A train for life
Over 300 passengers were treated to a train ride out of Boone on a beautiful September day. But it was not all just fun and games. The focus of this trip was saving lives.
On board the special Operation Lifesaver train were law enforcement officers, government officials and others who have an interest in rail safety. Passengers received a train-side view of highway rail crossings, and observed traffic behavior as the train approached and passed. The speed and power of trains was dramatically brought home to riders when trains sped by in the opposite direction at what seemed a mere arm’s length away. At the “end of the line” Operation Lifesaver representatives gave each car a presentation on rail safety, including the grim statistics along with actions that riders personally and professionally could take to improve safety.
Iowa’s Operation Lifesaver State Coordinator, Jari Mohs, said, “This was a unique way to give riders an opportunity to learn about rail safety in a meaningful environment. Operation Lifesaver has certified volunteers trained and available to present free programs on rail safety in your community. If interested in scheduling a presentation, contact Jari Mohs at 515-291-2492 or via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The six-car, two-engine (and one caboose) train traveled from Boone to Jefferson and back on the Union Pacific double-main track. The train equipment was provided by Union Pacific Railroad. Union Pacific employees, with help from Operation Lifesaver volunteers, handled all the arrangements to make this event possible.
Riders were treated to a brief stop atop the Kate Shelley Bridge for a majestic view of the Des Moines River Valley. The Kate Shelley Bridge is the world’s longest and highest double-track railroad bridge. Completed in 1901 by Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, the bridge spans a length of 2,685 feet and is 185 feet above the Des Moines River.
Operation Lifesaver is a non-profit, educational program sponsored cooperatively by the nation’s railroads; federal, state, and local government agencies; and highway safety organizations with a mission to end collisions, deaths and injuries at places where roadways cross train tracks, and on railroad rights-of-way.
Preparing for the unexpected
Highways and railways transport a variety of essential goods, including hazardous materials such as chlorine gas which is used to treat our water supplies and anhydrous ammonia that fertilizes Iowa’s farmland. Throughout October, Transcaer
®’s national outreach effort, which is sponsored by chemical manufacturing and the rail and tanker truck industries, hosted a series of training sessions for emergency responders and other local officials on how to recognize and deal with incidents potentially involving hazardous materials.
The participants rotated through three hands-on stations and learned about the:
- basics (inside and out) of a railroad locomotive, including the all important control to shut down a locomotive from the ground;
- types of valves and other controls that a responder may encounter on a rail tank car and how they operate; and
- configuration and controls on an anhydrous ammonia truck trailer.
Overall, 362 people took advantage of this valuable training opportunity so that they would be better equipped to handle the unexpected. Participants appreciated the opportunity to learn “hands on,” and become more familiar with the transporting equipment and its operation.
The Transcaer tour made stops in Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Mason City, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Ottumwa, and Davenport. Each stop on the tour was equipped with training rail cars and a locomotive supplied by Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway, CF Industries, and Exxonmobil. Several railroads worked together to move the equipment to each site, including: Union Pacific; BNSF; Norfolk Southern; Iowa, Chicago and Eastern (ICE); and the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway (CRANDIC).
Several truck transport firms and chemical producers provided highway training tank trailers, including Iowa Tank Lines, Terra and Barsol. Also, several governmental agencies participated with displays and personnel, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and regional hazmat teams for Iowa communities. Local site coordinators from each of the regional hazmat teams worked with the railroads to find locations for each of the events and sent invitations to the applicable local agencies.
"We were very pleased with the attendance and quality of training provided at each stop," said Rodney Tucker, Iowa Transcaer chairman and tour leader. "The planning paid off and we were well received at each stop, with the site coordinators and trainers doing a great job."
More information on Transcaer® can be found on their Web site, www.transcaer.org.