Friday, May 14, 2010

train wreck

the phrase "train wreck" can be taken so many different ways. it can be used to describe a person who is in some sort of falling apart state. it can be used to describe a relationship. it can be used to describe anything or anyone who seems to be in some state of disrepair. but in this case, it is to be taken in the most literal of ways, for i am, indeed, writing about a train amtrak wreck, to be specific...a real, big boom, cars derailed, "fire in the hole", calling all 911 folks from miles around kind of train wreck.
it happened yesterday in the small town of mebane, nc....which is a beautiful little town in the piedmont of nc...and it happens to be where my daughter, her husband and my grandson live. the train tracks run right through the middle of "downtown"...and i smile when i say that because it is quite the small downtown. BUT....the two main streets in downtown cross the railroad tracks where amtrack runs multiple trains during the course of the day. the tracks run parallel to another main road, with a small grassy area, and some trees between the tracks and the business area. it is amazing to me that amtrack runs it's trains through this little town at approximately 70 mph normally. on any given day my daughter, with my grandson in the car seat, her husband in his private vehicle and in the fire truck, school buses, ambulances and innumerable private citizens cross this track. there is a distance of about 2 car lengths between the crossing arms and the stop light so if you don't stop before you get to the tracks and those crossing arms come are. stuck. and that light you see.... it's not the light at the end of the's a train. a real one. a big one. a fast one. so yesterday this guy driving a tractor trailer hauling a huge piece of equipment....well.....he got stuck on the track. the trailer was a low-boy and there's a little humpybump right where the tracks are....and he got stuck on the tracks. couldn't spinning...the whole enchilada. and then?...yep. the lights and bells started...the crossing arms came down...and...he got out and tried to start unhooking the trailer but it was too late. there's the train....a passenger train on it's way to charlotte...and it's going...oh...about 70mph, horns blaring. i guess you can figure out the rest. big boom. big fire. train cars scattered, although surprisingly, they stayed relatively close to the tracks, which is a good thing because the only thing separating them from a whole block of businesses is one street and a few trees. and some of the trees are now history. now it's bad enough to think of all the horrible things that could have the fact that about 30 minutes earlier, my daughter and grandson crossed those very tracks at that very spot as she took him to the sitter on her way to work. or the fact that my son in law, a mebane firefighter, was on his shift at the fire department, answered the call and stayed on scene for over 14 hrs...on this, his first week back at work after surgery less than 2 weeks ago. and they were able to contain the fire with no difficulty. or the fact that this wasn't a school bus, which at that time of morning, it could've been. there are so many horrible things that could have happened. BUT....they did not. there were relatively few injuries to the train passengers. there were no injuries to any of the emergency personnel...who did an awesome job, by the way. the damage to the downtown area is pretty much contained to the area right around the businesses were damaged. the train cars that derailed did not fly helter-skelter through town, as they so easily could have. it did make for a hot mess with traffic, but that's no big deal, considering the huge bullet that was dodged....literally...a huge bullet the size of a train. a train that is allowed to run upwards of 70 mph through small towns with dangerous crossings. and the thing that really is scary...there are indications from amtrak that they are considering increasing the speed that these trains are allowed to go. i certainly hope smart minds prevail in that decision. because next time, at 80 mph through that may not be a may be a school bus. and those businesses street and a row of trees won't make much of a difference. i know my daughter and son in law know better than to get caught on the tracks, but what if....they just happen to be eating at one of the restaurants that face the tracks....or happen to be sitting at a stop light adjacent to the tracks....or are at the gas station or the drug store on the corner. a train at speeds of 80 mph will not stop for much. yes, i'd say they dodged a huge bullet...this time. i have no objection to the train coming through. in fact, it adds to the charm of many small towns. but at 80 mph.....i think it's just too big a risk. the trains should slow down in congested areas....because next time, small town charm...and the lives of many...may not be lucky enough to dodge the bullet.

1 comment:

  1. WHEW!!!! i am surprised that this doesn't happen more often than it actually does...
    when i was driving through NC on my way back from wilmington, i saw the amtrak signs and stated to my travelling buddy (roy's girlfriend) how cool it would be to ride the train across the state. unfortunately it doesn't go over to the mountains, but i would love that so much!!! xxxxx