Railway Safety

Most of us at Group 160 are rail-fans.  We love not only playing with model trains, but watching real-life trains as they pull out of a station or make a grade.  However, loving trains and wanting to be close to them can often put our safety at risk.

A quick scan of the news on Google reveals just how many people are struck and seriously injured or killed by trains each day.  Many of these peopleare walking along tracks when they are struck by a train, or are crossing over a grade crossing with their cars when these serious accidents occur.  We all love trains, and it can seem like fun to play next to railroad tracks, but here are some rules to keep you safe while enjoying the sights and sounds of trains.

Train tracks are private property, no matter which railroad owns them. Trains have the right of way 100% of the time — over ambulances, fire engines, cars, the police and pedestrians.  Railroads take safety very seriously, and you can be arrested for trespassing if you wander onto railroad property.

If there are rails on the railroad ties, assume that the track is in use, even if there are weeds or the track looks “rusty.”

A typical locomotive weighs approximately 400,000 pounds or 200 tons. When 100 railcars are added to the locomotive, the train can weigh approximately 6,000 tons. The weight ratio of an automobile to a train is proportional to a soda can and an automobile.

A train may extend three feet or more outside the steel rail, which makes the safety zone for pedestrians well beyond the rails themselves.

Trains cannot stop quickly. It is a simple law of physics: the huge weight and size of the train and the speed of the train dictate how quickly it can stop under ideal conditions. A 100-car freight train traveling at 55 miles per hour will need more than a mile to stop — that’s approximately 18 football fields — once the train is set into emergency braking.

Modern trains are quieter than ever, with no telltale “clackety-clack.” Also, an approaching train will always be closer and moving faster than you think.

Cross tracks ONLY at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings. Observe and obey all warning signs and signals.

Never walk down a train track; it’s illegal and it’s dangerous. By the time a locomotive engineer can see a person or a vehicle on the tracks, it is too late. The train cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.

Special Safety Tips for Pedestrians

The only safe place to cross is at a designated public crossing with either a crossbuck, flashing red lights or a gate. If you cross at any other place, you are trespassing and can be ticketed or fined.

Do not cross the tracks immediately after a train passes. A second train might be blocked by the first. Trains can come from either direction. Wait until you can see clearly around the first train in both directions.

Flashing red lights signal that a train is approaching from either direction. You can be fined for failure to obey these signals. Never walk around or behind lowered gates at a crossing. Stay Alive! DO NOT cross the tracks until the lights have stopped flashing and it is safe to do so.

DO NOT hunt, fish or bungee jump from railroad trestles. There is only enough clearance on the tracks for a train to pass. Trestles are not meant to be sidewalks or pedestrian bridges!

DO NOT attempt to hop aboard railroad equipment at any time. A slip of the foot can cost you a limb or your life.

Be aware trains do not follow set schedules. Any Time is Train Time!

Special Safety Tips for Vehicles

Do not walk, run, cycle or operate all terrain vehicles (ATVs) on railroad tracks or rights-of-way or through tunnels.

Never drive around lowered gates — it’s illegal and deadly. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, call the 1-800 number posted on or near the crossing signal or your local law enforcement agency.

Never race a train to the crossing — even it you tie, you lose.

Do not get trapped on the tracks. Only proceed through a highway-rail grade crossing. If you are sure you can completely clear the crossing without stopping. Remember, the train is three feet wider than the racks on both sides.

If your vehicle stalls on a crossing, immediately get everyone out and far away from the tracks. Call you local law enforcement agency for assistance.

If your vehicle ever stalls on a track while a train’s coming, get out immediately and move quickly away from the tracks in the direction the train is coming from. If you run in the same direction the train is traveling, when the train hits your car you could be injured by flying debris.

At a multiple track crossing waiting for a train to pass, watch out for a second train on the other tracks, approaching in either direction.

Never switch gears when you are safely across the tracks, as there is always a chance you could stall on the tracks in the path of an oncoming train.

ALWAYS EXPECT A TRAIN! Freight trains do not follow set schedules.

If you see a train approaching, wait for it to go by before you proceed across the tracks.

When you need to cross train tracks, go to a designated crossing, look both ways, and cross the tracks quickly, without stopping. Remember that it isn’t safe to stop closer than 15 feet from a rail.

Enjoy trains, but stay safe!

For more information on railroad safety, please visit the website of Operation Lifesaver.