Rail awareness program visits Lakeway Area

Posted on Friday, June 13, 2014 at 12:52 pm


The Operation Lifesaver and Norfolk Southern Appalachian Whistle-Stop Safety Train passed through the Lakeway Area this week to raise rail safety awareness.

With the number of deaths related to preventable railway incidents steadily increasing across the country, railway safety non-profit organization, Operation Lifesaver and Norfolk Southern’s Appalachian Whistle-Stop Safety Train passed through Morristown this week.

The safety train provided rides from Knoxville to Bulls Gap and later from Bulls Gap to Johnson City, inviting county officials and law enforcement agencies from all over East Tennessee to learn about train safety.

Jill Moody, Tennessee coordinator for Operation Lifesaver, said the rides were part of a nationwide campaign to raise awareness and ultimately save lives.

Last year, in Tennessee seven people died along with 13 others injured while trespassing on railroad tracks. Two people died in highway-rail crossing incidents while 24 were injured in the state.

With all states combined 1,193 people were seriously injured or died at highway-rail grade crossings and another 908 by trespassing.

Wayne Manning, a Norfolk Southern conductor based in Greeneville, said almost every three hours a car or person collides with a train in the United States.

Manning, along with another conductor, Bill Clevenger of Knoxville, said they volunteer with Operation Lifesaver after being in unavoidable railway accidents themselves as conductors.

Clevenger, as a conductor, has hit 19 vehicles, three being tractor trailers.

“There’s a big difference between a freight train and a car, that’s why cars must yield to trains. It takes a car going at 55 miles per hour 200 feet to stop while it takes a train more than a mile to come to a stop,” Manning said.

He continued, “The weight ratio for trains vs. cars are also great. Very seldom do we ever feel a collision on the train; we don’t even jump in our seat. A train colliding with a car is like a car running over a soda can.”

Manning said people trespassing on the railroad tracks has also become a bigger problem. He said not only are people walking in the middle of the tracks but also riding ATVs and fishing on railroad bridges.

“Some tracks have new steel that doesn’t give off the old ‘clickety clack’ of the train so you don’t hear it until it’s too late to react,” Manning said.

He said train railways are private property so anytime someone is on the track in a non-designated crosswalk, it is the punishable crime of trespassing and worse, it can be deadly.

Moody said whenever people see tracks, they should think train. They should also look and listen so they can live when preparing to cross a track.

“People don’t realize just how fast these trains are coming. When they look down the track it’s kind of like an obstacle illusion, (the trains) are big so people think they’re slow because they’re so big, but they are moving faster than you think they are,” Moody said.

“What we want people to know is you’ve got to obey the laws of the crossings. Every time a cross sign is down you need to expect that a train is near, stop look and listen. If you see a train it’s the law that you have to stop but it’s not just the law, it can also save your life,” she said.

Will Miller, Norfolk Southern manager grade crossing safety, said the trains on the tour, two passenger cars and an exhibit car refurbished from 1949, have a live feed connection so guests could see what the conductor sees at the front of the train.

“We see instances of people not yielding to the train and trespassers on the right of way, all illegal and all very deadly. If we don’t talk about these things, we’ll never solve the problem in the community,” Miller said.

Moody said Operation Lifesaver has presentations for every group setting that would like to learn more about train safety or how to make railways in their communities safer.

“We’ll talk to anybody that will listen to us. We have special programs for driver’s education, law enforcement, and videos in Spanish and for hearing impaired. We’re here to help anyone and to make communities safer,” Moody said.

For more information on Operation Lifesaver, visit www.oli.org or www.seetrackthinktrain.com. Moody can be reached directly at www.tnol.org or jmoodytnol@comcast.net.

-From Staff Reports

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