Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

Train vs. Truck: Everyone Loses

Just as Lisa and I were getting ready to drive over to the grocery store this evening, the radio scanner lit up as a Union Pacific train crew radioed the dispatcher and said, "We just hit a truck at milepost 273.5."

We froze. West Fernley (the start of the siding) is 275.3. Our house is approximately 276.1 (the location of the switch frog I wrote about yesterday). This accident was only about 2 1/2 miles west of us.

Updates followed: A pickup truck had tried to cross the tracks (not at a grade crossing), gotten stuck, and the three people in the truck had bailed out and gotten clear before the train came along and smashed it up, apparently dragging it along under the train for a bit before they could stop the train. Luckily the train did not derail, and thankfully, nobody was injured. The train crew was a bit shaken, naturally.

Lisa took one of the handheld radios (which can be tuned to the railroad's frequency) and we set off to see if we could see things for ourselves without getting in the way. However, the closest we could get without getting off the paved road was a stub-end of pavement behind the Pilot truck stop. As we sat there parked to the side, a Lyon County Sheriff and North Lyon County Fire Department car came through, driving down the dirt access road that parallels the railroad. We weren't going to go down there, for multiple reasons: 1. We don't know the road. 2. It might be private 3. Most importantly, we would be in the way.

Just before the official vehicles, another unmarked car came speeding down the access road. We think that must have been someone from the railroad, because shortly thereafter, we heard "Management is on the scene" over the radio.

Fast action was required here. With the train stuck there — the crew reported damage to one of the locomotives — the Central Corridor mainline was blocked. We heard the dispatcher talking to other trains in the area holding them east of Fernley. We went ahead and did our grocery run, there being nothing else to see where we could go. According to the radio traffic, a track inspector and maintenance crew arrived on scene as well soon thereafter.

After we returned home and had dinner, and perhaps around 90 minutes after the original report of the accident, we heard over the radio that the crew had their train ready to go. The track inspector reported that the wrecked truck had been pulled well away of the tracks and was being handled by a tow truck. The UP train (headed by UP 7628) was given clearance to leave and "walk" its way down to Fernley siding, where a van was to be sent to relieve the crew.

We went outside and walked up and down the street. (It was starting to rain, so we didn't want to get too far away from home; besides, we wanted to see the train come in.) Over the radio, we heard the track gang report that "sparks are coming from the number five axle, but the wheel is turning." When the train crawled by us, we could see no sparks on our side of the train.

The crew of the train tied up near the Black Bear Diner/Fernley Nugget Casino and reported that they were clear. The track inspector reported that the track was undamaged and good for maximum authorized speed. Shortly thereafter, a westbound train was allowed through Fernley on the main, sounding its horn freely due to the possibility of a work crew being in the area. A mechanical crew was sent out (presumably from Sparks Yard) to see what they could do about fixing the locomotives, and as I compose this message, slightly more than three hours after the accident, they had the engine patched up and a relief crew on board ready to resume the train's trip eastward journey.

While this was disruptive for the railroad, disturbing for the crew, and of course devastating for the owner of the now-ex-pickup truck, all in all everyone got lucky. There could easily have been three dead people on the tracks, victims of their own stupidity in trying to drive over a railroad track without benefit of a grade crossing, and a derailed train and injured or killed crew. As it was, there was only property damage, delay, and inconvenience, and an expensive lesson for a foolish pickup truck driver.
Tags: fernley, railroad, trains, union pacific
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