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Railroaders' Nostalgia > "I'm sorry I delayed your train"

Date: 01/04/20 17:43
"I'm sorry I delayed your train"
Author: atsfer

Collisions with vehicles is unfortunately something a train crew has to experience in our careers generally.   We could all fill this column with our own sad stories.  However, the last incident I ever had, was bizarre and involved not a single injury, and we were going 70 mph when the collision occurred.  
     I was riding in the cab of a eastbound hotshot on a re-qualifying trip with an engineer and conductor I knew well.  As we approached a crossing which had only a cross-buck, we could see a car approaching the tracks in the afternoon sun, broken view due trees along the road up to the tracks.    The engineer was blasting on the whistle, but to our horror, the car pulled up with about the front wheel just short of  the first rail, and stopped.   The last thing we saw before the crash, was the driver trying to get her seat belt unfastened to get out of the car.  We go to emergency of course, call the DS and give the location, and then after a few thousand feet we finally stop, and then the conductor and I started back to see what we could do.   It is a weird feeling to be walking back to the scene of a car/train crash carrying the first aid kit provided in the cab of the locomotive which of course has some small bandages, band-aids, and other stuff for minor injuries.    You have this doubt your supplies will be of much help.  I got to the scene first, and saw the sheet metal of the front of the car laying in the ditch.  Then, I get to the crossing and here is the driver, a middle aged woman in a dress walking around with her arms crossed, and when I finally get to her the first words out of her mouth are "I'm sorry I delayed your train."  Of all the statements in all the world I expected, that was not it.  She only had scuff marks on her face from the airbag, and was as calm as could be, probably still coming down from the adrenalin she surely got a shot of.  After I recovered from her opening lines, I of course asked if she was OK and assured her the train was the last thing I was worried about right now.   What had probably saved her and her 14 year old son that was with her in the car, was that the crossing was at an acute angle to the tracks, and so we hit her with a glancing blow, tearing off the front end of the car, and then the rest of the car was just jerked back by the collision.  So, they were both OK.    The ambulance shows up and they take them to the hospital anyway, and I told her I was sorry we had to meet this way as she rolled by on the gurney.  

Date: 01/05/20 05:31
Re: "I'm sorry I delayed your train"
Author: jmonier

Sounds like the lady was a really nice and level headed person.  Many drivers would be blaming you for not stopping!!  (Assuming that they survived!)

Date: 01/05/20 07:22
Re: "I'm sorry I delayed your train"
Author: cewherry

My somewhat similar experience involved hitting a Datsun pick-up one predawn morning in Portland, OR. while
working on the BN. 

As we approached the gate protected crossing at about 30 MPH several cars could be seen stopped
awaiting our passage. Suddenly, the Datsun drove around the waiting cars and just as our lead unit
entered the crossing the front coupler implanted itself in the passenger-side door window. 
Suffice to say the driver survived but I'll probably go to my grave with the images and smells that followed 
firmly implanted in my brain. 

BN, as was their practice at the time, provided the Portland newspaper with the names of the engineer and 
fireman and the towns where we lived. Within two days the engineer received a phone call from the spouse
of the Datsun driver expressing her dismay and concern for any distress we may have experienced as a 
result of her husband's actions.

In today's legalistic world I wonder if the outcome for the crew would be quite so simple. 


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/05/20 09:54 by cewherry.

Date: 01/05/20 20:06
Re: "I'm sorry I delayed your train"
Author: Trainhand

That was cruel to the crew  to give names and hometowns to the newspaper. I always gave the trainmaster's number and the address of the yard office in Savannah. I never had a state issued drivers license.

Date: 01/20/20 02:32
Re: "I'm sorry I delayed your train"
Author: Jim700

About 10:30 PM on 06/27/1970 my father, while running SP&S #2 on his Pasco - Spokane assignment, having just passed over the Thorpe Road railroad crossing in southwest Spokane at about 60 MPH, found his headlight illuminating a 21-year-old, eight-months-pregnant woman who was kneeling between the rails looking directly at him as she committed suicide.   As was common practice, his name and street address appeared in both the Spokesman-Review and Spokane Daily Chronicle newspaper articles regarding the incident. A few days later he was very surprised, and grateful, to receive a phone call from the father of the deceased woman expressing his sorrow for what his daughter had done to my father.

Having experienced multiple death-by-suicide actions myself in both freight and passenger service, I unfortunately know that awful feeling of being totally powerless to change the outcome of the horrific events.

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