Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Railroad crossing?

A friend forwarded a video of a train-related thing, which led, as YouTube videos do to an hour of watching others in the category. All that has led to one burning question - how can you be accidentally hit by a train?

They are loud: hundreds of metal wheels scrape on metal rails. They're heavy: you can feel the earth shake before you see them. Apart from that, there are bells, lights and a horn that you can literally hear for miles. (I can hear one right now, sitting in my room. The railway line is one and a half miles away). So, how?

In one video, a truck was halfway across the tracks and you could hear the brakes of the train screeching for ages before it hit it anyway. Another one is a hushed report of a guy driving across the tracks right in front of an oncoming train. This time the bad train was especially culpable, as far as I can tell, because he was "a father on his way to his son's birthday party." It doesn't matter if he was a drug dealer on his way to kill an old lady - the fact is he didn't look both ways. When I stopped watching, the newscaster was talking of an investigation into how many times the horn was sounded. Maybe they'll also check if the headlight was in fact on. And if the insects in the shrubs were breathing too loudly and drowning out the sound of a 10,000 ton diesel engine.

I leave you with this. For pure wholesome entertainment you can't beat provincial American news:


Thom said...

I have to say, after the drama of level crossings in India, I find the nonchalance of US level crossings pretty scary.

The lights start flashing, the bell rings, the gates start to close, and you realise, you can see the train just up the tracks. No chance of gates closing 15 minutes in advance of a train that may or may not arrive.

The gates bounce closed (there's the other amazing thing... gates you can drive around!) and there are just seconds before the train comes hurtling through. It's barely gone, and the gates open again. It's all very efficient, but there really isn't a lot of time if something goes wrong: you unthinkingly drive onto the track area and the traffic in front of you doesn't move, or you stall on the tracks and panic.

Many accidents (and one of the Youtube ones as well) are because somebody accidentally makes a turn ONTO the tracks, and then gets stuck. Sounds silly, but there are places where it gets confusing--usually level crossings where the tracks and road are not perpendicular, the angle sometimes makes it hard to see which is track and which is road, especially at night.

Gargoyle said...

Yeah I was wondering about that... nonchalance is a good word! There seemed to be a lot of casual crossings. In one of the videos, there was this giant freight train right there but the gates stayed open right up to the last second and cars just kept crossing in front of it. But when you think about it, even though our gates close hours before people still find a way to cross and die on the tracks!

Gargoyle said...

God, imagine how scary that would be - if you turned onto the rails and were stuck there.

Anonymous said...

There are several crossings near L's office, where the tracks run parallel to the road, right next to it. And then, almost immediately, there's another road running parallel, so it's road, tracks, road.

And, of course, there are roads running perpendicularly across all this, so there are many intersections where you have to think about making a left across an oncoming lane, driving over tracks and then stopping almost immediately at another light or at a stop sign. It takes just two cars (and a light change) to cause the third car to stop over the tracks. And considering that most people are chatting on the phone, and not working things out two or three steps in advance, there have been many car-train accidents on that stretch.

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