• Tragedies All Engineers Face, Amtrak Or Otherwise

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by AFTower
Hello,all. This is a situation engineers and motormen face every time we climb up into the cab. This has been happening for more than one hundred years and unfortunately I don't ever see it stopping! :(

With suicides, locomotive engineers long haunted by horror, helplessness

(The following story by Steve Hendrix appeared on the Washington Post website on October 2, 2009. Bruce Evans is Legislative Representative of BLET Division 14 in Washington, D.C. John Tolman is the BLET’s National Vice President & National Legislative Representative.)
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Bruce Evans has learned to look away. Hoping to keep his mind free of yet another image that will linger for a lifetime, he has learned to avert his eyes as his train barrels down on a person on the tracks. In 20 years at the controls of Amtrak locomotives, Evans has watched a dozen fatalities unfold in agonizing close-up. "After the first time you strike somebody, you just turn your head and wait for the impact," said Evans, an engineer based out of Washington's Union Station. The first one was sitting on a quiet stretch of rail near Weldon, N.C., a man ignoring Evans's frantic horn blasts, waiting for a locomotive roaring at 75 mph to end his despair. "When I looked in the mirror, he was tumbling in the air, just flying," Evans said. "I can see it as clearly as if it was happening in front of me right now."

[EDIT - Do not copy and paste entire articles, please provide brief summary and link to the original. -omv]
  by septadude
It's a good article. I'm glad the vocabulary was correct (no calling the engineer a conductor or such). Unfortunately most threads about suicides and collisions get the lock pretty quickly. I, for one, think it's an important matter and should stay open for discussion.
  by ZephyrHogHead
Thankfully I have not had a fatality YET. Hopefully when I work tomorrow and monday I am able to maintain that track record. I have however have had many many close calls. All of them I remember vividly. Talking with a close friend and fellow engineer one night about fatalities he told me this, "kid, you dont want to have one, but of all the ones I've had. The worse ones for me are the close calls". I have no idea how I will handle it if/when I have a fatality. But, I do know I have been lucky so far. But, with over 30 more years to go, I wouldnt be surprised if the odd catch up to me one day. Of all the close calls I have ever had there are two that have been the worse for me. Most recently was almost hitting a little girl (maybe 10 or 12) that ran across the crossing literally at the last second because her brother prompted her to! She started to and stoped 2 times before she did it. I just knew something was going to go down. But going 70mph, there was nothing I could do but blow the whistle, set a full service and hope for the best. I honestly thought I got her. Somehow she made it. When the crew car went by my Condcutor looked out the Engineer side and he said if she were any closer she would have touched the window when he went by her.

The second one which really shook me up right after. I come around a curve at 70mph and here is an 18wheeler flat bed loaded with about 10 steel high tension power line poles. The trailer dead center in the gage! I sent a full service and was just about to pull the air when her got moving and cleared by maybe a foot! I was going about 68 when i went by him! At the time it was happening I was just responding to my training, about 5 mins later...... BANG, it hit me. If I had hit that truck going that fast I most certainly would have been killed if not seriously injured. It litterally scared the sh&t out of me.

One of the hardest things to get used to is that when you have these close calls, you have to regain your composure and finish out your run. As a student and newly marked up Engineer it was very hard at first. Over time I have become some what numb to it. But, I have to say there is nothinig more terrifying than comming down on someone and see the look of possible death in their eyes and face. It is truely terrifying and you feel like the most helpless person in the world for you know there is literally nothing you can do. I may not have hit anyone but I will say that there are crossing and locations of close calls that I can still to this day when running over them see exactly what took place there. And, on some days I am aprehensive about going through those locations and beging to replay it in my head what has happened and grab the brake valve wondering if there is going to be another person there and I'll have another close call or if this is going to be "that day".

People just need to stay off the right of way. Or, at least in the clear.
  by Trainer
There's an excellent short film on the subject of how these accidents affect the families of these engineers entitled "Mind the Gap". It's realistically and respectfully told from the perspective of the daughter of a Boston transit engineer. I saw it in a local film festival, so if you have a chance to catch if it comes your way, consider taking the take the time to do so.

The trainer for it is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81EDsOlAOQs
  by ZephyrHogHead
Sounds, and from the trailer look like a very interesting short film. I will be google-ing and hoping it comes close to me so that I can see it. It is definately a topic that in past years has never been brought to the forefront when fatalities occur. IFor years I have been hoping reporters etc. would take the time to get the Engineers side of things. I am very grateful that now FINALLY something is being put out for people to read and understand the effects fatalities have on Engineers and their families. I may not have had any but I can honestly say it has caused problems for me having the close calls at times. No part of a close call or fatalitiy can be left at work for us. We carry them with us forever. Aside from the Engineers, the families are victims too!
  by AgentSkelly
The one engineer I know told me the story of his first incident that ended up with a fatality. It was a local man who just wanted to commit suicide. But of course, for weeks he thought it was all his fault for not even trying to stop the train, but it wasn't until his fellow trainmen told that you will always have people who want to die by train and once you see them, you can only look away.
  by Acela Express
It is so ironic this was posted in the forum because just last night this topic came up in a conversation. We all came to the finalverdict that as much as we would like for it not to happen we have no control over a person who is willing to take their life. It hard on the entire train crew its something we have to live with for the rest of our lives. We find that talking about it before it happens kind of prepares you but you never know how your gonna truly react until it happens. I personally have came around to accept the fact its not in my control and after having my share of incidents found that It got easier to deal with after each one I was involved in. Some people on the other hand just won't ever be the same. My thoughts and prayers always go out to he victims and their families, but my first priority is to check on the engineer to see how he is doing and then getting ready in most cases to view the aftermath of what is clearly something you never wanna see.
  by neroden
I am not sure why suicidal people throw themselves in front of trains. Perhaps more awareness of the effect on the engineers would lead them to commit suicide differently. Occasionally people throw themselves into road traffic, but much more rarely it seems. Perhaps more understanding of the effect on the people in the cars and trucks? Suicidal people usually don't want to hurt anyone else.

In my town, they throw themselves off bridges into gorges, usually.
  by AEM7AC920
Well during my short 4 yrs I have on the R.R as a conductor I somehow feel worse being on a train hiting a dog vs a human because animals don't know any better and people do even though you would think not. There aren't any excuses for anyone (non railroad) to be on or around the tracks for any reason and if you are then you should have enough sense to pay attention for trains. I don't know what a sucidal person is thinking before they do it but they prob don't realize how much they are effecting the lives of the engineer who has to see the whole thing unfold in front of them and also the conductor who has to walk back after and see what's left and I for 1 thing will say it's NOT PRETTY at all. My 1st and only fatility thus far; I had a guy that laid down over the rail in front of us and we wacked him dead on at 60 mph and after we came to a full stop about 1 mile down I didn't have to walk far to know that he was all done just from the fact that he was everywhere.
  by justalurker66
septadude wrote:Unfortunately most threads about suicides and collisions get the lock pretty quickly. I, for one, think it's an important matter and should stay open for discussion.
Didn't we just have a thread on this? The trouble is it seems that every time the article gets rewritten someone thinks it is news. It isn't. It isn't the most pleasant side of railroad operations, is it? And overall it is more about mental health issues than railroads.
  by septadude
There are threads on it every few months but they usually go into gore and get closed. I'm no moderator here... heck, I'm a very junior member, but I think it's an appropriate to let people talk about it if they wish.
  by gprimr1
I am not sure why suicidal people throw themselves in front of trains.
Not speaking from personal experience, but it's the speed and quickness I believe. It's quick, painless and there's very little room for error.
  by BrianS
I cant tell you how many time I have come close to hitting a car, or a person at a crossing. People just pull up, see that the train is not on top of them, and go, well the people behind them go too, and that makes for a close call. That is a daily event here on the NECR. Not long ago, Came throught the Rt 142 crossing in Vernon, Vt and what do you know a flat bed trailer truck is stopped on the next crossing, with no driver. He is out of the truck at the hotdog cart. We he got to the truck in time and moved it, but not before I dumped the train and went sailing by in emergency. I ran over a bum in Brattleboro a few years ago, he was sleeping on the tracks. He even started to put up his tent, as he tied the ropes to the spike heads in the tie plates. The police told us that night before, was the only night out of that week that he was not locked up for being drunk. So he gets out of jail for one night and ran over and killed by a train.

NECR engineer
  by CSX Conductor
AEM7AC920 wrote:Well during my short 4 yrs I have on the R.R as a conductor I somehow feel worse being on a train hiting a dog vs a human because animals don't know any better and people do even though you would think not.
Dogs are usually smart but once they get on the tracks they get spooked by the vibration of the rail on each side because of their extra sensitive ears. Therefore they are afraid to try to jump over the rail, and know not to run towards the headlight, which leaves only one option, which is to "try" to outrun the train.

As for deer, we all know that they get confused by the headlights, so best thing to do is shut off your headlights for a few seconds and ring bell. Not a good idea to blow horn because this usually sets the ditch lights on most locos to start flashing, which confuses the deer and you wack'em.

Fortunately, I as well haven't had any, yet. I know that it's going to happen, just not when. I just wish that for the sake of my fellow engineers out there that more people would leave notes, at least that way it might relieve some of the self-blame that engineers might first have going through their monds.