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A Few Pointers From Your Friendly Neighborhood Locomotive Engineer

February 6, 2010

Union Pacific GP-15 in the West Oakland Yard

This article written by a Railroad engineer is a perfect primer on the safe way for an average person to interact with their local railroad. I cleaned it up a tad for ease of reading, but I haven’t revised any of the meaning inherent in each sentence. You should get a kick out of this, perhaps Operation Lifesaver should use this.

Source- Found on Craigslist Today, Author Unknown, but out of Albany, New York:

Let’s start with some DON’Ts.

1) A train is really, really big. Can we all accept that? Not even your Ram/F350/Hummer is a match for a locomotive. You say you have a Cummins diesel? Caterpillar? Detroit? Oooooooh. Well I have an EMD 567 on a bad day, and even its pathetic eighteen-hundred horsepower will pound you and your gleaming pickup into the fourth dimension, so please, stay behind the white line!

2) I hate blocking crossings. Seriously, I feel like a complete [fool] when I stop a train in the middle of the road and leave two dozen motorists to ponder their lattes and ask what the hell I’m doing. The truth is, sometimes it has to be done, so don’t honk at me, flip me off, or scream at me from the window of your Dodge Caravan. Instead, be patient and try to believe that there’s a point to what I’m doing. It’s called switching, and my conductor is depending on me to work slowly and not run him over.

3) Don’t climb on the equipment. I hate to sound like your mother, but you’re saving me a lot of paperwork and horrifying flashbacks by staying off the equipment. To you it might look like an abandoned train or a free ride, but when that [consist of cars] starts to move with you on it, there’s a damn good chance you won’t be able to hold on. As long as you’re on Wikipedia, punch in “slack action” and see what comes up. Also, the romance of riding freight trains is totally [false]. They’re really dark, really cold, really windy, and hobos are [effin’] SCARY.

4) Don’t put [objects] on the tracks. It’s dangerous to me and my conductor, and it’s ten times more dangerous for you and everyone else on the ground. If you’re wondering “can a train go over a rock?” the answer is YES. There’s only one problem. You probably haven’t wondered where the million shards of rock are going to go at four times the speed of sound, have you?

5) Stop whining about the horn. Countless accidents have been avoided because drivers missed the flashing lights but heard the horn. You’d have to blast Miley Cyrus and Lil’ Bow Wow pretty loud to drown out a five-chime, and often that’s the only thing that saves people. Still, that’s no reason to keep your stereo at eighty decibels as you’re rolling through a crossing at sixty without looking both ways.

6) By and large, railroad cops are major [bullies], so when you’re trespassing on railroad property, keep your head. These guys didn’t make it into the real police force, and they will [make a LOT of trouble for you] to make up for it. Also, walking on bridges and in tunnels is extremely dangerous. Ask yourself: If a train comes, where will I go? Trains are much wider than the rails they run on, so don’t be fooled.

Now for some of the DO’S.

1) If you see a large object (like a garbage can or an F350) that’s about to get love-tapped by a hotshot freight train, get in the clear. If that’s about to fly at a railroad crossing, run to the side of the street that the train is coming from. That way you’ll be behind the point of impact and you won’t have to worry about catching that beautiful pickup and its over-confident driver square on your shoulders. If you run away from the train you’re just putting yourself in the line of fire, and the death toll could very possibly be two.

2) If the gates stay down and the lights stay flashing, stay where you are. I guaran-damn-tee there’s another train coming, and speeding onto the tracks the moment the first train clears is a lot like celebrating a touchdown too early. WHAM.

3) When you’re waiting for a train to pass, it’s a good idea to stay back thirty or forty feet. Trains are operated by professionals, but often they’re loaded by total [untrained, lazy fools]. I’ve heard some real nasty stories about payloads falling off flatcars and crushing people in their vehicles, or doors sliding off boxcars and ripping through everything in their path. It’s rare, but stuff happens!

4) Always report problems or suspicious activity. If you see a photographer with a radio scanner and a huge notebook, ignore him. We know that guy. But if there’s a dude in street clothes working a crowbar through a signal box, hit us up and tell us what the deal is. Railroad crossings usually have signs with emergency numbers, or you can call the non-emergency number for your local fuzz. If an accident has already occurred or a life is at risk, call 911 instead. Pretty sure they have our number.

5) Last but not least, when you’re inconvenienced by a train, remember that we’re pulling for you! Trains are a great way to conserve fuel, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and keep American jobs alive and green. Rail technology is the best solution to our energy crisis, and as the rail network grows in the years to come, it’s important for everyone to stay safe. Look, listen, LIVE.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. MTI permalink
    April 29, 2010 2:53 am

    Awesome post!

    I forwarded it on to some of my non-railfan friends.

  2. Brad permalink
    May 23, 2010 5:27 pm

    Well said, just a week ago a truck driver, ignoring all warnings he was given caused a local passenger train to derail and injure several passengers.
    Makes you think sometimes if people really think when it comes to trains, the railroad and what they do for us.

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