Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Real Railroad Safety

Just about every news organization is showing this video from Sunday:

However, of the TV presentations of the video today, none that I have seen have indicated the best and safest way to prevent a crash like this.

Here is a freeze frame from the video:
The minute your car or someone else's is stuck on a crossing, find the nearby electronics box (to the right of the road). By law, every electronics box has the railroad's emergency phone number and the information you will need to give to the railroad. So,
  • Get everyone out of the vehicle immediately! 
  • Dial the number
  • Give the information
  • Stay clear of the track as an impact, if it occurs, will spray debris everywhere like it did in this case.
  • And, if you see something leaking from the train get far away but call 9-1-1 and let them know of the leak once you are safely away. Turn off the air conditioning and keep the windows rolled up.
Please share this with your friends and, especially, teenage drivers. 

Addition: Got a question and, yes, sometimes (in a non-electronic crossing) the information is on one of the railroad crossbuck poles. Via trainorders.com, here is what you are looking for whether it is on the pole or the electronics box.


  1. Mike,

    If your vehicle gets stalled or stuck on a crossing, get everyone out of the vehicle and run 100 feet away from the track and keep everyone together. Call 911 and tell the dispatcher where you are and where the vehicle is located and the situation. 911 dispatcher can call the railroad. You should stay on the phone and the 911 person can tell you what the railroad says either they can get the trains stopped or there is one coming and to stay back. Wait until a police officer is there and can give you the all clear and your vehicle can be pushed or towed off the crossing. Do not try and be a hero and push the vehicle or stay with it. When vehicles are struck by a train parts and glass can fly and cause injury as the video shows. If the train derails get at least 5 blocks away in case there is a fire or toxic release. If you are in a vehicle watching this and there is a derailment do get away from the area and contact 911 with details. You can turn off your A/C, close the vents, close your windows and get at least a mile away if there is fire, hazmat release, and/or power lines down. These incidents should be handled by first responders and railroad personnel. As you can see if you are in your vehicle close to the crossing gates this can be dangerous too. Do not rely on the crossing contact information being close by as railroads post the information in different locations, it can be covered by graffiti. or sign stolen. If you see anything with the railroad name close by it can help the 911 dispatcher.

  2. Mr. Wilson, thank you for your comment but I disagree. The information must be on the electronics cabinet by law. There are documented cases of 9-1-1 not knowing who to call. Second, there are times (traveling in an unfamiliar city) that people don't know how to describe where they are. Again, that is why the info is on the electronics cabinet.

  3. Mike, you're exactly correct. In addtion to the telephone number that is on the electronics cabin (signal shack), the DOT/crossing ID number is the next most important piece of info you can provide the railroad to let them know what crossing is obstructed. In your photo, the DOT number is 352 171X. That number is important because in some locations, it's possible for a railroad's tracks to cross a street multiple times depending on how the street grid and tracks are laid out. Rather than trying to guess which 3rd Street the caller is talking about, that DOT number gives an exact location on the street/rail network.

  4. I agree with Mike.

    A fully loaded freight train (90-120 cars) can take a mile to a mile and a half to stop if it's traveling at 55 MPH.

    At 55 MPH, it's traveling at 81 feet per second or 4840 feet per minute.

    If you call 9-11 and wait for a police car (2-3 minutes at the bare minimum) and then they call in the crossing number in (another 2-3 minutes), it may take 6 minutes for the train to get the word that they need to stop. In 6 minutes, a train traveling 55 MPH will travel 5.5 MILES. Add 1.5 miles to stop, and that's 7 MILES.

    If, instead, you call the train line directly and it takes 2-3 minutes, the train will have traveled half that distance (2.25 miles) and can then stop in 1.5, for a total of 3.75 miles.

    If the train that would hit you is 7, 5.5, or 3.75 miles away, in all cases, it's best to contact the railroad FIRST.

  5. One engineer told us that, should a vehicle be stuck and a train coming, we should run TOWARD any oncoming train at a 45-degree angle to the tracks. Running TOWARD the train minimizes the chance that flying debris will nail you and gives the crew a chance to see that someone, at least, made it out of the vehicle.


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