Sunday, September 13, 2009

Railroad Crossing Safety

On Saturday I decided I would do a little train watching before I came home from work. I stopped at one of my old favorite places near the crossing at Nutman Avenue and stopped to wait. I hear on my scanner that L90 was coming in from the West from Roanoke. L90 works the GM plant south of Roanoke and makes a run both East and West each day.
I heard him call clear at Hugo which is the rail junction just West of the location were I am at so I thought here it comes. Next I know the lights are flashing and the bell is ring and a car screeches to a halt. They then put the car in reverse, but they don’t pull far enough back so the arm on the gate is coming down on top of their car. They then pull forward into the position shown in the photograph.

First off I wonder if the railroad has detection circuits in those railroad crossing arms that if it hits something it goes back up. If not and they had stayed where they were then there would have been a big dent in the top of the car. Quite possibly a big dent anyway. The second problem I had was the question "AM I SAFE HERE?". The problem I had with where the car was setting was that I wasn’t sure that the locomotive would clear the front end of the car. The car had to be a few inches from the tracks from where it is sitting. With the train traveling in my direction that car could be pushed off the tracks and into or on top of my car. Yes, I was concerned for the other motorist as well. One or both of us could have been killed had that locomotive caught the front end of the car or worse if the thing derails.

Keep in mind here when you are crossing the tracks when the lights first go off and the bell starts to ring before the arm comes down you still have time to cross the tracks. In the case of this motorist it would have been better for everyone involved if they had just kept going. The circuits in these crossings are controlled by the speed of the oncoming train. If the train is going 60 mph then they activate much more quickly and the arm comes down much more quickly. If the train is going 20 mph then just the opposite occurs. In this case the train was doing maybe 35 or 40 mph. I believe this area is rated for about 40 mph.

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