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Railroad Grant Lands and Rights-Of-Way: Title to the Minerals

David S. Dale, Proceedings of 35th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1989)

This paper will be presented to the Landman's Section of the Institute; therefore, we have attempted to answer the questions a landman might have when discovering: (i) that a tract within a prospect outline for leasing was originally patented to a railroad but was subsequently conveyed by the railroad by deed containing a mineral reservation; or (ii) that a spacing unit on which his company proposes to drill a well contains a strip of land presently or previously used as railroad right-of-way. To facilitate the discussion of the issues raised by the above situations, this paper is divided into three main areas of discussion:

1.the mineral estate obtained from the federal government by a patent issued in satisfaction of the grant of land in aid of construction of a railroad, herein referred to as grant lands;

2.the mineral substances reserved by a railroad in the deeds by which it sold the grant lands to settlers, land speculators, and others;

3.ownership of the mineral estate beneath railroad rights-of-way, whether the same are being actively operated by the railroad or abandoned for railroad purposes. In the preparation of the first part of this paper, the author acknowledges substantial reliance on Thomas E. Root's Monograph, which gives the complete story on railroad land grants.