Railroad police

Railroad police is a type of security police responsible for policing railroad (or railway) lines. In the United States and Canada, they are employed by the major Class I railroads, as well as some smaller ones. In other countries, this work is typically done by territorial police forces rather than specialized agencies. In Britain, railways fall under the jurisdiction of the British Transport Police, a nation-wide transit police force that is responsible for policing all railways and some public transit systems.


In Canada, the construction of railways served a similar nation-building function as it did in the US and also brought new police agencies into existence. Years before Confederation, railway constables were given full police powers within one quarter mile of company property and vehicles. The Canadian Pacific Railway initially relied on the North-West Mounted Police during construction of the transcontinental railroad, but by the latter 1880s were employing their own police. The large numbers of navvies recruited to build the railways brought security problems for rail companies. In 1900, the CPR established its Special Service Department. It worked closely with municipal, federal, and provincial police and given a mandate to prevent and investigate pilferage, theft, and vandalism, as well as policing strikes. The CPR police was also responsible for closely guarding Chinese workers, who were considered “detainees” and virtually treated as prisoners under the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885. The Special Service was dissolved in 1904 following a scandal involving the business practices of a CPR Labour Department agent in Montreal, but was resurrected in 1913 as the Department of Investigation. [citebook|last=Marquis|first=Greg|title=Policing Canada’s Century: A History of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police|date=1993|location=Toronto|publisher=University of Toronto Press|pages=134-135|Id=ISBN 978-080205-020-5] Nowadays, CN and CP Rail still have police departments. They are the only private corporations in Canada that have an armed security/police department. Railway Police are appointed in Canada under the Railway Safety Act. It allows, any railway company to appoint a person as a railway police constable. These officers are employed by the railway and assist the railway company with achieving its goals, of transporting freight, safely.

Germany, Austria and Switzerland

"Bahnpolizei" is the term in Germany, Austria and the German-speaking parts of Switzerland for the Railroad police.


Policing of Italian State Railways ("Ferrovie dello Stato") is carried out by the Polizia Ferroviaria.

United Kingdom

The British Transport Police protects the rail system in the UK.

United States


The history of railroad police in the United States traces back to the beginnings of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. In the mid nineteenth century, the number of US Marshals was insufficient to police the railway lines sprawling across the vast frontier. Passing through areas far removed from the protective measures available in populated centers left railroad lines and their passengers and freight vulnerable to banditry. Through his detective business, Allan Pinkerton met George B. McClellan, the president of the Rock Island Railroad and Illinois Central Railroad, as well as its attorney, Abraham Lincoln. With Lincoln’s encouragement, Pinkerton began supplying detectives for the railroad. Railroad contracts were subsequently a mainstay of Pinkerton’s until railroad companies gradually developed their own police departments in the years following the Civil War. [citeweb|title=Railroad Police History|publisher=Carrizo Gorge Railway Police|url= http://www.cgrp.us/History.html |accessdate=2007-04-04] [citeweb|title=Saving Mr. Lincoln, 1861-1865|publisher=Central Intelligence Agency|url=https://www.cia.gov/library/publications//civilwar/docs/SML.htm|accessdate=2007-04-04] After the founding of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in 1863, Pinkerton’s and the new railroad police agencies became instrumental in crushing strikes of rail workers. [citebook|last=Pinkerton|first=Allen|title=Strikers, Communists, Tramps and Detectives|publisher=G.W. Carleton & Co.|location=New York|date=1878|pages=96] Another major concern was pilferage by employees, especially the passenger conductor, who had the greatest authority and freedom on passenger trains and collected ticket fees. Pinkerton began this work for the South Michigan Line in 1854, and on 1 February 1855, he created the North West Police Agency with $10,000 given for the cause by six anxious Midwestern railroads. [citebook|last=Morn|first=Frank|title=The Eye that Never Sleeps: A History of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency|location=Bloomington, IN|publisher=Indiana University Press|date=1982|pages=25|id=ISBN 978-025332-086-5]

Jurisdiction and authority

Railroad police officers are certified law enforcement officers and carry full police and arrest powers. The appointment, commissioning and regulation of railroad police under Section 1704 of the U.S. Crime Control Act of 1990, provides that: "A railroad police officer who is certified or commissioned as a police officer under the laws of any one state shall, in accordance with the regulations issued by the U. S. Secretary of Transportation, be authorized to enforce the laws of any other state in which the rail carrier owns property."

It is important to note that Section 1704 also states that this police authority is to "the extent of the authority of a police officer certified or commissioned under the laws of that jurisdiction". While a railroad police officer may have general peace officer authority in some states such as California, they are may limited to the railroad's property in other states.

The status of railroad police officers varies by state, in that they are commissioned by the Governor of the state in which they reside and/or work in and they may carry both state level arrest powers and some interstate arrest powers as allowed by 49 USC 28101. Although railroad police primarily enforce laws on or near the railroad right of way, their police officers can enforce other laws and make arrests off of railroad property depending on the state in which they are working.

Depending upon the state or jurisdiction, railroad police officers may be considered certified police officers, deputized peace officers, or company special agents.

Some of the crimes railroad police investigate include trespassing on the right-of-way of a railroad, assaults against passengers, terrorism threats targeting the railroad, arson, tagging of graffiti on railroad rolling stock or buildings, signal vandalism, pickpocketing, ticket fraud, robbery and theft of personal belongings, baggage or freight. Other incidents railroad police investigate include derailments, train/vehicle collisions, vehicle accidents on the right of way, and hazardous materials releases.

Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF)

Most railroad police agencies are participants in the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). [http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/speeches/speech100802.htm]

Railroad Police Agencies

*Amtrak Police Department (also police Caltrain)
*BNSF Railway Police
*Boston & Maine Railroad Police Department (subsidiary of Pan Am Railways; also covers ex-Maine Central territory owned by PAR)
*CN Police Service
*Carrizo Gorge Railroad Police [http://www.cgrp.us]
*Conrail Railroad Police Department
*CSX Police Department
*Metra Police Department
*Norfolk Southern Railway Police Department
*Union Pacific Police Department

External railroad police links in the United States

* [http://nspolice.com/history0.htm Norfolk Southern Police Department history]
* [http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/23/title23ch609sec0.html Example: §6072-6073 of the Maine State Railroad Police Act]

ee also

*Company police
*Security police
*Special police
*Auxiliary police


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