Who Owns Abandoned Railroad Property In Oklahoma ?
In Cuneo v. Champlin Refining Co., 1936 OK 540, 178 Okla, sixty-five years ago, the Oklahoma Supreme Court first confronted the issue of title to abandoned railroad property absent a specific grant or reservation of the interest in the conveyance of abutting property.
There, the Supreme Court adopted the prevailing view of other jurisdictions that ordinarily, absent a clear expression of intent otherwise, "the grantor of land abutting upon a railway who retains in himself no part of the land on either side of the railway property is presumed to have conveyed his interest in the railway property." Cuneo, 1936 OK 540, P25, 62 P.2d at 87.
The Cuneo Court enumerated several reasons for the rule:
The existence of narrow strips of land distinct in ownership from the adjoining territory would create a prolific source of litigation; that the law favors a construction of instruments which avoids such a situation; that the law will presume the grantor had no intent to retain property then burdened with a railway use and therefore having no immediate value to him; and that the presumption should be indulged because the ownership of the fee under the railway carries with it valuable rights appurtenant to the property expressly conveyed.
To avoid the "prolific source of litigation" brought on by "'the evils resulting from the retention in remote dedicators of the fee in gores and strips,'" the Oklahoma appellate courts consequently and consistently hold that absent a clear reservation of interest, the grantor of land abutting both sides of a railroad easement conveys by implication the fee to the center of the railroad right-of-way. Id.; Kassner, 1943 OK 293, P7, 147 P.2d at 980; Hill v. Cunningham, 1958 OK 189, P4, 329 P.2d 1034, 1035; Vaughn, 1973 OK CIV APP 4, PP15, 18, 511 P.2d at 1151, 1152.