When I was about 7 my family moved into a house that was situated about 50 feet or less from a railroad crossing and tracks. After a while we got used to the trains roaring through the backyard, shaking the dishes, rattling the window casings. I've seen a train blow through town with it's snowplow on - making huge waves of snow as it cleared the tracks. After a while you don't even notice the roar of the horn.
We weren't allowed to play on the tracks though. My brother and I spent a lot of time watching trains roll past, waving at the engineers as they went by. I'm old enough that I can tell you that sometimes we waved at the guys in the caboose too. But play on the tracks? No. Our dad taught us how to feel for the tremor in the tracks, and how to never be fooled about HOW FAR AWAY we thought that train was.
Here we are, about 25 feet from a railroad crossing.
Around the time this picture was taken, I went to the window to watch the train go by, as usual. While I was standing there, watching - a car rolled up onto the tracks .......AND STOPPED.
"DAD!" I yelled, "A car is stopped on the tracks and the train is coming!" To which my dad yelled back "WHAT?" and in that amount of time, the train came around the bend in the track, LAYING ON THE HORN the train barreled into the car - hitting it and sending it spinning like a top. Fortunately for the guys in the car the train was going slow, coming through town, and they weren't hurt. I was interviewed by the railroad attorney about what I saw and had to describe it in detail.
Do you know what I saw? I saw some idiots drive onto the track and stop. Turns out they were stoned to the gills and thought that they were stopped at the crossing in the right place.
Since then, I've had a pretty strong opinion about rail crossing accidents. The instances you hear of that are TRUE accidents are so few and far between that if you filled a gymnasium full of people who had been in railroad crossing accidents and set off a grenade you'd be hard pressed to hit anyone whose event hadn't occurred because of their own stupidity.
That beautiful blonde boy on my lap in the picture up above grew up to be an engineer. He drives a bajillion ton locomative down the tracks, pulling freight from Point A to Point B daily. And guess what, if you get in his way, he can't stop.
He can't swerve.
He can barely slow that big bitch down.
If you get in his way, he wins. Every time.
And he doesn't really WANT to. He's a good guy. But you people of the earth don't seem to get it, this whole concept that the rails are not places of entertainment and are in fact DANGEROUS seems to have escaped the public.
So when THIS came out, you can imagine that my eyebrows when up. Oh really? Most are preventable?
It's very very very true that many people died in the past when the arms didn't go down, or the lights didn't flash. But ummm, folks.....not to be a total dick here - but trains are not vehicles of STEALTH. They don't SNEAK online the track, creeping up to GET YOU when the lights and arms fail.
And I don't mock the four people out there who had real tragedy, I really don't.
But see that little blonde haired boy? Twice recently, some of you have put yourself in front of the giant missile on wheels he pilots. And guess what.
Not really fair to do to someone who used to be so little, so sweet, and who - despite the fact that he is a grown up now - still has the heart of a little boy who loves trains.
Stay off tracks people. Be safe.
For all of our sakes.