Thursday, July 12, 2007

Look, Listen, Live

On my mid-trip layover in Winnipeg now. Once again, an eventful trip. Not so much onboard, tho there was one loutish fellah hanging out in my car, bugging other passengers and annoying me mildly. No, everything was going smoothly until last night, when the train lurched forward in the repetitive, abrupt manner I've come to recognize as emergency braking. Any time a train goes into emergency, the employees go on high alert. After making sure no one was injured by the sudden halt, I made my way up to the dome in my car to see what I could see. About half a click behind us, something was on fire. The radio communications that followed made it clear that we'd hit a pickup truck at a level crossing. A few employees made their way to the site, as did a passenger, who happened to be a paramedic. No details of what they saw were discussed. This means that the driver was dead. After about an hour, following an inspection of the train to insure no damage was done to it, we were on our way again. We could have been delayed much longer, particularly had the engineers decided to book off, which they are well within their rights to do, and no one would have blamed them for a second. Crossing accidents are about as traumatic as it gets for railroad engineers.

This is the first train-caused fatality I've experienced, but in the three-plus years I've been working--seasonally, I might add--I've been on board for 4 "crossing incidents." I will never understand how people can be so stupid as to take chances with a train like that, but it happens all the fucking time. An analogy: a car being hit by a train is like a beer can being run over by a car. For Christ's sake, don't assume that you can beat the train. It's not worth the gamble.

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