The Railroad Survey


Railroad surveys are those surveys that are performed within or near rail yards or railway corridors.  Railroad surveys differ from those performed in connection with highways and utilities because the surveyor has to use different techniques and, sometimes, different equipment to perform a railroad survey.  Just as with any survey, railroad surveys differ greatly depending on the project.


Railroad Track Profiles and Topographic Surveys


Railroad track profiles and topographic surveys deal with slope, curve and grade of the track and its surrounding areas.  These surveys are needed when new tracks are to be built, or when construction is being done that affects the use of the tracks, such as a new bridge, tunnel, or road that will cross the tracks.  These surveys will include features found on most surveys, plus some that are unique to railroad surveys:


  • Location of existing track centerlines
  • Gage— the distance between the rails. There is a standard gage for North American railroad tracks (4’ 8.5”) that allows rail cars to run on any track on the continent.
  • Existing Rail Section
  • Milepost Reference
  • Right-of-Way Width
  • Location of switches, bumping posts, derails
  • Terminals
  • Valuation Station Reference
  • Buildings
  • Roads
  • Fences
  • Culverts, bridges, or other types of drainage structures
  • Waterways
  • Utilities, both above and under ground


Right-of-Way Surveys


Railroad right-of-way surveys are unique types of surveys that harken back to surveying methods originated centuries ago.  These surveys use historical records and track curve data from railroad surveys completed long ago, to establish original right-of-way.  Right-of-way issues become important when easements are requested for installation of utilities such as gas pipelines, fiber optic cable, and electric power lines.


Railroad surveys come with their own unique challenges and the surveying team doing the job must be experienced and well trained.  If you need a survey on or around a rail yard or railroad, please contact Votex Surveying Company at 469-333-8831 for an estimate on your surveying project.