FROM THE CAB - May 2021

By Martin Wheeler, President, CAPT

As part of its mission to reduce deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and around railroad tracks and trains, Operation Lifesaver, Inc. offers rail safety tips for drivers, pedestrians, and an array of audiences. The Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains endorses these safety tips.

  1. Freight trains do not travel at fixed times, and schedules for passenger trains often change. Always expect a train at each highway-rail intersection at any time.
  2. All train tracks are private property. Never walk on tracks; it is illegal to trespass and highly dangerous. It takes the average freight train traveling at 55 mph more than a mile—the length of 18 football fields—to stop. Trains can’t stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.
  3. 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. We all know what happens to a soda can hit by a car.
  4. Trains have the right of way 100% of the time over emergency vehicles, cars, the police and pedestrians.
  5. Trains extend over tracks; stay 15 feet back from the tracks. Always assume train tracks are in use, even if there are weeds or the track looks unused. Always expect a train at any railroad track, at any time and in any direction.
  6. Trains can move in either direction at any time. Sometimes railroad cars are pushed by locomotives instead of pulled, which is especially true in commuter and light rail passenger service.
  7. Today's trains are quieter than ever, producing no telltale "clackety-clack." Any approaching train is always closer, moving faster than you think.
  8. Remember to cross train tracks ONLY at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings and obey all warning signs and signals posted there.
  9. Stay alert around railroad tracks. Refrain from texting, headphones or other distractions that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train; never mix rails and recreation.

GET OUT! GET AWAY! FIND THE BLUE AND WHITE SIGN. If your vehicle gets stuck or stalls at a crossing, get everyone out and far away immediately, even if you do not see a train. Call the number on the Blue and White Emergency Notification System (ENS) sign and share the crossing ID number with the dispatcher. No sign? Dial 911.