Danger on the Tracks

By Scott Krause
Railroads and their employees are concerned for your safety. They want to be a good citizen in your community, but there are things that you can do to reduce the chance that you or someone close to you will be injured or killed by a train.
Please remember that railway tracks are for trains and trains are big and heavy. If you have no reason to be close to the tracks, stay away from them. Recently in Maryland, there was a train derailment - two 19-year-old women were sitting on one side of the railway bridge with their backs to the tracks as the train passed a few feet behind them. Something happened that caused the train to derail. Their bodies were found buried under coal dumped from the train cars.

Expect a train at any time.

Railroad tracks and trains are dangerous places to pose for photographs. This is an unsafe practice. Often by the time the train crew can see you, it is too late to stop.
Be aware of railroad crossings where there are two or more tracks. If a train is stopped on one track and is blocking the view of the next track, it is best to avoid the crossing. Many vehicles are hit by trains because the driver of the vehicle sees that a train is stopped and he assumes it is safe to cross. This is a potential trap.
In places where there are three tracks it is an even higher risk. If flashing lights are on stay off the crossing. Increasingly in communities where residents would like to reduce the noise of train whistles “No Whistle” zones have been put in place. It is very important to be aware of the passing of trains in these areas since they don’t whistle as they did in the past and often pedestrians and motorist are caught off guard and surprised.
Remember safety signals such as flashing lights and gates at crossings are mechanical devices. Failure is very rare but it can happen. Always approach a railroad crossing with care. Turn down the stereo, put down the cell phone and look both ways at a railroad crossing even if the crossing lights and gates are not on.
If your family lives close to a railroad track, please help all members of your family to understand that trains are dangerous and can move at any time. Do not walk or ride in any vehicle next to tracks.
Please remember to use common sense around trains and railroad tracks. Keep yourself at a safe distance and remember it takes a long time for a train to stop.
Scott Krause is a locomotive engineer in Kansas City. He has work in railroad industry for 17 years.




  1. Priscilla Petersen9/20/2012

    Scott: Thanks for the wise words and for reminding us that hanging out near or on railroad tracks - no matter how quiet they might appear at the time - is a potentially deadly experience. To quote the Operation Lifesaver program: Stay Off! Stay Away! Stay Alive!

  2. Scott, thank you for the reminder and for your committment to public safety. I have known three people who were killed in car/train accidents...the train always wins.

  3. The allure of the tracks can be irresistible, especially for children. This is why getting the message to these kids at a young age is so important. Operation Lifesaver has done a lot of good in this area.