Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

Trapped on the Tracks

On Sunday, I was listing to railroad discussion on the scanner, as the Union Pacific dispatcher was talking to one train telling them that they would have to wait for a while after he put them in the siding, as there were several other trains, including a "no-fitter" (longer than any siding) heading toward them. The crew of the train radioed back that there was an additional complication: a car stuck on the railroad tracks ahead of them. I grabbed my camera and went to see if it was nearby, and yes, it was.

Trapped on the Tracks (02)

An idiot in an SUV tried to cross the railroad tracks, which in this case means Fernley Siding and Fernley Main. There are no grade crossings in Fernley. Indeed, the nearest grade crossings are ten miles in either direction. (There is an undercrossing at one end of town and an overcrossing at the other.) He predictably got stuck.

Trapped on the Tracks (03)

His friends were with him trying to help him get across the tracks. The UP freight in the distance is the one that called in the blockage. The driver of the SUV is lucky to be alive. Because the UP train was slowing to enter Fernley siding to meet another train coming the other way on Fernley main, they were going slowly enough to stop well short of this vehicle. Had the dispatcher not set up a meet here, the train could easily have been coming through at track speed (70 miles per hour) and might not have been able to stop in time. Whether a train on the main would have hit the car stuck crossways on the siding is impossible to say, but I know I'm glad the train could stop in time and that the other train coming the other was was given warning to stop short as well.

Trapped on the Tracks (04)

The driver's friends attached a tow strap in an attempt to pull him across the tracks. It didn't work.

Trapped on the Tracks (05)

This location is maybe 200 feet west of where another truck drove onto the tracks a few weeks ago one night, as I wrote about at the time. This time it was daylight and I had my Sony DSC-2 that has a decent amount of zoom on it. Lisa was sleeping, or else she probably would have got her DSC-2 and put the telephoto lens on it. All of the photos and video here were taken from a safe distance.

Trapped on the Tracks (07)

They made multiple attempts to drag the trapped vehicle south across both tracks, without success.

Trapped on the Tracks (10)

Not too long thereafter, three Lyon County Sheriff's Department deputies were on the scene. By the way, the carnage you see in the foreground is a long-ago burned-out building that has never been completely cleared, and had nothing to do with the mess happening on the tracks today.

Trapped on the Tracks (14)

Eventually the guy's friends gave up on pulling him south across both tracks and drove around to the north side to try and get him back off the way he had come. By now, a Union Pacific track maintainer (in the safety vest) was also on the scene watching what was happening and doubtless hoping that the idiots didn't do any damage to the tracks.



It didn't work. The tow strap broke.

Trapped on the Tracks (18)

They tried connecting multiple vehicles. This also did not work. I sort of wondered why the sheriff's deputies didn't call for a tow truck. Hanneman Service is less than five minutes away from here, even accounting for needing to drive around to the far side.



After a number of failures, they finally managed to pull it off. The SUV pulled forward slightly, the UP maintainer and the deputies put boards under the wheels, and the SUV managed to get off the tracks on its own.

Trapped on the Tracks - Aftermath

The deputies talked to the people involved in this little excitement for a while as the maintainer inspected the tracks. The maintainer later told me that the deputies didn't want to bother to cite the driver for criminal trespassing, and that Union Pacific is usually not interested in the effort it takes to pursue civil charges unless someone gets hurt or a train derails or something like that. The drivers involved in this mess, as soon as they knew they weren't going to be cited, hopped into their vehicles and tore off across the desert in a cloud of dust, possibly hoping to get far away before the deputies changed their minds.

Trapped on the Tracks - Aftermath

As the deputies left, the maintainer measured the tracks to make sure they were still in gauge.

Trapped on the Tracks - Aftermath

When the maintainer gave the all-clear to the dispatcher, the first of the two trains waiting here cautiously made its way forward. I took the following longer video of the two trains making their way past the spot where the SUV had been.



Part-way through this video you'll see the other train, which had been holding to the east, meet and pass here.

Trapped on the Tracks - Aftermath

The maintainer sat in his truck watching the tracks, ready to radio the crews in case of trouble.

After the trains cleared the area, I cautiously made my way over to the maintainer, who recognized me and I think knows that Lisa and I try to be good neighbors to the railroad. I asked if he or the railroad would want any of the photos or video that I shot, and he told me he didn't think so, explaining what his experience about such things has been. He tells me that idiots on the tracks are unfortunately all too common.

I'm glad I was able to get all of this material (click through the photos to see more on Flickr if you're interested), and even more glad that nobody got hurt and especially that a train didn't derail at speed hitting a trapped car.
Tags: fernley, trains
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