Monday, April 11, 2011

A “New” Way to Stop a Train

P4100010I’ve just gotten back from a half-week vacation in Placerville, and used Amtrak to travel the bulk of the journey (still had to get from my home to LA, and from Sacramento the rest of the way to Placerville).  This was the first time I’d used Amtrak since a trip to Seattle a few years ago.  The trip gave me the opportunity to get some reading and writing done (not exactly stuff one can do while driving), and although I wish that I had Internet access in Coach (I see no reason that should be limited to just those in the Sleeper cars), it was a generally pleasant journey, and I spent some of my time on the trip writing up entries that I hope will demonstrate the advantages of traveling via Amtrak, perhaps as a way to make up for my rather extensive list of ways the train was delayed during my Seattle trip.

First things first, though.  I need to add one more “cause of delay” to that list.

A little before 7:00 pm last night, while we were passing through Rosamond, the train had to make a sudden stop for a little old lady who was on the tracks.

I’m sorry to say that, despite being on the train that was stopped, I don’t have very many facts.  All I witnessed myself was the fact that the train stopped, that the police were apparently called in, and that the train officials had to walk around the train to make sure that everything was okay before they got going again.  The whole process took about half an hour.  Maybe less.

Other information, including the fact that the whole thing was called by a little old lady on the tracks itself, I had to get from folks on the train (especially the attendant).  I gather that immediately after the train stopped, the lady hurriedly got into her car and drove off, leaving her purse behind in the process.  The means that the officials have everything they need to find her, and to press charges if indeed that’s what ends up happening.  I don’t know if the lady was actively suicidal, just confused, or what.  I actually expected to learn more from the news, but as of 9:00 am this morning, this is all I've found (not really a news article at all).

In any event, I do want to commend the engineer for his ability to stop the train in time.  Although this is clearly one of those “just doing what he’s supposed to do” things, I know that trains—being rather massive and traveling at a fast speed to start with—are hard to stop quickly.  One has to be paying close attention to have enough time to respond properly.  A tragedy was averted because he was doing his job well, and that deserves recognition.

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