Ulman said the county and railroad officials would continue to work on keeping people away from the railroad tracks, but it was not yet clear what form that effort would take. At a meeting attended by county department heads and CSX representatives later in the day, officials of the county police, public works departments and CSX agreed to take a closer look at the several points of access to the tracks and see what might be done, Enright said.
He said CSX representatives suggested that part of their effort could include a public education campaign warning of railroad track dangers.
CSX spokesman Gary Sease told reporters early in the day that railroad tracks were built for easy access to shippers, farmers or anyone else who might need to use the rails to move goods. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he said, CSX has paid more attention to security, but added that there's still a balance to be struck between security and access.
It's a particular challenge in Ellicott City, where the tracks run right next to a public attraction, the B&O Railroad Museum: Ellicott City Station. The stone building houses what the museum web site calls the oldest surviving rail station in the nation. Indeed, the tracks seem almost as much a part of the museum as the red caboose that stands outside the main building. A set of stairs outside the museum leads to the edge the tracks.
Across Main Street from the museum, next to a block of stone buildings, a flight of stone stairs also leads to the tracks. From the top of some 30 steps it's just a matter of climbing over a low fence to make it onto the tracks.
That may or may not be the way Mayr and Nass got to the tracks before they took their spots sitting on the bridge over Main Street, their backs to the tracks, their feet dangling over the edge — but many people take that route.
"That's how everyone gets up there," said Jamin Geoghegan, who lives on Main Street just a few doors down from that stairway. He has occasionally seen kids up there, and people who seem to be homeless, but not so often — maybe eight times in the six months he's lived in town.
Wandering near the tracks may or may not be a common local practice — it depends on whom you ask. Some people in town say they see people up there all the time — teenagers, tourists and people who appear to be homeless. Others say it hasn't been a big problem.
Sherry Llewellyn, a spokesman for the Howard County Police Department, said that "we do see that from time to time" but it's not an "ongoing, significant issue."
County Councilwoman Courtney Watson, who represents the area, agreed.
"I have lived in this community my entire life," said Watson, who was elected to the council six years ago. "I have high school- and college-age kids. It has never been a huge issue. We are not aware of it being a major hangout. ... This has not been presented to me as a concern of the community."
Still, she said, "we have to educate everyone that railways are not safe places to be."
Baltimore Sun reporters Michael Dresser and Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.