Dreyer/My Turn: The wrong track to take
Well, you blew it. Time to pack up those newspaper rewards and return them. And Paul Franz needs to go back to photography school and take a fundamental course in safety, ethics and law. I am referring to the June 13 Arts and Entertainment article on The Boxcar Lilies. Nothing wrong with the text, it is the photographs that upset me and insult railroaders worldwide.
First off, it is illegal to trespass on railroad property in Massachusetts and the fine is $100 per person per incidence. Sure, Pan Am Southern could have arranged a photo shoot in exchange for waivers and a large sum of money, but I reckon this was not the case.
So what’s the big deal? Simply this: about 500 people in the United States are struck and killed by trains every year. This is in addition to a like number killed in their motor vehicles. Perhaps half, 250, are mentally impaired, either temporarily or permanently, or are suicides. The others? Most never knew what happened because they never saw or heard the train that hit them. People believe trains are noisy. Yes, usually, but not always. And then there is the collateral damage far beyond distraught family and friends of the deceased. Career enginemen have been known not to work another day after striking a person. Delayed passengers can have a long-planned vacation ruined. Freight cars miss their schedules connections. Police and fire departments have their budgets strained. And so on.
Equally as serious as trespassing are photographs depicting people standing on a rail. Polished, hardened steel is slippery. Add water, oil, and the grease and expensive invisible friction modifiers that railroads add to the head of the rail to reduce rail and wheel wear, and you have a surface as slippery as wet ice. Stepping on a rail can occasionally result in a railroad employee having his or her career terminated. If you slip and your head hits either rail, you may have taken your last step.
The problem is that your colorful photographs lead young folks into thinking that railroads tracks are sexy and safe. Sexy, yes, safe no. For safe rail photography, please come to the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum, where we welcome photographers and their clients, at no charge (donations welcome) as long as they follow a few simple rules. Do not place anything on the rails: pennies, body parts, tripods, etc. Do not stand, sit or lie in the gauge, which is between two rails connected with crossties. Do not climb on top of rolling stock or buildings. Be aware of your surroundings and expect movement on any track, in either direction, at all times, no matter how rusty the rails. Have fun !
Alden H. Dreyer of Shelburne is the SFTM safety & training supervisor.