Railroad’s Responsibility vs St. Louis Post Dispatch

A  Couple of weekends ago I was reading the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s online service, StlToday. I saw a little line on the home page that caught me eye. It was called, Death On The Rails. I watched the video clip that was attached and I could not believe my eyes. Having a broadcasting background, I was amazed and stunned at what I saw. The video was promoting a new newspaper series on pedestrian deaths and blaming the railroads for not doing enough to stop the actions of people trespassing on private, railroad property. I even had Mrs. Shuttletrain, watch. I called my Kansas City friend and fellow host of the Let’s Talk Trains. He watched the video and was to surprised to see how slanted the video was. This was even before seeing the articles. During that Saturday’s Let’s Talk Trains show, we spent part of the second hour talking about the series. The first installment, was posted and immediately posters started posting how slanted the article was. Most were from the St. Louis area, I posted the link on the LTT’s facebook page as a point of interest to our listeners. As the following articles came out, more and more poster’s saw what the so-called enterprise reporter were doing. They published pictures of young people, walking along the tracks or just starting to cross the tracks. Poster’s asked whether or not they called police, or staged the pictures, encouraging the trespassing to make there point.

The articles had the follow titles; In Maplewood, ‘How many people does it take to get killed before they take action?’: Hundreds die walking the tracks each year; A mother killed, her son injured, yet the railroad refuses to whistle.; Railroads have fought efforts to identify problem spots for pedestrians; Rail safety group shrinks as danger grows; Towns, train fight over fences — and responsibility for safety; Light rail sees fences differently; Criticism of fencing disappears from railroad regulator’s memo. They even had the editorial board write an editorial after the series was done, praising the reporter for doing such great job of reporting. After the postings complaining of the hatchet job the reporter was making, They starting posting all the awards that the reporter and the photographer had previously received for their stories. They also tried to say that they had “conducted more than 90 interviews for these articles, talking with victims’ families, railroad officials and workers, regulators, public officials and police, and reviewed thousands of pages of court documents, regulatory filings and industry publications.

As a child, growing up right next to the tracks. my birth house was two houses away, I was always made aware by my parents of the dangers of railroads and to have a very healthy fear of being hurt by them. I will admit that I would walk across the tracks from now and then, but, and a its a big but, I never did it with earbuds, or earphones. I never think of walking in the middle of the tracks as children do now. I would always cross straight across. This was in the days when rail traffic was higher than it is now. I did ride bicycles down the right of way as I see kids doing these days. I always made sure that I when I crossed, I had a clear line of sight both ways before I crossed. These were the days before quiet zones, back then you could here the train several grade crossings away blowing the horns. I think that quiet zones are wrong and give the NIMBY’s too much power. After all,   in most cases the railroad was there before the homes or most the current families moved in.  I watched each article comments, very closely. The mother of a Kirkwood student that was wearing earbuds, and walking on the tracks as short  cut as he had many times before, was run over by an AMTRAK train headed to it’s station stop in Kirkwood. Since I have ridden that line many times. I knew the crew that was on-board that day. I know that they had a bad time dealing with the fact that the student was killed. The mother sent my a personal facebook message that my now departed mother, knew and loved the student a lot and that my postings were not honoring my mother or the student. I stepped back a moment and thought about what she said. As a railfan and train show host, I knew that, I was sorry that her son was killed, but to be part of a story that blamed the railroads for contributing to his death, that was just plain wrong. The series had another parent blame the railroads for not putting up fences in areas that had high number of trespassers near Chicago and they even tried to say that an east coast railroad was covering up because a in cab camera was not working. The in cab cameras are not required and are not part of a locomotives operation.

The series did have a comment from the Union Pacific Media Relations Director, but the only line used made him and his railroad look bad. I know the person directly and he would have have lots more to say besides what was printed. Can you say, “taken out of context”. The series then focused on Light Rail operations, basically having their PR person say that they are going to fence the entire line. Of course, the Light Rail is a public funded organization and the use electric wires to power the trains.

The comments kept pouring in, on the website. I decided that I would devote another hour on the topic, I invited a Webster Groves Police Captain, two AMTRAK station managers on the show. The police captain said that have a great working relationship with the two railroads that travel through the town. He was open to the idea of anything that would help keep people off any private property, but that it fences were not always the right solution. Personal responsibility is the number one solution. The AMTRAK station managers pointed out that they have on more than one occasion people taking prom or wedding pictures.  They both agreed that if fences were built people would cut through them or just walk around. The mentioned that building bridges would be just an annoyance and people would not use them. When I brought up the comments made by a former VP of American Association of Railroads that railroads needed to do more. I was told by guest that they did not believe that the man said that and that his words were again taken out of context.

Are railroads to blame? I still say no. I do not think that the Post Dispatch did anyone a favor by running this story except lawyers. I think that the story was driven by the ambulance chasing lawyers. Just saying. Please read the articles and leave your impressions on the newspapers website and here. Please just remember, I do not want anyone to die around railroads, I just want people to be act responsible around them.

Thanks for wandering.




November to Remember

Since 2006, when Mrs. Shuttletrain and I got married. We have always visited Kansas City each year over our anniversary. Kansas City is where  I ask the future Mrs. Shuttletrain to marry me, in front of my best friend and his wife, and hotel resturant full of diners. We have stayed in different hotels, in different parts of the city. One year it was in Westport, one year in Downtown, and this year as once before in the famous Country Club Plaza area. We drove up this year because we were planning to visit a friend’s hometown layout.

We arrived in KC about 10 in the evening, checked into the hotel, dropped out stuff in the room and headed down the hotel bar, We usually to the bar thing three or four times a year, Usually on special occasions. The next morning was the third Saturday of the month, so I asked my friend and fellow host KC Nathan, to help host the Let’s Talk Trains show. I had been trying to have the Kansas City Southern officials and the Kansas City Southern Historical Society on the program, but, they never returned emails or voicemail messages. That’s why as a former broadcaster, I always have a back-up plan. I interviewed KC Nathan as a Kansas City Railfan. It worked great for 95% of show, Mrs. Shuttletrain called me during the last 20 minutes of the show and told me that she was not feeling well, and needed to go to the ER. We drove the four blocks to the hospital. We spent the next six and half hours in the ER. they found she had a very bad case of acid re flux. When back to the hotel and let her fall asleep. The next morning, our actual anniversary date. we got up head off on the annual chores. First stop, we headed to Ward Parkway Mall to visit Train Town KC. This is the club that KC Nathan belongs to. It is located inside an un-used store, provided free of charge by the mall. That’s until someone else comes and pays to use it. The visit awhile and then head for Crown Plaza for the Christmas Card picking, and the tree ornament selection. Then the walk through the stores of Crown Plaza. next, we walk over to Kansas City Union Station. This year, the walk was different. Union Station has been trying to right itself of downward slide. They have allowed non-train related businesses hold court in the complex. The Chamber of Commerce has moved into the east end of the station blocking off the normal entrance from the Link from the hotels and Crown Plaza. Visitors now have to walk past a stark white walls to a elevator, down to a floor into long corridor that they have attempted to fill with pictures of days gone by. The corridor then opens into the Grand Hall a few feet from where you used to come through the Pullman Food Court and then most recently, the Harvey Diner. As we walked to the area of the Grand Hall that used to have a large train display. This year, the only think there was a large Christmas tree.  The restaurant that was in the middle of the Grand Hall has was closed, at least the day we visited. We walked back to the Sprint Hall. The hall was decorated at the Christmas trees and as we walked back, we could see the Jones Store train going around the tree. the Jones Store was a department store that was founded in Kansas City. The chain was taken over by the May Company, then the Macy’s Chain. Slowly, we walked around the tree and found two Christmas Train displays on either side of the KC Model Train Exhibit. One of the unique features was this gingerbread KC Union Station. Image


The Holiday Train Experience was located in the Exhibition room in the far back of the gathering hall. After wandering through it we walked through the AMTRAK area, to see what it looked like. It shows its age. Mrs. Shuttletrain remarks, that the residents used their tax dollars to give the station its rebirth.  The AMTRAK shows wear and tear. You would think that since the KC Chamber has an interest in the station now, they would really keep this up better. We left the station and walked to the newest attraction in the Crown Center. The KC Sealife and Lego experience. You notice they call lots of things experiences? Adults are only allowed in the Lego area with children or during an occasional adult night. As for the Sealife, I would give it a seven out of ten. The larger Sealife’s in the Mall of America is better.

After to walk through, we headed back to the hotel, and cleaned up, and headed to the anniversary dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. The Cheesecake Factory is where I took Mrs. Shuttletrain on our first date. We had a great view of the Plaza and we always seem to imagine what it will be like in a few days after the annual lighting of the Plaza, over a million people come and watch the lighting. We head back to the hotel and relax. Then on Monday, we headed back east to the great city of Washington, MO.

Kansas City has a lot of offer visitors, no matter what the season or the weather. Did I mention that Crown Center has a restaurant that serves the food via a train, its called Fritz’s.

See ya real soon.