In the domed car, Union Pacific Administrative Aide Joyce Williams presented the safety lecture. Williams pointed out that trains create optical illusions -- their massive size and angle of approach make them appear to be moving slower than they are. “I grew up in Mississippi and our house was less than 50 yards from the tracks. One day my sister thought she would jump on a train, they are so big and don’t look like they are moving fast. Well, when she got up close to that train, it almost blew her clothes off! She was very lucky.”
Williams also threw out a trick question to the students. “Where is the steering wheel located on a train?” Some responded that it was in the engineers cab. “Wrong,” smiled Williams. “There IS no steering wheel on a train. A train cannot swerve.”
So why the push for train safety? There are many good reasons.
Illinois has the second-largest train system in the country – more than 40,000 cars traveling every day over 7,400 miles of tracks. In Shelbyville, a train goes through town approximately once each hour. Illinois also ranks third in the nation for collisions (125) and fatalities (16).
“The numbers for Illinois are much better than they used to be, but we feel through this program we can do much better. Our objective is zero,” added Dawson.
There are two kinds of crossings: active and passive. Active crossings have automated flashing lights and barricades. Passive crossings, like on rural roads, only have a railroad crossing sign and flashing lights. The old adage, Stop, Look and Listen still holds true, but has been changed to the more emphatic, “Look, Listen and Live.”
Roughly every three hours, a person or vehicle is hit by a train – Operation Lifesaver focuses on the three E's: education, engineering and enforcement.