Response or Comment
While the weight of authority is probably to the effect that railroad rights of way may be lost by adverse possession, the authorities are by no means agreed. See 12 MICH. L. REV. 144. The rights of way of certain of the Pacific Railroad Companies have been declared not to be subject to the ordinary rules as to adverse possession, on the ground that by the Congressional grants the four-hundred-foot-strips were conveyed only for railroad purposes with the ultimate possibility of reverter in the United States, which had the effect of making such lands inalienable by the railroad companies whether by voluntary deed or by lapse of time under the general statutes of limitation. Northern Pacific R. Co. v. Smith, 171 U. S. 267, 43 L. Ed. 160, 18 Sup. Ct. 794; Northern Pacific R. Co. v. Townsend, 190 U. S. 267, 47 L. Ed. 1044, 23 Sup. Ct. 671; Northern Pacific R. Co. v. Ely, 197 U. S. 1, 49 L. Ed. 639, 25 Sup. Ct 302. Before the decision in the last mentioned case an act of Congress (April 28, 1904) was approved whereby it was declared "That all conveyances heretofore made by the Northern Pacific Railroad Company or by the Northern Pacific Railway Company, of land forming a part of the right of way of the Northern Pacific Railroad, granted by the Government by any act of Congress, are hereby legalized, validated, and confirmed: Provided, That no such conveyance shall have effect to diminish said right of way to a less width than one hundred feet on each side of the centre of the main track of the railroad as now established and maintained." 33 Stat. 538, c. 1782. The court held that under the provision quoted occupants of the other one hundred feet of the right of way who had been in adverse possession thereof for the statutory period acquired ownership, the adverse possession being considered "as tantamount to a conveyance."
Aigler, Ralph W. "Adverse Possession in the Case of the Rights of Way of the Pacific Railroad Companies." Mich. L. Rev. 12 (1914): 300-2.