Your story with the headline, “Trouble on the Track,” in Saturday’s paper describes an unoccupied parked car too close to the tracks being hit by a freight train. The freight train stopped as railroad policy requires, and blocked all major Marietta crossings. Although no one was in the car and no one was hurt, a lot of people could have been. The headline should have read, “Disaster Avoided This Time.”
The stopped train blocked the major crossings for several hours. However, this immobile wall of steel did not stop the people coming from west Cobb from going to downtown Marietta restaurants and other attractions. Many simply assessed the situation, parked in the parking areas west of downtown, and crawled under or climbed over the stopped train.
It was not just one or two people, but closer to 50. In fact one family climbed the ladder on the side of the train car and took pictures of themselves standing on top. Some climbed through the coupling area, first standing on the brake hose and then up to the coupling and back down. One couple crawled under the train both coming into town and going home.
Moments after the outbound crawl under the train, and without warning, the train abruptly started just as they cleared the tracks.
Consider the scenarios that might have played out, and there are none with a good ending. If the train had started with the family on top of the train … We all get the picture.
And how can this situation be avoided next time a stopped train blocks all of the major crossings? The railroad would argue that these people were trespassing on railroad property. The people crawling over and under the train would argue that they have no way but over or under the train to make their Friday night social event in downtown Marietta.
Some reading this might nominate the climber/crawlers for the Darwin Award and say good riddance. These people were not hobos, but rather young people, families with young children, and one or two older people who have lived long enough to know they are not invincible, and yet they all took the chance.
So what about next time? Does government have a responsibility to save people from their frustration-driven lapses in judgment? Does the railroad have a responsibility to do something other than block crossings for hours when there is an accident? Do the downtown merchants even realize that people have crawled under or climbed over a train to get to their wares? Will disaster be avoided again?