ELAINE K. MURRAY & another 
DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION AND RECREATION.
Heard: April 5, 2016.
action commenced in the Land Court Department on September
19, 2011. The case was heard by Gordon H. Piper, J., on
motions for summary judgment.
Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the
case from the Appeals Court.
A. Murray (Peter M. Schilling with him) for the plaintiffs.
Frances S. Cohen, Assistant Attorney General, for the
Present: Gants, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Duffly, Lenk,
& Hines, JJ. 
plaintiffs appeal from a judgment of the Land Court
dismissing without prejudice their action to quiet title
under G. L. c. 240, §§ 6-10, for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. The thrust of their action is that a
railroad easement formerly owned by the Pennsylvania Central
Transportation Co. (Penn Central) across portions of their
lands was abandoned when the United States Railway
Association (USRA), acting pursuant to the Regional Rail
Reorganization Act of 1973, devised a final system plan which
designated certain profitable rail lines that were to be
transferred from eight bankrupt regional rail carriers in the
northeast and the midwest regions of the country to the
Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), but not the rail
line over the easement that encumbered their lands. The
plaintiffs contended that the railroad easement over their
lands was abandoned by virtue of its nondesignation for
transfer to Conrail in the final system plan. The judge in
the Land Court disagreed and concluded that a certificate of
abandonment from the Federal Surface Transportation Board
(STB) was necessary before a State court could exercise
jurisdiction to determine State law claims regarding
easements, and that STB's jurisdiction was both exclusive
and primary. The plaintiffs appealed, and we transferred the
case to this court on our own motion. We affirm the judgment
of the Land Court.
following facts are undisputed. Boston and Worcester Railroad
(B&W) was created in 1831. In 1847 it filed a "Plan
of Location of the Newton Railroad" with the Middlesex
County commissioners. The easement over the plaintiffs'
properties appears as part of the proposed railroad line
depicted on the 1847 plan of location. The relevant part of
the line was known as the Newton Lower Falls Branch (branch
line). Penn Central succeeded to the B&W interest in the
branch line. In 1970, Penn Central filed for bankruptcy.
Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973, Pub. L. 93-236, 87
Stat. 985 (1973 Act), was enacted by Congress on January 2,
1974 and is codified at 45 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq.
(2012). The 1973 Act was designed to address the complexities
arising from the bankruptcies of eight regional rail carriers
in the northeast and midwest region of the country, including
Penn Central. See Regional R.R. Reorganization Act
Cases, 419 U.S. 102, 108 (1974) (Regional R.R.
Cases). It created Conrail, which would be tasked with
operating railroads in the region, and the USRA, which was to
develop a plan to determine which rail lines of the bankrupt
railroads would be transferred to Conrail, and which would
not. The result of USRA's charge was the July 26, 1975,
final system plan for restructuring railroads in the
northeast and midwest. The final system plan indicates that
the branch line in this case was not designated to be
transferred to Conrail. The final system plan also indicates
that the branch line had been last used in May, 1972.
application to abandon the branch line under § 304(f) of
the 1973 Act had been filed with USRA and was pending as of
June 26, 1975, the date of the final system plan. A search of
Federal records could not definitively establish whether a
certificate of abandonment had ever issue d. In 1976,
Penn Central (or its successor or agent) began to remove the
rails from the ground of the branch line. By deed dated
November 1, 1982, and recorded with the Middlesex County
South registry of deeds, Penn Central granted and released to
the Commonwealth all its interest in the branch line.
before any rail line may be abandoned, a certificate of
abandonment must be obtained from the appropriate Federal
agency. From 1920 until 1995, that agency
was the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). See Chicago
& N.W. Transp. Co. v. Kalo Brick &
Tile Co., 450 U.S. 311, 319-320 (1981), and authorities
cited (providing statutory history). See also Hayfield N.
R.R. v. Chicago & N.W. Transp.
Co., 467 U.S. 622, 627-629 (1984), and authorities cited
(same). This authority of the ICC to regulate the abandonment
of rail lines was "exclusive and plenary." See
Chicago & N.W. Transp. Co. v. Kalo
Brick & Tile Co., supra at 321. In 1995,
Congress abolished the ICC and transferred its authority to
regulate the abandonment of rail lines to the STB. See
Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995, Pub.
L. 104-88, 109 Stat. 803; 49 U.S.C. §§ 702, 10501,
10903 (2012). Title 49 U.S.C. expressly confers exclusive
authority to regulate the abandonment of rail lines, with
certain exceptions not relevant to this case, upon the STB.
See 49 U.S.C. §§ 10501, 10903. There is no dispute
here that Penn Central did not obtain a certificate of
abandonment of the branch line from the ICC, and that the STB
has not issued a certificate of abandonment for the branch
important exception to the exclusive authority of the ICC to
regulate rail abandonments developed when, in the early
1970s, "[a] rail transportation crisis seriously
threatening the national welfare was precipitated when eight
major railroads in the northeast and midwest region of the
country entered reorganization proceedings under § 77 of
the Bankruptcy Act, 11 U.S.C. § 205." Regional
R.R. Cases, 419 U.S. at 108. Penn Central was one of
those railroads. "After interim measures proved to be
insufficient, Congress concluded that solution of the crisis
required reorganization of the railroads, stripped of excess
facilities, into a single, viable system operated by a
private, for-profit corporation. Since such a system cannot
be created under § 77 rail reorganization law, and since
significant [F]ederal financing would be necessary to make
such a plan workable, Congress supplemented § 77 with
the  Act. . ." (footnote omitted). Regional
R.R. Cases, 419 U.S. at 108-109. Under the 1973 Act the
USRA was "established as a new government . . .
corporation charged with preparing a 'Final System
Plan' for restructuring the railroads in reorganization
into a 'financially self-sustaining rail service
system.'" Id. at 111, citing 1973 Act,
§ 206(a), (a)(1); 45 U.S.C. § 716(a), (a)(1) (1970
ed. & Supp. Ill). The deadline for submission of a
proposed final system plan to Congress was 570 days after
January 2, 1974 (by July 26, 1975), the effective date of the
1973 Act. Regional R.R. Cases, supra at
112-113, citing 1973 Act §§ 207(c), (d), 208(a); 45
U.S.C. §§ 717(c), (d), 718(a) (1970 ed. & Supp.
Ill). The final system plan ...