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Operation Lifesaver "Officer-on-a-train"

Orange County, California

March 7, 2007

Story and photographs by Richard Elgenson
RailNewsNetwork writer


March 7, 2007 was an unusual day if you were a motorist, pedestrian or bicyclist and had any thought of trespassing on railroad right-of-way.  Operation Lifesaver, a national non-profit organization dedicated to highway-rail grade crossing safety, and Orange County law enforcement had a field day at the expense of anyone who might violate railroad property.  A special train was run into Orange County from Los Angeles for several press conferences while various law enforcement agencies patrolled highway-rail grade crossings in different Orange County cities ranging from Fullerton to Santa Ana.  The special train was run onto the lightly used Union Pacific "Marlboro" track behind the Honda Center.

"We are waging a joint effort with other Southern California railroads and Operation Lifesaver to remind drivers to take necessary safety measures when crossing the tracks.  We hope we don't find any violators, but we'll go after those we catch,” said Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell.  “We take safety very seriously at Metrolink,” said Safety and Security, Manager Ed Pederson.  “We hope this program helps to save lives.”


The train arrived at 06:15 and was met by various media personnel who interviewed Operation Lifesaver officials.  Below left, OL volunteer Harry Fischer, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Officer Steve Smith, and Metrolink Spokeswoman Denise Tyrell work to get reporter to a moving train.  Below right, Union Pacific Police command post.


From there, they fanned out to various target locations.  Revenue service trains were used on the BNSF mainline in east Fullerton and the Metrolink mainline from Fullerton south to Santa Ana.  Other locations uncluded two Union Pacific branch lines, one in Brea and the other in Anaheim.  The program resulted in over 200 violations.


Within one-half hour, the stationary special train even had several violators attempt to move by it on the railroad right-of-way.  The first one was a worker in a white pick-up truck which had driven up the west bank of the Santa Ana River and then onto the railroad right-of-way.  The driver was immediately stopped and given a warning.  The second violator was a day worker on a bicycle who attempted to ride his bicycle east bound onto the right-of-way and was likely given a ticket.  With the arrival of James Martino, Captain, Amtrak Police Department, I now had an opportunity to witness law enforcement in action in the various target areas.  Our first destination was Fullerton Station where Fullerton Police Department had several officers working on the passenger platform.  A man approached us and started talking and turned out to be a BNSF engineer with his grandchild.  Two other men turned out to be Fullerton PD officers in plain clothes.


Our next location was just to the east on the BNSF mainline.  Fullerton Police Department targeted Valencia Street between Raymond Street and State College Boulevard.  At Raymond, we chatted with two motorcycle officers.  Some trains went by and one car run under the gate while it was on its way down.  One motorcycle officer went after the violator.


We visited all highway-grade rail crossings along Valencia Street and at State College Boulevard, we witnessed this red sedan cross under the gates.  The officer we spoke to said his partner in a car caught up to this violator.

The next target area visited was in the City of Brea.  This Union Pacific branch line had two locomotives running back and forth from Brea Blvd. to Palm Avenue.  The car seen in the photograph stopped when the lights started flashing.



We then travelled to Lambert Road and Palm Avenue to watch some more law enforcement.


The enforcement in Brea ended and we retreated towards the Anaheim location of the Operation Lifesaver train.

Orange County Officer-on-a-Train continued