Sunday, August 7, 2011

Railroad Yards Contain Locomotives, Rolling Stock, and Danger

BNSF Police
shoulder patch
As a railfan just 15 years ago, it was hard for me to appreciate the railroads' point of view when it came to allowing access to their yard. I can remember at least one encounter when, looking into a railroad policeman's eyes, I could tell what frustration and anger my "idiocy" had caused. Moments before, I felt I was safe because it was a hot summer day and no one was out there making any moves. No one except the police man, I found out. His face reminded me of how my father's looked when I had one time wandered into danger. I didn't enjoy either experience.

Today, I read in Trains Magazine's news briefs about BNSF employee Deborah Beeler in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Last Thursday morning at 2:00 AM, she was riding in a "glorified golf cart" ATV over BNSF tracks at 1631 West 33rd Place, driven by Randy Battenfield. A flatcar rolling down the tracks as a part of yard operations collided with the ATV's passenger side, pinning Beeler in the passenger seat. It took 2 hours for the fire department to free her, even while using the Jaws of Life. She died of multiple injuries there at the scene.

Union Pacific Police
shoulder patch
Eulogized by an apparent co-worker in comments on the news article in Tulsa World, they said, "She was a joy to know and work with. Always had that wonderful smile. What a precious young lady." After reading their words, it occurred to me that it's probable that at least one railroad police man probably knew this young lady. It's also likely that the names and faces of so many others were behind the eyes of my first railroad cop, and his desire was to put in me a healthy fear of him and his yard. I realize that his ultimate fear driving that anger was to see another kid--what I was to him--killed by ignorance and stupidity.

To this day, I haven't been beyond the parking lot. For me, that yard is no longer hallowed ground, it's downright sacred, and I would tread there at my peril. It's not that I don't want to, but I know I don't have to. I can go see them elsewhere and from other vantage points that are a lot safer and a lot less likely to make railroad police fearful and angry with me.

May God be with Deborah's family and friends. God, be with Randy, who is likely struggling with the facts right now. Put the right people around him and the others wounded through this and help them get through this very painful time.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
-- Plato

"You don't have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?"

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