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Promoting rail crossing safety

Thursday, October 4, 2012

(Photo)
Purchase this photo at dailystatesman.com MIKE MCCOY-mmccoy@dailystatesman.com Passengers watch as the train pulls into the Union Pacific Station east of Dexter Tuesday. A number of people took a short excursion from Dexter to Bernie as part of Operation Lifesaver, a program promoting rail crossing safety.
By MIKE MCCOY

Statesman Staff Writer

Approximately 75 people boarded 1950s era rail passenger cars for a short excursion south of Dexter on Tuesday. The event was part of Operation Livesaver, a non-profit public education program established in 1972 to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and on railroad rights-of-way.

Union Pacific provided the transportation. Two locomotives, a 1982 MoPac and a 1996 Southern Pacific Heritage, pulled the train which included two passenger cars and a business car. The two passenger cars were Columbine and the Texas Eagle, both manufactured in the 1950s. The business car provides accommodations for the supervisor of the educational program.

Michael McGill, Operation Lifesaver presenter, coordinated the local event. The train left the Union Pacific offices northeast of Dexter and traveled nearly to Bernie before returning. Passengers got a first-hand experience on train travel. The trip took nearly three hours as five higher priority freight trains rolled passed the passenger train on stretches where there were two sets of tracks.

McGill presented safety tips to drivers who cross railroad tracks or use the right-of-way.

These included:

* Freight trains don't travel at fixed times, and schedules for passenger trains change. Always expect a train at each highway-rail intersection.

* All train tracks are private property. Never walk on tracks; it's illegal trespass and highly dangerous. By the time a locomotive engineer sees a trespasser or vehicle on the tracks it's too late. It takes the average freight train traveling at 55 mph more than a mile - the length of 18 football fields - to stop. Trains cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.

* The average locomotive weighs about 400,000 pounds or 200 tons; it can weigh up to 6,000 tons. This makes the weight ratio of a car to a train proportional to that of a soda can to a car. It's not hard to imagine what happens when a soda can is hit by a car.

* Trains have the right of way 100% of the time over emergency vehicles, cars, the police and pedestrians.

* A train can extend three feet or more beyond the steel rail, putting the safety zone for pedestrians well beyond the three-foot mark. If there are rails on the railroad ties, always assume the track is in use, even if there are weeds or the track looks unused.

* Trains can move in either direction at any time. Sometimes their cars are pushed by locomotives instead of being pulled, which is especially true in commuter and light rail passenger service.

* Today's trains are quieter than ever, producing no telltale "clackety-clack." Any approaching train is always closer, moving faster, than you think.

* Remember to cross train tracks only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings, and obey all warning signs and signals posted there.

* Stay alert around railroad tracks. No texting, headphones or other distractions that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train; never mix rails and recreation.

In 2011, there were 1, 693 train/vehicle crashes, of which 380 involved commercial vehicles. The number of fatalities was 254 in crossing accidents, while another 428 died as a result of trespassing.

Nationally, there were 48 rail crossing incidents with 13 fatalities and 14 injuries in 2011. There were only eight fatalities in 2010. Two of the collisions took place in Stoddard County resulting in an injury. There has already been one fatality in 2012 from a train/vehicle crash.

McGill told those taking the excursion that many of the accidents take place at crossings with both flashing lights and gates. Out of 22 incidents at rail crossings, 21 were at crossings with both lights and gates. Also, eight of the 13 fatalities were at these type of crossings. It is also surprising that 60 percent of the collisions occur during daylight hours. One in five collisions are from vehicles hitting the train.

McGill said that many drivers become accustomed to a train going a certain direction, and look in that direction only before crossing. He says while most trains come through downtown Dexter moving west to east, there are trains that run the opposite direction. He warns that drivers be sure to look in both directions.

There were plenty of youngsters on the train excursion Tuesday. Not only was it their first train excursion, but many of their parents had never been on a train either. Coloring books and safety brochures aimed at the children were distributed. Many of the passengers read the histories of the particular passenger car in which they were riding. The Columbine was named after the flower that is the official State Flower of Colorado. McGill noted that famous actors and other dignitaries "rode in these exact passenger cars." Each car featured both men's and women's restrooms.

Someone asked McGill about the dining car. He laughed that it was still in Colorado and not part of the traveling educational program.

Operation Lifesaver has programs in all 50 states, with trained volunteers who provide free safety talks to community groups, school bus drivers, truck drivers and student drivers to raise awareness around railroad tracks and trains. For more information, or to request a free safety presentation, visit www.oli.org.


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I wonder...did anyone ask why the trains are allowed STOP and block traffic from downtown all the way to 1-Mile Road when people are going to work in the morning or during lunch break????

-- Posted by Bearcat72 on Thu, Oct 4, 2012, at 11:30 AM

Things a REAL railroad Operation Lifesaver (OL) group would ask!!!

1. Why are all OL directors handpuppets of the railroad or government only giving lip service safety messages?

2. Why nothing is ever mentioned by OL that would cost the railroads a penny on the obviously missing safety equipment and track maintenance work?

3. Where are the crossing safety signals for the trains going too fast with no brakes or steering at 1,000s of crossings?

4. Where are the track video monitors for the trains going too fast with no brakes or steering to get the train stopped IN TIME?

5. Why aren't railroads paying at least half for crossing signals because it's their trains going too fast with no brakes or steering while paying the so-called RR directors millions a year.

6. Why the crossing humps trapping big trucks aren't required to be removed?

7. Why the crossing surfaces aren't wider where if a vehicle fish tails on slick road and is trapped at the edge of the crossing surface trap?

8. Why the train cabs aren't required to be lit up like a Christmas tree with emergency vehicle light bars? LOOK AND SEE!!

9. Why the front of trains aren't required to have air bags or something to soften impacts?

10. Why trains don't have better braking systems? OLIs message now shows train brakes obviously suck.

11. Why there are no bidding invitations on the obviously overcharged crossing projects the tax-payers pay the railroads for. $10,000 just to get the equipment to the sight. TRUCKED IN.

12. Why trains are allowed to run in the fog?

13. Why the crossings aren't lit up so drivers can see the black rail cars across the tracks at night?

14. Why railroads remove and steal signals we paid for on closed re-worked crossings?

15. Why $$$millions$$$ of the rail safety budget we pay in is wasted on needless reworks at crossings preventing signals where needed?

16. Why the railroad isn't required to de-ice crossings before they roll the trains?

17. Why the railroad isn't required to raise their overpasses so big trucks can get under them? The railroad wants to double stack and our road overpasses are too low---no problem WE PAY MILLIONS.

18. Why drug/alcohol tests aren't done on rail crews at crossing/pedestrian collisions?

19. Why railroads are allowed to get off with the train black box , signal black box (if crossing signals are present), and cab video at crossing/pedestrian collisions?

20. Why the fact is hidden that trains kill a few thousand people in 100 million train miles when regular drivers have like ONE death?

21.Why Amtrak passengers aren't required to look at the despicable shape of the crossings before they board the trains?

22.Why train horns aren't blown at private crossings till the last second freezing drivers?

23.Why the railroads track lights can't be at a crossing?

24 .Why railroads need track lights and civilians don't?

WAITING FOR OLI/OLI.CA response.

-- Posted by Horseswagled on Thu, Oct 4, 2012, at 2:36 PM

Horse, why are you allowed to rant??

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Fri, Oct 5, 2012, at 5:29 AM


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