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Metrolink Photo Archive
A presentation by the Los Angeles Metrolink Historical Society

"Trucker On The Train"
Special Event on March 9, 2000

By Charles P. White, staff writer and photographer.

Concerned about the alarming increase in the number of collisions between trucks vs. Metrolink trains, Metrolink officials in cooperation with "Operation Lifesaver" hosted a special “Trucker on the Train” day as part of Metrolink Rail Safety Week.  Truckers, and media personnel were invited along with Metrolink engineers to see for themselves how to avoid becoming involved in a collision. Along the way, law enforcement officials cited violators ignoring the flashing red crossing lights.

Here are the photos of that event held on March 9, 2000.

My unofficial Glendale Police escort into the Metrolink Central Maintenance Facility at 9:30 A.M..

Left to right:
A Glendale Police Department Representative,
Eric Jacobsen, California Operation Lifesaver,
Ed Pederson, Metrolink Manager Safety and Security,
Steve Telliano, California Trucker's Association,
Lt. Walker, Burbank Police Department

"Due to the growing economy, more truckers are crossing our rails more often," stated Ed Pederson during the introduction with the news media in front of Engine #861 and a Ralphs truck.

A convoy of Glendale and Burbank police motorcycles and cruisers get ready for the special train's departure.  These officers rode ahead of the train and stationed themselves near the railroad crossings.

The star of the show, Engine #861.

On January 28, 2000 a tractor-trailer rig hauling an oversized oil refinery processor part got stuck on the tracks and was hit by a Metrolink train. Metal debris was scattered for a block and several wheels on the train were derailed.  The flatbed of the trailer hit the lower part of the engine and the load smashed into the engineer's compartment.

At the time of this writing, there have been five separate train vs. tractor-trailer incidents involving Metrolink trains in the last three months throughout the Southland, a significant increase from the prior 24 months when there was only one such incident throughout an almost two year period.

Ralphs Grocery Company invited several drivers to ride the special train. Also attending were other trucking companies and a representative from the Southern California Gas Company whose employees must cross the tracks about 4 times a day.

While there have been only minor injuries in each of the five incidents, Metrolink officials are worried about the growing trend. Over the last seven years a total of 17 truck vs. Metrolink train incidents have occurred. Fourteen of the incidents have occurred in Los Angeles County, most of them in the San Fernando Valley.

The Engineer's cab side of Engine #861 took the damage from the flatbed truck's load.  With everything considered, the crushed cab held up very well under the collision.

The Engineer of #861, Melanie Elder, sounded the horn and applied the brakes until the last moment before impact with the Semi-trailer.  She then dived to the floor for her own safety.  The impact of the collision sent her into the forward lower compartment.

Injured and on the floor, the Engineer radioed the next train coming from Ventura full of passengers to stop.  The next train coming from the other direction was able to stop just 60 feet from the wrecked truck.  The passengers expressed their thanks and praise for Elder's actions.

After the presentations and viewing of #861, the media loaded onto a special train.  We left the yard and arrived at Glendale station at 10:40 A.M..

The conductor of the special train, Chris Leo, does a "safety watch" as Jeff adjusts the camera on the front of Cab Car #613.

The small CCD camera sends an "engineer's view" to the television monitors in the coaches of the special train where the truckers and news media could watch cars passing over the grade crossings ahead of the train.

Also at Glendale Station, the special train was swamped by more news reporters and truck drivers.

Here, a grade level crossing is observed from the camera on the front of #613.  All passengers were able to get a good feel for what the engineer sees.  As I sat with the passengers, many of them related how "nerve wracking" it is watching the cars cross ahead of the train.

The special train made two trips to Burbank Airport and back to Glendale station.  During the first trip, Jesus Ojeda, assisted by Rexford Leong (behind the poster) give an on-board "Operation Lifesaver" presentation to attending truck-drivers and media personnel.

Simi Valley resident Rexford Leong, also known as “Pineapple” was recognized by Metrolink as the Outstanding Volunteer Presenter for "his extraordinary time and commitment to rail safety", all on his own volunteer time.

Both Leong and Ojeda, gives presentations about rail safety to school children, bus drivers and others as part of Operation Lifesaver.

Under contract, the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department provides security and law enforcement for Metrolink.  Note the logo on the squad car.

Deputy Steve Smith often rides aboard Metrolink trains and is waiting for me to board Engine #866.

Metrolink Engineer Ralph Magellan at the controls of #866 gently pulls the special train out of Glendale Station.

It was interesting for me to watch the Engineer keep a mental picture of the trains ahead and behind, the dispatchers instructions, signal lights, track condition, speed of the train, status of the motive power, and watch for cars, trucks and pedestrians all at the same time.

Left to right: Officer Harout Bouzikian (Glendale Traffic Bureau), Lt. Walker (Burbank Police Department), and Deputy Steve Smith (Los Angeles County Sheriff) ride in Engine #866 and catch a violator crossing the tracks after the crossbucks are lowered.

This picture shows the concerned emotions these officers have for the safety of not just the train, but for the violator as well.

Red car ahead crosses at the last minute.  The "X" sign on the side of the tracks indicates to the Engineer when to start blowing the engines' horn.

Metrolink currently has two cameras snapping photos of motorists ignoring warnings at crossings.

Have a gift from us, your life and a ticket. A Glendale Motor unit pulls over a white truck that did not stop for the red crossing lights.

California Assembly Bill 923, authored by Assembly Member Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), went into effect on Jan. 1 and raises the penalty for motorist violations at railroad crossings from $ 104 to $271. A third violation will cost up to $500, depending on the county where the citation is given. These are comparable fines paid by motorists caught violating carpool lane rules or running red streetlights.

Deputy Steve Smith keeps a watchful eye ahead of the train.

Fines from violations will help fund driver education about rail safety and the purchase of additional cameras to catch violators in the act and provide evidence needed to cite them.

All clear, this time, but if a car were to cross at this moment the train would have no chance of stopping.

In the last five years, three fatalities have occurred when drivers drove through crossing gates that were down indicating a train was coming down the tracks.

A few miles North of Burbank Airport Station, the special train stops and is prepared to reverse it's direction.  The Police officers, Engineer and myself walk to the Cab Car #613.

Taking his seat at the controls of the train in the Cab Car, Metrolink Engineer Ralph Magellan calls the dispatcher for clearance.  The "High Ball" order is given and off we go for our final trip.
Burbank Lt. Walker views the traffic ahead from the Cab window of #613.  Another crossing ahead and this time all is clear again.

Later down the rails... Who can't resist watching a train go by?  It's O.K. to do so but not on the tracks.  Here a fellow is trespassing on the Metrolink "right-of-way".  It is posted along the route not to trespass but many people walk right on the tracks themselves.

When a Metrolink train is in "Push Mode" and coasting or going downhill, it can be very quite.  People are often startled when the train comes upon them and they don't have time to react.

The fellow was surprised when the special Metrolink train stopped.  He was even more surprised when Deputy Smith got off the train and approached the him.

The track widths of standard railroads are 4 feet 8 inches wide, but a Metrolink train itself is 10 feet across, about five feet wider than the track.

Here the fellow points to where he works and stated that he enjoys watching the trains from the tracks during lunch.

Deputy Smith gave the fellow a friendly "warning" and explained to him why he was in danger, and where the safe limits of watching the trains are.  The man stated he didn't know and returned a friendly "thank you".  He then moved off the tracks and we set out upon our way.

Returning to Glendale Station, Deputy Smith receives the reports from the combined Glendale and Burbank Police Departments.

Total Violations for the day: 20!

The special train with Engine #866 returns us to the Metrolink Central Maintenance Facility at 1:30 P.M. and everyone debarks.  A successful and educational day.  Many people made personal contacts and a few appointments for future "Operation Lifesaver" presentations were made.

With one last shot, and a subtle reminder of why the importance of this day was held.  

It is important to note, that the cost of the equipment lost is just one cost of an accident.  There are other costs including the strain on the fleet to accomodate the equipment losses.

Engine #861 will head back to the manufacturer in Canada for a rebuild and repair. The Engineer, Melanie Elder, is recovering from her injuries too.

This website is managed and maintained by Charles P. White.  All photographs are copywrited by the photographers unless otherwise noted.

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