Here is a question you should ask yourself, your family and friends: Is okay to walk across your neighbor’s front yard without their permission? Most responsible adults are going to answer, “Of course not.”
As a follow-up question, ask if it’s okay, or if it’s “a problem” for uninvited guests to walk on or across railroad property without permission.
Unfortunately, most members of our society don’t see railroad trespassing as a problem even though railroad rights-of-way constitute privately-owned land and are – especially bridges, tunnels, mainlines and switch yards – among the most dangerous places non-railroaders could occupy.
Trespassing on railroad property is illegal and foolish. Without question, a 10,000-ton train moving 50 mph is going to take a much bigger bite out of a trespasser than the dog in your neighbor’s front yard.
Indiana Rail Road recently made news across the world when our executive, legal and public relations staffs made the decision to release video of a near-fatal encounter between an Indianapolis-bound train and two trespassers on Shuffle Creek Trestle, near Bloomington, Indiana.
Two female subjects, both in their mid-30s, dove between the rails after attempts to run proved futile. The locomotives and several cars passed above them, but the subjects are fortunate for two reasons: there is a mere 10 inches of clearance between the crossties and bottom of a locomotive’s snowplow, and if one of the heavy air hoses connecting each locomotive and railcar had been hanging lower than normal, it would have struck and killed them.
The point is: the women should have never been on railroad property to begin with, for their act could have resulted not only in their death but that of the engineer, not to mention a catastrophic derailment. As with all North American railroads, trains can run on INRD at any time, any day, and we must be vigilant to protect our employees, asset and the public.
Protecting our employees is exactly why INRD chose to release the video. In this case, thankfully, an engineer did not kill two trespassers, and does not have to forever live with the memory of fatalities that were out of his control.
Such incidents are why railroad employees are encouraged to report trespassers, why railroads encourage law enforcement to prosecute trespassers, and why we partner with law enforcement and Operation Lifesaver to encourage trespass avoidance and grade-crossing safety.