Plain Drained By Trains

In the last three weeks there has been a gluttony of train (see: locomotive) issues arise here in the greater Inland Empire.

Three train deaths in Riverside (two of which were likely suicides), a train derailment in Colton and a lawsuit filed against BNSF and its alleged disposal (or lack thereof) of diesel fuel in San Bernardino.

First, the deaths. Each completely unnecessary, all avoidable, and all within a three-mile stretch of track in western Riverside.

It began early this month when a man reportedly placed his BMW automobile upon the tracks at Adams Street and refused to budge until an engine slammed into his car, killing him.

Then a mother was killed less than a week later at Mary Street when her child’s stroller wheel became lodged in the tracks. The child was thrown to safety but the woman…

And finally, several days later, a pedestrian — walking on the tracks near Adams Street — was killed when he was struck by a train. The train’s operator was quoted as saying he saw the pedestrian look back at the train but remained on the tracks and was struck down.

Riverside must be the train-death capital of the U.S. right now.

As if the deaths weren’t bad enough, a train derailed early Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2011, and as a precaution, Colton High School and other surrounding schools were closed for the day. The train was carrying hazardous materials, and clipped another train going in the opposite direction.

Also Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed by an environmental group against BNSF, one of the busiest train companies in the Western United States. The lawsuit alleges the company of mismanaged waste disposal and contends the company is responsible for the health of those within a certain area of its localized operations, with one such location being its station in San Bernardino.

Hasn’t time long since passed when the potential dangers of trains were minimized? Sure, trains were dangerous in the early part of the 20th century but it’s 2011. Shouldn’t the industry, for all its history and importance, have engineered solutions to its problems?

And no, I’m not saying trains were responsible for people who throw themselves in front of locomotives, but derailment and waste disposal? C’mon!

For all the sympathy afforded the industry in the wake of senseless deaths like those earlier this month, most, if not all, good-will is spoiled when avoidable issues like these arise.

Trains are supposed to be the arteries of commerce, not the veins of the morose. Are there corollaries to these incidents? What’s really at the heart of it all? And who is really left in the red?

Anyway, it makes me feel drained. But not in a giving-blood type of way. That would’ve been taking the joke way to far, which this is not. This train stuff is not a joke. It’s very serious. People’s lives have been lost.

Accidents and worse (possible illegal behaviour) continue to plague the industry. This month it finally permeated my environment.

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