Railroad Surveys

Railroad surveys are a necessary step in rail line development, both during the initial design and construction process and to aid in ongoing maintenance projects. With our many years of commercial surveying experience, Point to Point Land Surveyors, Inc. can perform effective and accurate surveys to assist with your railroad construction project.


The railroad survey is an essential step before any drawings can be made of potential railway routes. It is necessary to understand the geographic restrictions and the layout of the area when attempting to determine the best route. In an ideal world, the rail line would run in a perfectly straight line from start to finish, with no changes in slope and no turns; however, in the real world, there are geographic obstacles that nearly always make this impossible. A railroad survey provides critical information to help determine the most effective route for the rail line, as well as to identify any concerns with current lines under maintenance.


When performing railroad surveys, the surveyor assists the rail design engineers in the mapping of optimal rail routes, determining optimal grades, slopes, and curves in varying sections of the rail route. As the surveyor determines the optimum rail route, there are a few restrictions he/she keeps in mind. First, the rail line should climb no more than two meters in altitude for every 100 meters traveled. When it comes to curve, gentle curves (under 10 degrees) are optimal, though tighter curves may be possible or even necessary in some areas. The surveyor also takes into account the track gauge (how far apart one rail is from the other), and regulations such as maximum train length, if any exist.

During this step of the railroad design process, the surveyor is mostly concerned about the track since no other design elements will be relevant if the track is unusable. Besides providing location input, the surveyor may also create a 2D or 3D representation of the site. Often this takes form as a cross section, allowing viewers to see how the railway will look from the site itself.

Perhaps the most challenging part of railroad surveying is when bridges and tunnels are necessary. The surveyor may be responsible for providing input on site selection and monitoring the building process to ensure that the bridge or tunnel is located correctly. The surveyor also plays an important role in determining where platforms and stations should be placed along the rail line, as well as signal poles, wiring, drainage features and other aspects of the project. Finally, once blueprints have been created, the surveyor remains involved during construction to ensure that the crew accurately locates the rail line and other features on the physical land based on the blueprint.