February 10th, 2020

Beware of Trains

Disaster Averted

This evening, Lisa was puttering around the property and taking trash to the dumpster when she saw and heard sounds coming from the railroad tracks that should not be happening. She came in and told me, "I think there's a truck stuck on the railroad tracks!"

I went outside and looked. Unfortunately, while it is one day after full moon, the moon had not yet risen, and it's very dark in Fernley Yard at night with no moon. But there was indeed a pickup truck with two wheels over the main at the West Fernley House Track switch at Union Pacific milepost 276. He was revving his engine hard trying to get over the tracks, but was only digging himself deeper.

I called 911. This was a potentially deadly emergency if the railroad wasn't notified immediately. I reported the approximate street address (my house) and the approximate railroad location. I'd forgotten that the switch is at MP 276, but I knew it was between Union Pacific control points RV275 and RV277, which would be enough to tell UP what they needed to know.

Another car showed up. It was a woman who the man driving the truck had called. I later learned that there were two young girls in the pickup when he drove onto the tracks, and they went with the woman. I told everyone that I'd called 911. About this time the man driving the truck managed to bounce himself over the tracks and into the "six foot" — the area between the main line and Fernley Siding. He then drove west a short distance, turned across the tracks again, and bounced over them (not getting stuck this time) and drove back around to where we were. He then started trying to use some of the loose debris to try and fill in the holes he'd dug.

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This could have been a catastrophe, though. Amtrak was on time today (4:45 PM eastbound), but if they had been running a couple of hours late (very possible), they might have come along while that truck was on the tracks. Both Lisa and I had been keeping an eye out for the signals at West Fernley (MP 275), one mile west of us. Had they lit up, indicating that a train was approaching, we would have urged everyone to get away from the tracks. Fortunately, no trains came while this trackside drama unfolded, and nobody got hurt. We never heard what happened to the driver of the truck or whether he was cited for anything.