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?