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News story here.

You know, for all the safety first rhetoric, a former CEO of one of my employers stated things really bluntly and really put things in perspective.  " Good companies don't hurt people."

  I get that you can't fix stupid, and you can't foresee every problem.  But when you see a Fire Protection District public information officer says "It's not uncommon that we've had accidents at that crossing," then what the heck are you doing about it RR's?

We have needless loss of life in the country daily.  Corporate profits have been made Holier than anything else.  But let's face it when we really want to get something done we do it.  The chance of death in a automobile to automobile accident are a small fraction of what they used to be due to increased safety standards and private engineering improvements. 

I get that the costs are stupidly high.  But honestly I am starting not to care.  I believe in the RRing industry, enough to buy a few shares in some RR's for myself.  But honestly I just don't get how we can allow there to be an acceptable loss of life number for moving goods and people across the country.  It just shouldn't be acceptable.  And not only the public, but how about the Engineer or other crew personnel who have to live with the fact that just doing their job one evening suddenly resulted in a crash the cost the lives of three people so far and shattered families. 

This is BNSF and Amtrak, not Joe's short line doing 10 mph and taking a loan to meet payroll.  We have to do better than this.

(sorry for the rant this morning folks, but sometimes the thoughts just have to out.)

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@jhz563 posted:

  I get that you can't fix stupid, and you can't foresee every problem.  But when you see a Fire Protection District public information officer says "It's not uncommon that we've had accidents at that crossing," then what the heck are you doing about it RR's?

This is BNSF and Amtrak, not Joe's short line doing 10 mph and taking a loan to meet payroll.  We have to do better than this.

(sorry for the rant this morning folks, but sometimes the thoughts just have to out.)

It's never a good idea to  post feelings or thoughts when in a state of frustration or anger.  Since you apparently are acting under misapprehensions, may I clear up a couple of things?

It is not the railroad, but the state, who determines if and where active public crossing protective devices* are to be installed.  The Fire Protection District public information office and/or the news media conveniently left that out of the statement to which you referred.

And did you notice that this accident is reported to have happened at a private crossing?  A private crossing is not public.  It exists because of a contract agreement between a landowner and a railroad.  It could be anything from an unpaved ranch driveway to a paved entrance to an industry.  In the contract between the landowner and the railroad, the landowner typically agrees to assume responsibility for use of the crossing without standard warning signs (crossbucks) or devices.  A Private Railroad Crossing sign is usually placed on both sides of the crossing.  Laws and railroad rules governing the use of the locomotive whistle and bell while approaching public crossings do not apply to private crossings.  As a result, the whistle is not sounded and the bell is not rung for private crossings, and this is clearly included in the agreement signed by the landowner.

In some states, there is a provision for the state and/or the landowner to furnish funding for active warning devices at private crossings such as the entrance to a meat packing plant that requires a crossing for highway vehicles.

In no case does a railroad install and pay for active crossing protection unless it is completely within railroad property or if it involves track or road construction performed exclusively on the railroad's initiative.  The standard procedure is that the state (sometimes with local communities) decides and pays for installation of active warning devices, with the railroad specifying the design and manufacturer of the devices, after which the railroad installs them and ownership is turned over to the railroad, which accepts responsibility for maintenance in perpetuity.

It's easy to cast the railroad in a villainous role -- and railroads sometimes deserve that -- but, since you made accusations when posting your opinion, I am merely pointing out that your anger, righteous though it may be, is misdirected and you have accused the railroad of something for which it is not responsible.

*  Active warning devices include bells, flashers, gates, and sidewalk gates.

Last edited by Number 90

In the article it states "...private crossing...".

History of the crossing may be helpful.  Which was first,  the RR or the vehicle road?   Which party decided on a level grade crossing?   Who should pay for a bridged road way?

We had a similar situation near Charlestown,  MD.  As a young man I was horrified that I had to drive my car and boat trailer over the tracks of the four track PRR corridor at a point of a wide curve of the tracks between Northeast MD. and Charlestown MD.  to get to the Charlestown Marina.

Today there is a highway bridge in place.

You Tube has a lot of videos of folks running, walking, driving and wheel chair rolling around down gates with lights flashing.

Details are needed.   What part of Stop, Look & Listen failed?  Did crossing safety features fail?

I'm with you John. The RR's can't just say "we're doing all we can".

Many years ago (1982), here on Long Island, there was a horrific accident at a grade crossing in central Nassau County between a LIRR commuter train and a van carrying 10, yes 10, teenagers. Nine of them perished when the driver went around the lowered gates.

Following the crash, the MTA and LIRR moved to eliminate the grade crossing. It's now an underpass. The LIRR is also just eliminated 7 other grade crossings through Nassau County for safety reasons as well.

Now I know the RR's can't eliminate every grade crossing in the country but a better level of protection must be implemented. Make them all double gates that block both traffic lanes. No more zig-zagging around the lowered gates.

Bob

I agree that needless loss of life is never warranted.  However, 46,000 people are killed in auto accidents every year in the US, a vast majority of them are because the at least one driver did something stupid and caused the accident.  600 people a year die in train crossing accidents each year, and I'm certain a vast majority of them have nothing to do with how the railroad operated, but rather some stupid move by a driver.

There's no argument that we shouldn't strive for perfection, but we also have to be realistic and know that it's rarely achieved.

Yes automobiles are certainly safer than they've ever been.

However ,between the carelessness, selfishness, need to be in a hurry and the distracted driving.

Motorists are probably more dangerous than they've ever been.

When folks can forget their own child in the back seat. All Bets are off at a train crossing.

Having said all that. The article has very little information to go on.

Last edited by RickO

600 people a year die in train crossing accidents each year, and I'm certain a vast majority of them have nothing to do with how the railroad operated, but rather some stupid move by a driver.

There's no argument that we shouldn't strive for perfection, but we also have to be realistic and know that it's rarely achieved.

In the early 1900s, roughly that many were killed by trains each year just in the City of Chicago.  That is one reason why grade separation was mandated in many densely populated places.  Obviously that is impractical for every crossing, but that's why gates and signals were installed.  All of these features, plus public education have impressively reduced the number of deaths.  One thing I concede is they could run more TV/Internet ads about crossing safety.  Here in Oklahoma, we have the occasional PSA telling people of the danger of playing around/on oilfield equipment.  I can't recall seeing anything recently about railroad crossings though.  Maybe local ads targeting specific crossings could have more of an impact than generic Look, Listen, Live ads. 

But people will be people, and do (or not do) what they want, ultimately.  Trains are big, loud, and travel along an extremely predictable path.  If you get hit by one, it's YOUR fault.

As this is a private crossing "protected" by a stop sign, what are the odds the driver of the car just blew through the stop sign without bothering to look...

Rusty

I walk my dogs every day in my plan.  The amount of cars going through stop signs is unbelievable.  The amount of those cars with car seats for children is even more unbelievable.

@RickO posted:

Yes automobiles are certainly safer than they've ever been.

However ,between the carelessness, selfishness, need to be in a hurry and the distracted driving.

Motorists are probably more dangerous than they've ever been.

When folks can forget their own child in the back seat. All Bets are off at a train crossing.

Having said all that. The article has very little information to go on.

Distracted driving is horrible these days.  I have a motorcycle license from the 80s but until I move to a more rural area won't buy a bike.  Just too many people not paying attention.

As for the RRs doing more, where a grade can be made an overpass I think they should at least look at it. Personal responsibility goes a long way here though but I agree with Rick the article is missing a lot of information to make a hard judgement.

@MartyE posted:

Distracted driving is horrible these days.  I have a motorcycle license from the 80s but until I move to a more rural area won't buy a bike.  Just too many people not paying attention.

I rode a motorcycle for many years, and you learn the true meaning of defensive driving when you are on a motorcycle!  Drivers either don't see you or have a dislike for motorcycles, because I lost count of all the times I was nearly run down when I clearly had the right of way.  My wife was sooo happy when I finally sold my last bike.

@MartyE posted:
As for the RRs doing more, where a grade can be made an overpass I think they should at least look at it. Personal responsibility goes a long way here though but I agree with Rick the article is missing a lot of information to make a hard judgement.

Since someone made the comment they have a lot of accidents at that crossing, I have to agree that whoever is responsible for lights and/or gates should act to make the crossing safer.  You'll never solve the problem if idiots driving around the gates, but at least you might save the people that have gotten so used to never seeing a train there that they no longer look.

Am going to echo what Number 90 said.. but to further drive home whom is responsible.
Background:  Counties, townships, et al.. are responsible for when /where there are railroad crossings.
By law, railroads have to allow private land-owners to have access to their land, if there is no other obvious access (hence private rail crossings), railroads have to allow access to private land.

Counties, townships, states (et al) .. have the authority to determine how /what is used at each road crossing to alert their citizens. As an example, here in Texas, numerous communities have opted for no-horn rail crossings.  They submit the paperwork to FRA (or STB.. I forget which).. to tell the railroad that they don't want any horns.

The other background for the above is: Railroads do not have control over the traffic flow on roads and highways.  They are "often un-ware" that suburbs that were once at 1 thousand population, are now at 31 K.  The railroad's notification of increased traffic is usually when the municipality wants to expand the crossing from 2 lanes to 4 lanes (as an example).

Railroads, if there are road crossings with crossing warnings (bells and crossing guards) , have to keep in check the "approved track speeds vs. advance of warning bells"

Anyway, rail crossings are the responsibility of the municipalities that the line goes through. As previously mentioned, the municipalities can choose to close the grade crossing, set crossing guards (bells & or crossing guard arms).. or in some cases build a way around it. In addition, pedestrians crossing are addressed in the same manner.

I know that it frustrating and horrifying for all involved, when there are train/pedestrian and train/vehicle accidents.  Where I live, we have been saddened several times because teenagers on their way to/from school.. try to beat a train.

I don't have the answers either.

Merle

@RSJB18 posted:

I'm with you John. The RR's can't just say "we're doing all we can".

Many years ago (1982), here on Long Island, there was a horrific accident at a grade crossing in central Nassau County between a LIRR commuter train and a van carrying 10, yes 10, teenagers. Nine of them perished when the driver went around the lowered gates.

Following the crash, the MTA and LIRR moved to eliminate the grade crossing. It's now an underpass. The LIRR is also just eliminated 7 other grade crossings through Nassau County for safety reasons as well.

Now I know the RR's can't eliminate every grade crossing in the country but a better level of protection must be implemented. Make them all double gates that block both traffic lanes. No more zig-zagging around the lowered gates.

Bob

An interesting point, this is where it gets interesting/weird. The LIRR is run by MTA, which is a state agency, so the roads and the railroad are both public, so you would figure they would have acted before since clearly there is responsibility there. It is always different in the private sector, I didn't realize that with grade crossings and the like that is the responsibility basically of the 'property owner' (ie if it is crossing a public road, the local/state government), if private between railroad and owner of the property. Raises questions, like could the car in question be using a private road when they should have been?

In the early 1900s, roughly that many were killed by trains each year just in the City of Chicago.  That is one reason why grade separation was mandated in many densely populated places.  Obviously that is impractical for every crossing, but that's why gates and signals were installed.  All of these features, plus public education have impressively reduced the number of deaths.  One thing I concede is they could run more TV/Internet ads about crossing safety.  Here in Oklahoma, we have the occasional PSA telling people of the danger of playing around/on oilfield equipment.  I can't recall seeing anything recently about railroad crossings though.  Maybe local ads targeting specific crossings could have more of an impact than generic Look, Listen, Live ads.

But people will be people, and do (or not do) what they want, ultimately.  Trains are big, loud, and travel along an extremely predictable path.  If you get hit by one, it's YOUR fault.

Just as a note, that also shows how much more trains were important in the country. This was before trucking came around and took the freight and airlines/cars took away trains role with transporting people. The sheer number of railroads then and how much traffic they had likely led to those deaths.

Doesn't change the facts of the case, only that it shows just how big trains were. I wonder how many people for example are killed in trucking accidents a year and the other replacements for trains, or things like cars driving what used to be train travel (like let's say NY to Boston, etc,Dallas to Houston, etc).

I would have to do research, but I wonder why railroads were not made responsible for grade crossings and the like, if that was part of the deal with getting railroads built. I suspect some of this came up because when the railroads were built you didn't have all that many grade crossings given how wide open the spaces the railroads operated it. I would hazard a complete guess that since roads in large part came about later, it was felt it would be unfair for the railroads to help pay to protect a road that wasn't there before. Plus doesn't the railroad still technically own an easement on either side of the tracks, so allowing a road to be built across the tracks was the state/city building on their property?

Just interesting thinking about the origins of this. Often with 'attractive nuisances' like a railroad track, due to liability issues, property owners will either be forced by code or their insurance company to protect their property...again makes me wonder why the insurance company for the railroads doesn't make them put up warnings at crossings, unless maybe they have been indemnified?

As soon as I saw the "source" of the "news" in the link, I knew it would be sensational.  Along with links to miracle pills, articles on survival food, etc.   The Fire Protection Safety officer was just icing on the cake.

Reading the CBS account of the accident provides a more balanced account.  Same number of dead but also noting trespassing as the number one cause of railroad deaths and railroad crossing incidents as number TWO (2).

There are countless videos on the internet of people doing stupid/dangerous things.  Can we protect them all.

The company I used to work for had safety programs for everything but still had some accidents that were nearly always human violations of rules or procedures. 

Putting humans in command of mechanized or motorized machines is a deadly proposition.  Add alcohol, drugs or emotions to the equation further degrades the outcome.

Drunk driving kills thousands every year many of which are innocents including children.

You can't fix stupid.  And in most cases you can't save it.

I Googled the accident.  All the reports are sketchy.  Brentwood is a rural area about 60 miles east of San Francisco.  This was a dirt road.  Amtrak trains are allowed to go 79 mph in this area.  The reports indicated that train / vehicle accidents happen several times per year in this area (not necessarily at this crossing).  There are many other private crossing in the area.  This is farm country.  It is a tragedy for everyone involved.  NH Joe

Folks, I know the basic outline of the law, that for some reason it's the property owners/states that are reasonable for installation of railroad crossing protection.  And yes I know it was a private crossing.  I am somewhat informed of the RR's point of view as I did hold an Locomotive Engineer's license at one time.

But I stand by my general premise.  Good companies don't hurt people.  We all have to better for each other than simply accepting loss of life as a cost of doing business.  I have not seen updates yet that HW is referring to, and I am sure there was either blatant stupidity, good old fashioned ignorance and other mitigating factors involved, that always seems to be the case.  But this is civilian transport of goods and people, not a war zone.  Accepting loss of life for having an industry intersect with the rest of the world just isn't right. 

I don't really care whose fault it is, I am tired of avoidable injuries and death.  Three more coffins are needed for another grade crossing accident and we will probably need more by the end of the day.

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