A Union Pacific heritage train traveled through the area Friday, April 29, as a part of the effort of the company to promote rail safety by reducing rail crossing collisions.
To better observe the behavior of drivers at rail crossings, guests on the ride from California to Syracuse and back rode in the upper level of Challenger, a refurbished vista (dome) car built in 1955.
Although most of those on the trip were city and county officials, several children were among the first time train passengers aboard. The event was a part of the Union Pacific's Crossing Accident Reduction Education and Safety (UP CARES) Program.
The purpose of the program is raise awareness of following safety precautions near trains, tracks and railroad crossings.
Although many of the most used crossings on the busiest tracks have gates and flashing red lights, drivers should be vigilant at all rail crossings. Some have flashing red signal lights but other crossings have only the crossbucks. Of course, the round warning sign is found at the approach of all highway rail crossings. On paved crossings, a railroad crossing and stop line may be painted on the road approaching the crossing. If there is no stop line, the railroad recommends waiting at least 15 feet from the nearest rail.
John Simpson, Senior Manager of Grade Crossing Compliance Safety, and a 1977 graduate of California High School, cautioned drivers not to try to beat a train. Instead, wait for the train since it may be closer and moving faster than it appears. An average freight train moving 55 miles per hours takes more than mile to stop.
If the gates are down, it is not only poor judgment to drive around them and cross, it is also a violation of the law. If there is a problem at or with the crossing, call the emergency number posted on or near the crossing or call law enforcement.
Although the train-versus-car collision is not uncommon, Simpson said trespassers on or near the tracks are more of a problem. In one recent year the fatalities resulting from collisions between trains and motor vehicles were about two-thirds of fatalities for trespassers (those walking along the tracks, riding the trains or on the tracks for other reasons).
Since most of the rail traffic is from east to west on the track through Moniteau County, west to east rail traffic presents a greater danger because drivers often forget that rail traffic can move both directions.
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