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Look – Listen – Live

By Staff | Aug 17, 2010

Passengers boarded the Union Pacific Operation Lifesaver Safety Train behind the Emmetsburg Police Station on Sunday. -- Lori Hall photo

Any time is train time—trains run 24-hours a day, seven days a week–and Union Pacific Railroad reminded the public of that fact on Sunday when the Operation Lifesaver Safety Passenger Train came to town.

Two hundred and twenty-five riders boarded the train behind the Police Station in Emmetsburg and rode the rails north to Osgood before returning south to Emmetsburg. The entire trip took about an hour, and was sponsored by Union Pacific Railroad and the UP Employee Club of Fort Dodge/Eagle Grove.

The ride provided a beautiful view of Five Island Lake, maturing fields of corn and soybeans, and expanses of grasses and wild flowers.  But the ride wasn’t only about enjoying a pleasant summer day; the reason for the event was to educate the public about safety around trains and railroads.

Prior to the return trip, Operation Lifesaver Presenter Don Heddinger from Fort Dodge briefly shared a safety message, as well as several alarming statistics.

“In 1972, when Operation Lifesaver began, there were approximately 12,000 collisions between trains and motor vehicles each year. By 2009, the number of train/motor vehicle collisions had been reduced by about 84-percent to 1,880,” said Heddinger. “Last year, Iowa ranked twelfth in the nation with 52 collisions.”

Adults and children (like Katie Elbert and her son, Riley) rode the rails north to Osgood and back. The train was in town to remind the public to take caution at railroad crossings and be aware of the laws in place to protect the public. -- Lori Hall photo

Nationwide, in 2009, there were 1,905 collisions between trains and vehicles resulting in 245 fatalities and 708 serious injuries. There were also 434 trespass fatalities by people trespassing on railroad property across the nation.

Heddinger reminded the riders that railroad tracks, trestles, yards, and equipment are private property and trespassers are subject to arrest and fines. Railroad property is private property.

“That railroad property includes 50-feet on either side of the tracks,” Heddinger shared. “It’s illegal to be in this area.”

Heddinger reminded motorists to be aware of the warning signs found at railroad crossings.

“It’s a $330 fine for running through a flashing red light at a crossing gate,” he said. “You need to stop no closer than 15 feet and no further back than 50-feet from the crossing before driving through if the path is clear.”

Heddinger concluded, “Remember, it takes a fully loaded train at least a mile to come to a complete stop.”

On Sunday, Aug. 15 and Monday, Aug. 16, Union Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Employee Club of Fort Dodge/Eagle Grove conducted free safety rides in the Estherville, Emmetsburg, West Bend, Clarion, Webster City, Gowrie, and Fort Dodge areas. The UP Employee Club collected non-perishable food items that will be donated to the Emmetsburg Food Pantry.