random thoughts on railroad photography, railfanning, technology, and such

Entries from April 1, 2010 - April 30, 2010


Looking for Solutions to Prevent Frequent and Avoidable Tragedies

Yet another senseless and tragic incident involving individuals being struck and killed by a passing train occurred Saturday morning in the city of Rosemead, California.

According to news reports, two young adults were, according to claims of those involved, apparently “sleeping” on the tracks when they were run over by a 71-car westbound Union Pacific train doing reportedly 50 miles per hour.

The men were identified by coroner officials as Aaron Gallardo and Richard Haro, both whom are 19 and live in Rosemead.

My deepest sympathies go out to all affected by this tragic event, including the families and friends of the two men, and to the crew of the Union Pacific train.

However, I am frustrated and angered that this incident occurred at all.  This type of event seems real frequent, especially in southern California. Something has to be done to educate and inform the public of the risks of trespassing onto railroad property.

I found two videos from local news stations that show coverage of the incident in question.  This first one is from ABC 7:


This next video is from CBS 2 in Los Angeles and looks like it was filmed the next day:


Based on the reports it appears that the men might have been drinking prior to the incident and subsequently passed out on the tracks. My question is what were they thinking?  I am not sure that they were, clearly.

All railroads tracks and right-of-ways are private property and for good reason. The safety of the public can not be guaranteed when individuals chose to break laws by trespassing and putting themselves in harm’s way.

I know that people use the right-of-ways as a means to traverse the area but that doesn’t make it right - or safe.  Had the two men not been on the right-of-way at all then, perhaps, that might have passed out, in that in fact is what happened, on a sidewalk or yard instead. But they didn’t…

As you can see in the second video, the obviously grief-stricken friends of the victims are also trespassing by sitting on the rails and placing a memorial near the scene. Seriously, is this the best thing to do? Perhaps there were officials nearby and the tracks were closed, but nonetheless it is more of the same careless behaviors.

I don’t know if the public is aware of the toll that an incident like this has on the train crew involved. Who among us was to cause the death of another individual while we are doing our jobs? It can end some careers of engineers and conductors alike due to the physiological trauma sustained in any collision-based event. There is nothing the train crew can do to prevent the tragedy that fell before them.

What can we do as a society to educate all that the right-of-ways are not a place to gather and/or use as a thoroughfare?  I am at a loss. This doesn’t seem to help:



Here is a excerpt from Wikipedia.org on railroad trespassing:

It is usually illegal to arrest a trespasser and hold them on the property until law enforcement arrives as this defeats the purpose of allowing them to cure the trespass by leaving. This is excepted by US states that have citizen arrest laws; CA being one. A large exception to this rule is railroads in the United States and Canada, who employ their own police forces to enforce state or provincial trespassing laws. Railroad police have the ability to independently arrest and prosecute trespassers without the approval or assistance of local law enforcement. Furthermore, in many jurisdictions, trespassing on railroad tracks is considered a very severe offense comparable to drunk driving, with severe fines imposed on the trespassers. Some jurisdictions even go so far as to impose fines higher than that of a drunk driving or marijuana possession conviction. 


If you have any ideas please post them as a comment.



SOCAL - Get Ready! Here She Comes!

This weekend, Saturday and Sunday, (May 1-2, 2010), southern Californians will have a rare opportunity to see a famous steam locomotive, the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society’s Santa Fe 3751 as she powers the Central Coast Railway Club and the Pacific Locomotive Association joint special - the San Diego Steam Special-II.

The legendary 3751 is a Baldwin Locomotives Works 4-8-4 ‘Mountain’ type locomotive which entered service with the former Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in 1927. She was initially assigned duty on Santa Fe’s crack passenger trains like the all-Pullman California Limited, the Fast Mail Express, the Grand Canyon Limited, and the Navajo.

More information can be found from my past post:



Trails & Rails ... & Podcasts?

According to the National Park Service’s web site, the Trails & Rails program

“is an innovative partnership program between the National Park Service and Amtrak. This program provides rail passengers with educational opportunities that foster an appreciation of a selected region’s natural and cultural heritage; it promotes National Park Service areas and provides a value-added service to encourage train ridership. It also renews the long tradition of associating railroads with National Parks.”

The “educational opportunties” are typically a very knowledge volunteer or two that are on-board the train and they give a verbal presentation and are available to respond to traveler’s questions.

I feel that the Trails & Rails program is very cool and can add tremendous value to one’s trip.  Deb and I would often wonder what the local history of the area was that we were traversing through during our many road trips.  In fact, her and I even thought of creating a product that travelers like us could play a CD that would describe the local history through a narrative and play music that fit the scenery and story, but like our other ideas, we had no funding for such an endeavour. So I think it is great that this program is available for others to enjoy.

From what I gleaned from the Trails & Rails web site, the program is only offered on some of the trains that Amtrak offers and only on a portion of the route as well.  That’s OK. Something is a whole better than nothing. However, there is now another option for train travelers - podcasts.

Here is an explanation from a page about the podcasts at the NPS’ Trails & Rails web site:

The National Park Service’s Trails & Rails program is expanding the Amtrak ® traveler’s experiences with another opportunity to learn about the nation’s national parks.

NPS has staff and volunteers on key Amtrak® trains promoting the national park sites, answering park questions, etc. and some Amtrak passengers can now be able to download audio podcasts highlighting the history and sites of interest along their route. The podcasts are accessible via smartphones, computers and strategically played at “on board” display screens on key Amtrak® trains, providing an audio guide, NPS anecdotes and fun facts.

Passengers can also download a printed version of the podcast, a perfect format for both teachers and the hearing-impaired. The podcast is a feature of the NPS Trails & Rails program, and was developed as a partnership between Amtrak®, the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University and the National Park Service.

Volunteer at http://www.nps.gov/getinvolved/volunteer.htm 

Route of Amtrak’s Sunset LimtiedCurrently there is only one offering and that is for Amtrak’s Sunset Limited which provides service between Los Angeles and New Orleans but I am certain more are planned.  The podcast appears to cover all of the key points along the route and some less known locations as well.  You can print out the narrative as a .PDF file if you prefer to read the information or for the hearing impaired traveler.

If you think about, now you have one more reason to travel by train besides you can keep your shoes on and use the bathroom whenever you desire.  Because railroads operate at “ground level” instead of 35,000 feet there is a lot to see.  Not only can you see beautiful scenery, you also get to see many areas that you cannot see any other way because, often, rail corridors are in remote regions and predate the interstate system.

Good job Amtrak and the National Park Service for combining two wonderful aspects of America and keeping it current and accessible. If only the system had GPS capabilities…Shhh…nevermind!