This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (December 2014)
A right-of-way (ROW) is a right to make a way over a piece of land, usually to and from another piece of land. A right of way is a type of easement granted or reserved over the land for transportation purposes, such as a highway, public footpath, rail transport, canal, as well as electrical transmission lines, oil and gas pipelines. A right-of-way can be used to build a bike trail. A right-of-way is reserved for the purposes of maintenance or expansion of existing services with the right-of-way. In the case of an easement, it may revert to its original owners if the facility is abandoned. This American English term is also used to denote the land itself.
In the United States, railroad rights-of-way (ROW or R/O/W) are generally considered private property by the respective railroad owners and by applicable state laws. Most U.S. railroads employ their own police forces, who can arrest and prosecute trespassers found on their rights-of-way. Some railroad rights-of-way include recreational rail trails.
In Canada, railroad rights-of-way are regulated by federal law.
The various designations of railroad right of way are as follows:
Railroad rights-of-way need not be exclusively for railroad tracks and related equipment. Easements are frequently given to permit the laying of communication cables (such as optical fiber) or natural gas pipelines, or to run electric power transmission lines overhead, along a railroad.