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What do Railroad Police do?

Mary McMahon
Updated: Mar 02, 2024

Railroad police are law enforcement officers who are responsible for maintaining the safety and security of rail yards, trains, and associated sites. These law enforcement professionals are typically employed by the railroad, but they have the same authority as police officers who work for the government, and they often cooperate with government law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute crimes. As with other members of the law enforcement community, railroad police are primarily concerned about public safety.

The history of railroad policing is almost as long as the history of railroads. From the early days of railroading, railroad companies realized that they needed security forces to address issues such as theft, trespassing, and vandalism. Railroad policing is much the same today, with some changes to address issues such as terrorism and sabotage.

In order to work for the railroad police, someone must complete the same training offered to other peace officers, which includes attending a law enforcement academy, and they must pass physical tests, background checks, and exams which are designed to confirm knowledge and competency. While railroad police usually work for a railroad, they can also work for transit agencies and the government, depending on how policing is organized in the nation or region where they work.

Railroad police are concerned with violations of the law which take place on trains and in train yards and train stations. A major concern is trespassing, because trespassing threatens the security of the railroad and it can be very dangerous for the trespassers. Railroad police also deal with issues like traffic control around railroad property, train hoppers who attempt to a hitch a free ride on the train, citing people for failing to stop at railroad crossings when directed to do so, and arresting vandals who damage property which belongs to the railroad. They can also apprehend criminals for whom warrants have been issued, and cooperate with law enforcement investigations.

Some railroad police ride along with the train, and are part of the crew which ensures passenger comfort and safety. Railroad police can also be stationed in train stations and train yards, providing assistance to the public, addressing criminal activity, and creating a visible security force. While many railroad police are interested in trains and the history of trains, a love of trains is by no means required to become a railroad police officer, and in fact some never even ride the train.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon990767 — On May 08, 2015

Nobody knows what railroad road police are. I found it by searching different kinds of police.

By Mykol — On May 27, 2011

We have a major railroad that passes through our community. We had a major flood a couple of summers ago, and remember it caused a lot of damage not only for homeowners, but also for the railroad system.

The local railroad police were active in some of the relief efforts that took place, and made sure the intersections where the railroads are were kept safe. I am sure their job is a variety of duties depending on what different situations come up.

There aren't as many railroad jobs available as there used to be, but those that are open, are still very important to the ongoing safety of the whole railway system.

By golf07 — On May 27, 2011

My cousin is part of the railroad police in California, and has some very interesting stories to tell. Most of his job seems to consist of security issues.

You don't hear much anymore about people train hopping or trying to hitch a free ride on the train, but it does still happen. He always has to be on the lookout for those trying to get a free ride.

By LisaLou — On May 26, 2011

The railroad police really have a fascinating history. In the early days of the railroad there were not police available, and they did not have to meet many qualifications.

As the railroad grew, so did the need for railroad police jobs. Although there are not as many railways in use today, the railroad police still play an important role.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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