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Passenger train promotes safety

By Staff | Jul 13, 2009

Nearly 80 Blue Earth area residents got to travel back in time last Thursday, as they rode the rails for an hour.

A special heritage passenger train gave the locals a ride from Blue Earth to Guckeen and back on Thursday afternoon.

Although most were there just to enjoy a free train ride, there actually was a motive by the members of the Union Pacific Railroad who were conducting the trip.

After arriving at a stop just past the Guckeen elevator, the passengers heard a brief presentation about ‘Operation Lifesaver.’ Included were facts of how dangerous every railroad crossing can be.

“Not a day goes by that our locomotive engineers don’t see a vehicle cross right in front of them,” says Dirk Peterson, the operations manager who conducts the ‘Operation Lifesaver’ sessions.

Engineers carry post cards in the cabs which they fill out and mail back to the operations manager. It contains the date, time and location of each close-call.

And if they get the make, model or license plate number, it is even better.

Peterson says he always invites local elected officials to ride so they can note the number of crossings in their area.

“We have way too many along this route,” he says. “People can easily drive an extra mile to get to a crossing.”

Peterson says every crossing that is closed down means one less spot for a potential disaster.

Last fall Peterson and his crew were in Blue Earth doing an ‘Operation Lifesaver’ enforcement project. They joined with local law enforcement officers to issue tickets to violators who don’t stop at the railroad crossings.

“It is amazing how many people drive right through the stop sign and never even look to see a 450,000 pound locomotive aimed right at them, whistle blowing,” he says.

After one of his programs, people take notice. But, he says, it wears off quickly and drivers get careless.

“The trains are big and moving fast,” he says. “That is why we keep telling people to stop, look and listen.”