A Rembrance Day Moment

As I stood on an embankment next to CP's Winchester Sub. just east of the scanner at mile 99.81 couldn't help but be pleased with the scene framed by my camera. The sun had found a hole in a sullen November 10th overcast, just in time to light up the head end of Extra 5413W, Train 503. The hotshot moved swiftly past my location, with three thundering units and a heavy train of loaded COFC flats in tow. The action was impressive and as I walked back towards my car a synthesized computer voice was busy chattering on my radio " ... no alarms, message complete, detector out." You could tell the engineman was pleased as he robustly acknowledged the message, "Highball the scanner X5413W, looking good from both sides on the head end, mileboard Bedell." Little did he suspect that tragedy awaited a couple of curves and a few short miles ahead just past the protected grade crossing at Swan. It is there that a 14 year old boy would loose his young life when he was hit by the train at approximately eleven o'clock in the morning.

The next day the news media reported that the boy was acting as a spotter for a group of local hunters in the woods along the busy east-west double track mainline. Sadly, one of the hunters was the boy's father. At the time of this writing, authorities had not found any witnesses to the accident. They were also at a loss to explain why the lad apparently was not aware of the oncoming train nor made any effort to get off the tracks. Even though the engineman put his train into emergency, its momentum was such that he was unable to bring it to a stop until about 5,000 feet past the point of impact, a scant 20 or so cars from the tail end. The year 1989 had claimed another railway related fatality.

Why did it happen? It would be inappropriate for me to speculate on the circumstances that preceded this unfortunate incident. I can say, however, that I had observed numerous hunters back near the detector, patrolling the tracks, using them as a corridor to gain quiet entry to the denser portions of the nearby woods. As a train approached they would at the last moment step off next to the right of way, only to reappear as the van's markers disappeared in the distance. Their apparent indifference towards the dangers associated with moving trains is what I found most disturbing, not withstanding the fact that in this case the individuals were carrying firearms.

I suppose what I'm leading up to in a word is "SAFETY". We must never loose our respect for trains because the results can be unforgiving. Proudly, safe handling procedures at work and at play have been a hallmark of the Society since its inception in 1969, and should continue to remain upper most in our minds when we are on or near railway equipment. It is our responsibility to make every effort to recognize and avert dangerous situations before they end in tragedy. My recount of the accident mentioned above is simply a reminder to that end, "Lest we forget."

Bytown Railway Society,  Branchline, December 1989, page 5.

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