The Indiana Supreme Court answered a certified question concerning some federal “rails-to-trails” litigation. It has to do with whether an easement on land originally granted for the purpose of operating a railroad could later be used for public trails when the railroad was abandoned. The Indiana Supreme Court decided that the easement did not extend to such a use.
The original easement was for a “commercial enterprise for transport.” This explains why the original easement of running a railroad could be shifted to laying down an oil pipeline in the same easement without the easement reverting back to the original property owner. By contrast, the Supreme Court reasoned, a public trail is an “activity of recreation not transportation.” Chief Justice Shepard dissented.
The Court doesn’t get into this, but I think the upshot is that a trail can’t be created along the rail line simply by negotiating with the rail line or its successor; rather, to create a public trail in this location, new deals or condemnations have to be made as to the 128 landowners along the 21 mile stretch.