Thursday, August 6, 2009

I hear a train a comin'

Ungated High Street

So the Internet was abuzz last week when some nitwit Amherst teenage girl played chicken with an Amtrak train in Cushman Center (North Amherst) while her nitwit sister took a picture. Gotta love somebody near the train aficionados video camera exclaim "what the fuck" as the girl first enters the frame and ambles to the center of the tracks and then sprints back.

Of course if that crossing had gates chances are the girl would not have done the deed. Although certainly not guaranteed prevention as evidenced by last month's horrific accident that claimed the lives of five teenagers where the driver decided to race an Amtrak train and went around the gates.Station Road with gates

The Railroad closed off Railroad Street, where Amtrak's historic brick train station is located, after a car train mishap a few years back. Apparently they own the north side of the street and it's not a public way (although open to thru traffic for over 200 years) so they simply decided only trains would have the right of way.Barricaded Railroad Street

But now I'm wondering why the town had to repave the railroad crossing on Strong Street (and any cyclist would agree it was L-O-N-G past due) where gates used to exist but seemed to have disappeared recently.Formerly gated and now repaved Strong Street.

I'm told that Cushman Center is slated for gates, but who knows when (he called it "railroad time"). Maybe after the next time a kid plays chicken--and loses.Ungated Cushman Center.


30 comments:

Anonymous said...

My dad was hit by a train, in his car, 65 years ago, at Cushman crossing. The train never blew its' whistle, and it was an icy day. I was two years old at the time, but my mom had shown me some pictures of the car.
as a child growing up, I used to hop the coal cars heading into Amherst, to visit friends. Yes, dangerous, but exciting, at the time.

Until later......................

Anonymous said...

I hope they arrested the kid?

Anonymous said...

Safety gates are designed to help stop the oblivious. They are not designed to stop the willfully reckless.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry the Amtrak train will be running through Northampton soon instead of Amherst. Cushman will be saved from its stupidity.

LarryK4 said...

Have you no faith in our Town Mangler?

Ed said...

Three things.

First, if the Amherst Police can track down college kids from Youtube videos, then why can't they track down those two girls? Why not show their faces (from the picture afterwards) on the TV news?

Second, the older woman is guilty of child abuse (if they are minors) Notice how she is more concerned that the engineer is going to do something than at the girls. I don't want to think of what my mother would have done had she just seen me pull a stunt like this.

And third, it damages the rails to do an emergency stop. If they are not fixed, then we run the risk of a derailment in the future.

If a couple of male UM students did this, it would be on the network news. People would be calling for scalps. So why not here/now?

Ed said...

And what about the most dangerous of all, the Main Street crossing.

If you are coming into town, particularly in a small car, you simply can not see those overhead red lights. But you CAN see the green light by where HAPCO used to be, beyond the train as it is higher up.

I saw this at 1AM today - I saw something moving across the road and only later realized that it was the last car of a northbound freight.

THE CROSSING LIGHTS ARE TOO HIGH TO SHOW UP AND ALL YOU SEE IS THE GREEN TRAFFIC LIGHT AHEAD!!!!

The town mangler before the current one promised to do something, and still nothing has been done. They need red lights no more than 7 feet above the road.

Some UM kid (or several) coming back to campus at that hour (which is not uncommon, you get 6 hours sleep and go to your 10AM class the next day) is going to run into a stopped train and die.

LarryK4 said...

Probably because the girls are legally defined as "minors."

Anonymous said...

Probably because the girls are legally defined as "morons."

LarryK4 said...

Age has its disadvantages

Anonymous said...

UMass UMass. For Ed, every topic ends up at ...[stars with U and ends in Mass

Anonymous said...

Well, Larry, define "minor."

If the vast majority of UM kids are too young to legally drink, are - in fact - minors then they ARE minors.

I am waiting for some 19 year old kid to sue the town for not properly supervising him....

But if those two girls are minors, then there is a 51A issue, along with the adult being criminally responsible.

I am not holding my breath.

And the other thing you neglected to mention was who the parents of these two dumb girls are. Parents who likely helped the girls escape punishment -- if I had my way, they would be out handing safety pamphlets for the next decade....

Anonymous said...

The woman in the video is not the girls' mother.
She is the mother of the rail fan who was filming the train for his collection of train videos.
She spoke to the girls about their stupidity and later went to the police to report the incident.

Anonymous said...

I would have put foot up both of their asses, and dragged them to the police.

Until later.................

Anonymous said...

Thanks Larry, Now I have Folsom Prison Blues stuck in my head. Just added a new station to Pandora.

"When I hear that whistle blowin',
I hang my head and cry."

dominique said...

Strong Street had gates? We moved to Amherst in 1970 and live in the immediate neighborhood, and I can't ever remember crossing gates at that spot. Maybe I wasn't paying attention -- uh oh! It's always been really bumpy, though, and the repairs never seem to last.

LarryK4 said...

I've been thinking about a video for two years now: a snippet of Amtrak whizzing along the bike path in South Amherst thru the lush swamp on a perfectly clear day at the same angle Skyman used in that video (with of course, Mr. Cash in the background.)

LarryK4 said...

Hey Dominique,
I just remember a bike ride last year or so when I had to turn around because the traffic was soooo backed up with a really long train (but now that I think about it maybe it was just the length of the train the kept traffic backed up.)

Yeah considering how BIG and heavy them trains are I can see why the repairs don't last.

Mary E.Carey said...

Larry -- I got a video of the train running parallel to the bike trail but not at that angle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3w5dPc_Sg0

LarryK4 said...

Hey Mary,
Thanks. That's a crappy angle (and they needed a decent optical zoom.)

In fact, I will probably have to invest in some hip-waders in order to get the angle I have in mind.

Just gotta figure out roughly what time it hits that spot (I'm sure Rob Kusner probably knows.)

Ed said...

UMass UMass. For Ed, every topic ends up at ...[stars with U and ends in Mass

Hell, it could be a carload of your high school students coming back from a Red Sox game -- the timing would be about right -- and they would die just as quickly...

The problem is in AMHERST, it is the town of AMHERST's responsibility to deal with it and it is the AMHERST citizenry who are at risk. So what if some of them happen to attend UMass???

To paraphrase Shakesphere, if they get splashed into a train, is their blood not red as well?

Ed said...

Why no fencing?

The thing that really strikes me about all of this is how there is no fencing along the railroad track. The Boston & Maine Railroad (pre Gilford, pre bankrupcy, pre MBTA) fenced its tracks all through Eastern Massachusetts -- there are no tracks with grass growing up to them, there is a fence and a clearly defined right-of-way. (A century of coal cinders helps...)

Now the B&M track became the biketrail, and it was in such bad shape that Amtrac had to reroute to their current route even when the Amherst/Hamp link (of the origional Boston/Hamp Central Mass Railroad) was in operation.

Now I don't know who actually owns the active track through Amherst, but it really isn't fenced like it ought to be. And this is part of the problem...

robert said...

...around 1:25PM southbound, 4:15PM northbound (railroad time, that is ;-).

robert said...

NECR (New England Central Railroad, a subsidiary of Rail America) owns the track through Amherst. They're proposing to upgrade the rails, switches, ties, ballast and grade crossings with federal funds for the intercity passenger rail "stimulus" program, but (as of now) the Massachusetts EOT (Executive Office of Transportation) has balked at supporting their bid.

It's more likely NECR will get EOT support (and ultimately federal funding) for these speed and safety upgrades through a similar freight program: the issue is that Amherst, Palmer, Mansfield/Storrs and even New London are not considered big enough "cities" to qualify as destinations for intercity passenger rail, even though the UMass and UConn populations offer far more likely potential ridership than the populations on the western side of the river; furthermore, Palmer is a major switching yard, with connections to the main CSX east-west line, and New London is a deepwater port (unlike New Haven, where the river line winds up), so the NECR line through Amherst
is one of the key north-south freight rail lines in the Northeast. Freight rail is probably even more important economically and environmentally than passenger rail, but the infrastructure investments for one function yields benefits for the other: this dual-purpose use makes the NECR line through Amherst a good investment.

Ed said...

Yes but if the people of Vermont (who are paying for this train) want to advertise how quickly one can reach their ski areas from NYC/CT, then they have every right to shave a half hour (more?) off the trip by going straight down the other side of the river.

Besides, don't the UM students have access to the Puta Bus that goes to Northampton?

robert said...

Of course: that's why investment should be made in
both lines. As a matter of fact, the Vermonter will continue to run on NECR track north for Northfield, so even if the Pan Am line (the track west of the river)
is rebuilt for the Vermonter, that northern NECR track will be upgraded as well. Since the remaining NECR track upgrade south of Northfield qualifies for funding from another (freight-oriented) source, it makes sense for NECR to seek that out. Even if the Vermonter moves (as expected) to the west side of the river, the upgrades near Amherst will allow for
faster (future) passenger service (connecting at Palmer to Boston or Springfield) as well as safer freight service through Palmer and to south to New London....

Anonymous said...

The girls deserve Darwin awards

Thomas said...

Hey Larry,

I agree with most of this, but I can say that in my years following trains around western Massachusetts I've seen plenty of people run around the crossing gates - so I really don't think that installing gates on these crossings is the solution for these girls who would play chicken around them just as well, but of course it is for the aforementioned oblivious people who are driving along...(of course if you're texting while driving, you'll probably crash through the plastic gates and die anyway).

It costs roughly $5,000 per year to maintain a grade crossing on a right of way. I only learned this from an employee of the Guilford Rail System (east-west through Franklin County) so it's quite the investment on behalf of Amherst, who had, pre-Railroad St. closing, eight crossings, about $35,000 per year to maintain the remaining seven. It'd be great to see Amherst kick in some money or the railroad actually get stimulus money to improve them with gates and the like. (I know Pulpit Hill has no lights or gates, so that's a different story anyway).

But stupid teenage girls will continue to be stupid. Gates won't stop them. Of course, it would have been nice for the woman in the video or the person taking the video to use their cell phone to call 911, and get some police on scene who could have hauled said girls away for trespassing, obstructing railroad operations, reckless endangerment of the passengers, whatever. I'm not a cop so I don't really know the charges. They would have probably been on scene before the video stopped!

Overall, though, New England Central has always been a top-notch railroad and Robert is right that they're making all the right moves towards improving the safety of your railroad tracks through Amherst.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, I'm just not so sure Amherst PD would have been quick to arrest the young girls. Given them a stern lecture for sure--but arrest is pretty serious, and with minors it's a major paperwork pain in the butt for them.

How many cars bikes and pedestrians cross there every day? Lots. Are they trespassing? Or is it only when the red lights are flashing?

Would I be arrested for trespassing if I hop the barricade on Railroad Street and walk down the road to Leader Lumber?

Anonymous said...

the eddings twins strike again