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WJBD - Local News - Union Pacific Highlights Rail Safety During Annual Safety Ride

The Union Pacific 'Challenger' train, decked out in original livery, sits at the Salem depot prior to the trip.

Railway Engineer and Salem native Clay Monroe guides the train from Mt. Vernon back to Salem.

Union Pacific Highlights Rail Safety During Annual Safety Ride

By Rob Sussman, WJBD News

The Union Pacific Railroad brought out their old passenger rail cars for the annual safety ride between the Salem and Mt. Vernon train depots on Wednesday. The annual ride included presentations from Union Pacific employees on rail crossing safety, and the mistakes that misconceptions that people have about rail crossings. 

"Theres a couple of things people don't understand, one of which is that the signs at crossing actually have a legal meaning. A crossbuck means 'yield'. In Illinois all crossing that do not have automatic warning devices have a yield sign. They have a legal obligation to yield to the train" said Union Pacific Public Safety Manager Kevin Dawson.

Dawson says that when a train hits a car in an intersection, the damage is catastrophic, train's cant just "get of of the way" of cars stuck in intersections and take over a mile to come to a complete stop.

"This locomotive weighs 420,000 pounds. Compared to the average 250 pound male, thats a weight difference equivalent to an automobile running over six sticks of butter. Compare it to [the weight of] an automobile, it's like a car running over a can of soda"

Dawson says that if you ever find yourself stuck on railroad tracks, to run diagonally away from the tracks but in the direction of the oncoming train in order to avoid debris from a potential collision, and to immediately call the number listed on the railroad crossing in order to report the issue.

Union Pacific's public safety campaign encourages drivers and pedestrians to "Think Trains" when they "See Tracks" and to always assume that a train is coming. 

The antique passenger train cars used during the ride were part of the "Challenger" car line. Passenger trains hit their heyday in the 1940's and 1950's before crashing completely in the early 1970's when airline travel became the prefered means of cross-country travel for most Americans. The publicly owned Amtrak line remains the only long-distance passenger rail service active in America.

Union Pacific retains several passenger train cars for business and administrative use. The cars also tour around the country to promote train safety and awareness.

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