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Old 05-15-08, 11:46 AM   #1
powerhouse
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Freight Train Stops For Bicyclist

One clear day while out riding in the Central Maine countryside, I began hearing the sounds of a freight train coming into the area of a grade crossing about a mile or so ahead in the road. After closing that distamce, I pulled up next to the RXR clearly painted on the asphalt, dismounted, and waited for the train to go by. I was the only road traffic at the time. The crossing, equipped with both electronic lights and bells but no automatic barrier system to road traffic, had not yet been activated as the train was still too far away for that to happen. The only fanfare came from the 2 white beamer 5 lights on my handlebars and 3 Planet Bike Superflash blinkies (two attached to my bicycle and one clipped to the back of my helmet) blinked crazily as I stood there, dressed brightly in full kit and lime-green wind jacket.

I could have crossed over the tracks without stopping that day but I decided not to. Most train crews aren't able to stop in time. There had been times in the past with trains approaching full-bore where I'd had some close calls, the last time making me feel lucky to be alive. Meanwhile, the train I was waiting for turned out to be more than just the typical slow-moving freight; After passing over the point which automaticly activated the electronic crossing signals, the train surprisingly drew to a complete halt on the other side of the highway. The crew in the lead locomotime didn't climb down to yell at me. Rather, I looked up at the engineer as to what he wanted. After he looked at me for a moment, I took a few steps backand waved him forward. The engineer understood and the 3 locomotive, 128-car train he operated continued on to its final destination.

I don't encourage anyone to try and stop a freight train. Nor do I recommend that anyone try to beat a train at a crossing. Why do you suppose it happened that day?

Did the engineer think I wanted to cross the tracks at the last minute?
Could the engineer have been extra careful and stopped in time nonetheless?
Could it be something else?
What do you think?

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Old 05-15-08, 11:53 AM   #2
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Did the engineer think I wanted to cross the tracks at the last minute?
Could the engineer have been extra careful and stopped in time nonetheless?
Could it be something else?
What do you think?
Perhaps all trains are required to stop at that intersection always independent of x-traffic conditions.
Or there was a signal for the train to stop that is activated under certain conditions - maybe for a stop ahead that would otherwise cause the train to block the crossing if they stopped ahead.
Perhaps the engineer was aware of examples of people who do cross after the moment it is too late to stop - didn't expect you too, but...
Maybe your lights/reflection were confusing to engineer - maybe you looked from the distance as a possible signal.

Did the train proceed after you waved it on?

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Old 05-15-08, 12:21 PM   #3
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The engineer understood my motions to continue and the train proceeded ahead to its destination.
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Old 05-15-08, 12:30 PM   #4
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Was it dark when this happened? Perhaps the train engineer thought your flashing lights were an emergency vehicle and procedeed to to stop as a matter of safety.
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Old 05-15-08, 12:31 PM   #5
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more than likely he was waiting for point to be reset so he could move on. or else you likghts cunfused him. also trains are routinley stopped to allow other traffic thru. ie amtrack get a prioirty due to haveing people on board.

Cool thing about trains fewer trucks.
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Old 05-15-08, 12:56 PM   #6
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I used to chase trains on a Sting Ray when I was a kid and ,so after talking to engineers for a couple years and getting to know a little about train travel from the street level, the engineer had come to a stop and was likely waiting for radio communication from a track switch behind him, then to reverse travel, as they call it.
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Old 05-15-08, 01:01 PM   #7
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trains

I don't understand why you stopped and waited for a train that you could not yet see?
How many tracks were at this crossing?
Was this near a Train Switching Yard?
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Old 05-15-08, 01:07 PM   #8
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Was this a small "local" or a priority freight? Was it on a double-track main merging into a single after the crossing? What was the signal indicating down the line? Were they switching part of their consist onto a local siding?

They might have hit the 12-hour FRA limit too.

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Old 05-15-08, 01:13 PM   #9
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ie amtrack get a prioirty due to haveing people on board.
Amtrak get priority? Rarely. Most roads will always try to give their own freights priority over AMTK - even if it is against prior agreements.

CSX's dispatching of the (now State of Florida-owned) south end of the CSX A-Line is a beautiful example. Agreements made between the State and CSX during the purchase of the line gave TRCX (Tri-Rail, commuter from West Palm to Miami) priority on the line, along with Amtrak. To this day, CSX will weasel their gravel freights ahead of either in priority.

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Old 05-15-08, 02:36 PM   #10
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It was a clear, sunny, day when all this happened and my safety lights were quite visible, so it's possible that the engineer may have confused when he saw my safety lights flashing and stopped as a matter of safety. I had stopped to wait for the train to pass as a matter of safety; At first, I didn't know how fast it was traveling and didn't want to take my chances, even if I couldn't yet see it. This happened at a railroad crossing in the middle of nowhere and there was only a single track with no switching yard nearby. The train, a 128-car freight train with 3 engines, was priority freight. Trains like this one don't usually stop for anything. Passenger trains are not run in that area of Maine.
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Old 05-15-08, 07:33 PM   #11
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Old 05-15-08, 09:37 PM   #12
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It was a clear, sunny, day when all this happened and my safety lights were quite visible, so it's possible that the engineer may have confused when he saw my safety lights flashing and stopped as a matter of safety.
Highly unlikely.

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This happened at a railroad crossing in the middle of nowhere and there was only a single track with no switching yard nearby. The train, a 128-car freight train with 3 engines, was priority freight.
The fact that it was a pretty long consist makes it even more unusual to assume it was a courtesy stop. Was this on the B&M/Guilford, by any chance?

There are a multitude of reasons that would have resulted in their coming to a stop - just so happened to be a coincidence that he came to a stop at that specific spot on the line when you were there.

Believe me, there is no way in hell that one can spot any consist nearing or over 50 cars at a crossing with relatively short notice - even at slow speed. Slack action with any long consist has to be dealt with kid gloves and a steady hand on either the train/automatic brake or dynamic (if equipped) brake. Any sudden movements can easily break a coupler and/or jump a wheelset off the rails.

http://railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=135690&nseq=28



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Old 05-15-08, 10:11 PM   #13
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Perhaps there had been a train accident recently and the conductors were on the alert to be extra careful?
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Old 05-16-08, 07:52 AM   #14
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If your blinkies were visible to the engineer, he may have misinterepreted them as someone flagging the train. Red lights, red cloth etc are the typical signals used to stop a train in case of an emergency. I've stopped them with a red juice glass and a flashlight before when I found a dumb***** offroader stuck on a rail bridge. Not a thing to be done lightly as it can mess up train schedules all accross the state, and as I understand there are very severe penaltes for doing it without a valid reason.

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Old 05-16-08, 08:04 AM   #15
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Just the Three engines would weight 900,000 lbs, Plus the weight of the trailing cars. Guessing it would take
2 to 3 miles for this train to stop. Retired form the railroad. Never heard of any train stopping for a 30 lb bicycle.
I still don't understand why the guy on the bicycle stopped. Ten seconds at max to cross the single track?
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Old 05-16-08, 08:29 AM   #16
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I don't understand why you stopped and waited for a train that you could not yet see?

Up here in new england we have the accella. and in my area it hauls butt. if you blink at the right time you will miss the entire train.

I live in one of the areas where it get upto top speed. However we have no suface street RXR on the accella tracks here.
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Old 05-16-08, 09:25 AM   #17
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Up here in new england we have the accella. and in my area it hauls butt. if you blink at the right time you will miss the entire train.
Northeast Corridor. Hardly any vehicle grade crossings on Amtrak's portion of the NEC, and if and when there are any, they are in a restricted speed area, and usually within yards at the larger stations (Philly 30th Street, Washington D.C., etc).

That said, here is an NEC picture from Microsoft Train Simulator for you:



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Old 05-16-08, 09:42 AM   #18
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Up here in new england we have the accella. and in my area it hauls butt. if you blink at the right time you will miss the entire train.

I live in one of the areas where it get upto top speed. However we have no suface street RXR on the accella tracks here.
I still find it difficult to understand why a cyclist would wait for a train that couldn't be seen on a straight track in broad daylight. As others have posted, the lead locomotive must have been miles from the crossing if the engineer stopped the long freight after seeing the cyclist at the crossing.

I'd sure hate to be behind the OP at a stop sign in inclement weather or limited visibility.
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Old 05-16-08, 09:46 AM   #19
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... There had been times in the past with trains approaching full-bore where I'd had some close calls, the last time making me feel lucky to be alive. ...

Did the engineer think I wanted to cross the tracks at the last minute?
Could the engineer have been extra careful and stopped in time nonetheless?
Could it be something else?
What do you think?
Maybe the engineer got freaked out about some stupid cyclist who tried to beat a train and only narrowly made it last time?
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Old 05-16-08, 09:56 AM   #20
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Highly unlikely.



The fact that it was a pretty long consist makes it even more unusual to assume it was a courtesy stop. Was this on the B&M/Guilford, by any chance?

There are a multitude of reasons that would have resulted in their coming to a stop - just so happened to be a coincidence that he came to a stop at that specific spot on the line when you were there.

Believe me, there is no way in hell that one can spot any consist nearing or over 50 cars at a crossing with relatively short notice - even at slow speed. Slack action with any long consist has to be dealt with kid gloves and a steady hand on either the train/automatic brake or dynamic (if equipped) brake. Any sudden movements can easily break a coupler and/or jump a wheelset off the rails.

http://railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=135690&nseq=28



-Kurt
128 cars + 3 engines = probably in the area of 8 -15,000 Tons.

For them to stop that thing in that time, they must've only been going 10mph or LESS to start, I cannot see how they could stop that short going any faster than that.

There may not have been any signals nearby, but they might've been running under a slow or restricting signal.

Also there might've been track workers nearby that you didn't see, n thought you (with all your gear/lights) were some sort of on-track worker.
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Old 05-16-08, 03:37 PM   #21
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128 cars + 3 engines = probably in the area of 8 -15,000 Tons.

For them to stop that thing in that time, they must've only been going 10mph or LESS to start, I cannot see how they could stop that short going any faster than that.
My thoughts to. I doubt the reason for the train stopping was directly related to the cyclist. It was either a planned stop or he was confused by the blinking lights.

And I'm still confused as to the reason you waited. If the barrier system hasn't activated then traffic is free to move across the crossing. You could probably disassembled the bike, carried it across and reassembled it in the time it took for the locomotive to reach you.

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Old 05-19-08, 06:45 PM   #22
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My thoughts to. I doubt the reason for the train stopping was directly related to the cyclist. It was either a planned stop or he was confused by the blinking lights.

And I'm still confused as to the reason you waited. If the barrier system hasn't activated then traffic is free to move across the crossing. You could probably disassembled the bike, carried it across and reassembled it in the time it took for the locomotive to reach you.
If the stop had been planned, I don't know what would have made a 128-car priority freight train stop when there are no nearby switching yards, warehouses, factories, sidings, junctions, or other additional trackage in the the area. The only possible reasons could be that the train crew had seen me (dressed as I was in bright clothing and with flashing red and white safety lights on my bicycle and helmet) and thought there might be an emergency somewhere along the track, or that they became confused.

The reason for my waiting as I did was for safety reasons. Although I couldn't yet see the train very well when I arrived at the crossing, I could hear it well before I got there and wasn't going to chance crossing when I had no idea how fast the freight was traveling. Other than the electronic lights and bell system that is activated by approacking railroad traffic, there was no barrier with which to block road traffic. After a few previous harrowing experiences which almost took my life, I'm willing wait for a train to pass
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Old 05-19-08, 07:19 PM   #23
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If the stop had been planned, I don't know what would have made a 128-car priority freight train stop when there are no nearby switching yards, warehouses, factories, sidings, junctions, or other additional trackage in the the area. The only possible reasons could be that the train crew had seen me (dressed as I was in bright clothing and with flashing red and white safety lights on my bicycle and helmet) and thought there might be an emergency somewhere along the track, or that they became confused.

The reason for my waiting as I did was for safety reasons. Although I couldn't yet see the train very well when I arrived at the crossing, I could hear it well before I got there and wasn't going to chance crossing when I had no idea how fast the freight was traveling. Other than the electronic lights and bell system that is activated by approacking railroad traffic, there was no barrier with which to block road traffic. After a few previous harrowing experiences which almost took my life, I'm willing wait for a train to pass
Trains often slow or stop as a matter of schedule keeping.

If you have this much angst at a level crossing you must be a real blast at traffic intersections.
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Old 05-19-08, 07:35 PM   #24
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If you have this much angst at a level crossing you must be a real blast at traffic intersections.
No kidding

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Old 05-20-08, 10:26 AM   #25
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Article on train crossing in today's local paper:
http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/story/116687
"Tempe and Union Pacific police remain concerned with increasing traffic and some drivers’ routine disregard for laws. So as a reminder to the public, police spent a portion of Monday stationed at various railroad crossings throughout the city, ticketing drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians who broke the law."

"As the arms began to drop in front of one car Monday, it quickly accelerated to get through the crossing. In one case, a bicyclist zipped under the crossing arms, and in another, a man ran across the tracks as the train barreled forward."
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