other similar terms are used herein, they shall apply not only to property owned by or leased to common carrier railroads but also to include all privately owned property serviced by the railroads. The provisions herein shall not apply to repairs, renewals, maintenance, extensions, additions, or rearrangements, in substantially the same location and within the general plan of existing installations, provided that existing clearances shall not be reduced.

Source: Section 51-A — Clearances, https://www.­nysenate.­gov/legislation/laws/RRD/51-A (updated Jun. 17, 2022; accessed Jun. 15, 2024).

50
Liability of corporation to employees of contractor
51
Weight of rail
51‑A
Clearances
52
Fences, farm crossings and cattle-guards
52‑A
Fences along road operated by electric third rail
52‑B
Fences along right of way
52‑C
Fences in Queens county
52‑D
Debris to be cleared
52‑E
Penalties for littering
53
Sign boards, flagmen and gates at crossings
53‑A
Warning signs
53‑B
Ringing bells and blowing whistles at crossings
53‑C
Obstructing farm and highway crossings
53‑D
Unlawful propulsion of a missile at railroad trains
53‑E
Unlawful interference with a railroad train
53‑F
Joint inspection of traffic-control signals interconnected with highway-rail at-grade crossing warning systems
54
Notice of starting trains
54‑A
Communication
55
Accommodation of connecting roads
56
Locomotives must stop at grade crossings
57
Rates of fare
57‑A
A steam or electric railroad corporation having a franchise from this state, operating to and from stations within a city of over a milli...
58
Excess charge when fare paid on cars
59
Penalty for excessive fare
60
Issue and use of mileage books
61
Passenger refusing to pay fare may be ejected
61‑A
Sounding of certain signals on railroad cars by unauthorized persons
62
Sleeping and parlor cars
63
Persons employed as drivers, conductors, motormen or gripmen
63‑A
Minimum crew size
64
Injuries to employees
65
Conductors and employees must wear badges
66
Checks for baggage
67
Penalties for injuries to baggage
68
Unclaimed freight and baggage
69
Minimum standards for track inspection and maintenance
70
Rights and liabilities as common carriers
71
Duties imposed
71‑A
Reflective whistle signs
72
Inspection of locomotives
73
Inspectors of locomotives
74
Care of steam locomotives
75
commissioner of transportation may approve other safeguards
76
Use of stoves or furnaces prohibited
76‑A
Motor cars and equipment
76‑B
Equipment required on motor vehicles transporting railroad employees
77
Equipment of engines
77‑A
First-aid equipment on locomotives
77‑B
Speedometers on certain locomotives
77‑C
Sanitary conditions
78
Coal jimmies and caboose cars
78‑A
Electric or battery-powered markers
79
Air-brakes
80
Couplers
81
Violation of sections seventy-seven, seventy-seven-c, seventy-eight, seventy-nine, and eighty
82
Canada thistles to be cut
83
Riding on platform
83‑A
Operation of motor vehicles, snowmobiles, recreational vehicles, and riding of animals on railroad property
83‑B
Trespass upon railroad premises
84
Corporations may establish ferries
85
Certain railroads may cease operation in winter
86
Certain railroads need not be operated beyond June, July, August and September
87
Mails
88
When railroads may designate police officers
89
New railroads across streets
90
New streets across railroads
91
Alteration or rehabilitation of existing crossing
92
Acquisition of land, right or easement in crossing
93
Repair of bridges and subways at crossings
93‑A
Maintenance and removal of highway-railroad crossing at grade
93‑B
Maintenance and removal of highway-railroad separation structures
94
Performance of work
95
Proceedings by commissioner of transportation for alteration of existing crossings
96
Proceedings to enforce orders of commissioner of transportation
97
Intercity rail passenger service
97‑A
Commuter rail service
98
Intersection of railroads
99
Application of foregoing section
100
Temporary leave granted by court to a street surface railroad
101
Consent of commissioner of transportation in certain cases
102
Ventilation of tunnels
103
Lighting of tunnels
104
Compliance with orders of commissioner of transportation
105
Enforcement
106
Penalty for violation
107
Judgment-roll
108
Approval of appliances in cities having a population of one million inhabitants or over

Accessed:
Jun. 15, 2024

Last modified:
Jun. 17, 2022

§ 51-A’s source at nysenate​.gov

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