Trains this past year have had their share of incidents, but what about the railroad warning signals and crossing gates? Like everything else, things change with time, and while improvements are continuously being made and sought after…I’m not so sure about the safety within railroad crossings across America’s small towns. In the U.S. news this past year there have been countless motor vehicles and people hit by trains within railroad crossings that have no gates; referred to as grade-crossings; like the tight-knit community in Eaton Colorado. They’ve suffered their fair share of train accidents… in a crossing without warning gates; not to mention a young girl whose SUV was struck a couple of weeks ago; killing her. The railroad crossing in the town of Eaton was finally shut down a few weekends ago; after a yearlong fight by a local man who suffered a family loss in 2017.

Originally, Train Crossings were manually operated in the earlier years which included watchmen. The crossing gates had to be operated by man and Wig Ways were signals used at these crossings in early 1900’s; made up of large round flashing red lights that swung like a pendulum, while the bell rang to warn drivers or pedestrians of oncoming trains. Cross buck signs were then created out of boards (forming an X shape) which were placed at railroad crossings, and you can still find them in many places around the U.S… however, as a sign of the times cross-buck signs are rarely made up of boards anymore. Bigger cities have busier railroad crossings; here you will see the warning gates, in which the arms come down (in front of the tracks), warning…then stopping oncoming traffic. So why don’t smaller communities have them and wouldn’t you think it might be safer for everyone if they did; what would it take to change it (?)

According to the (FRA) Federal Railroad Administration, railroad crossings are up to the individual states to decide which crossings warrant active warnings; placement of signals and other railway equipment. Data is collected through investigations of the FRA using monthly reports as to accidents/ incidents, along with equipment and casualties’ in order to provide safer conditions. Other important data collected are the ‘DAILY’ numbers of trains which pass, the types of vehicles crossing over (as well as how many), along with the history of collisions at any particular crossing as well as the town’s population. Depending on the state you reside in, the FRA has broken down the railway into regions; the map can be found at https:// .If you or anyone else has a problem at a crossing such as poor visibility or broken equipment (or not enough), you may contact the Federal Railroad Administration at 202-493-6014. This is what the town of Eaton did to make permanent changes to what they saw as a dangerous railroad crossing. The FRA works diligently in taking proper safety measures while providing accurate information, as they work together with the NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board.

The NTSB marks its’ 50th year of saving lives and continues its’ ongoing investigations to train accidents everywhere, including the most recent, involving Amtrak’s passenger train and a truck at a grade-crossing near Crozet, Va. Regardless of where you live, if you have any public safety concerns you may contact the NTSB Response Operations Center at 1-844-373-9922 or the FRA’s number I provided. We can all make a difference by expressing our concerns, or saying something when we see something at one of these crossings, putting safety first will save more lives.


Make your week count.