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Operation Lifesaver February 16, 2005

Operation Lifesaver "Officer-on-a-train"

Fullerton, California

February 16, 2005

Story and photographs by Richard Elgenson
RailNewsNetwork writer


On February 9, 2005, Metrolink announced an "officer-on-a-train" event set for February 16, 2005, via press release.  I was already aware of this event having found out at the January 26, 2005 Operation Lifesaver quarterly meeting in Los Angeles. The meeting was coincidental with the day one supposedly suicidal person caused a deadly train derailment in Glendale California in which 11 people died and 3 trains derailed.  On my way to Metrolink's Central Maintenance Facility at Taylor Yard in Glendale, I heard an AM radio report from Fullerton where law enforcement was already working a 4 mile stretch of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.  The Operation Lifesaver special "officer-on-a-train" was scheduled to depart CMF at 9:00 AM.  It left a few minutes late and was wyed at Los Angeles Union Station to have locomotive BNSF 5360 lead the train to Fullerton.  For a view of the outbound trip, click here.  The usual crew was in attendance on the train with members of the Southern California Rail Safety Team and the La Mirada HamWatch.  With no traffic to impede the special train, it arrived at Fullerton by 10:15 AM.  With the January rail disaster fresh on everyone's minds, the local media was also out in force.


The Officer-On-A-Train program is part of a statewide rail safety awareness campaign sponsored by California Operation Lifesaver, a national, non-profit highway-rail safety education education organization.  During the event local law enforcement officers ride in the locomotive of a special train to witness what train engineers observe daily as people attempt to beat a train. As the train moves along the tracks the officers in the train will be in contact with officers on the streets to issue citations to motorists driving illegally through rail crossings or pedestrians trespassing on the tracks.


Soon after the arival of the special train, the press conference began.  Speakers included Susan Ritschel, OCTA Board Member, City of San Clemente and Metrolink Board Member, Denise Tyrell, Metrolink Media Relations Advisor, Larry Lloyd, California Operation Lifesaver State Coordinator, Fullerton Police Department Lt. Steve Matson, Jim MacInerney, of the California State Public Utilities Commission, Steve Smith, Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, and others.   Law enforcement had been on scene working phase one from 07:00 through 09:45 using revenue trains (BNSF freight, Amtrak and Metrolink passenger) to issue citations to violators at highway-rail grade crossings from Fullerton eastward to Placentia.  Law enforcement entities involved were Fullerton Police Department, Placentia Police Department, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Police and Union Pacific Police.


The Southern California Rail Safety Team is a coalition of rail operators, transit agencies and rail safety advocates.  The Team was formed in June of 2000 and includes members from California Operation Lifesaver, the Federal Railroad Administration, the California Public Utilities Commission, Amtrak, Metrolink, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, the Union Pacific Railroad, the Pacific Harbor Line, the Coaster, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.


After the conclusion of the press conference, media boarded the train which started its first east bound run.  Law enforcement started phase two using the Operation Lifesaver train.  The following views are from the Silver Lariat passenger dome car.


Below left is a photograph of the Melrose Street overcrossing.  This was constructed in late 2003 and all of 2004 and eliminated one highway-rail grade crossing.  Good food is available at the 301 Cafe in the center of the picture.


The two below photographs are of Orangethorpe Avenue crossing, a major east-west arterial highway in Orange County.  From this point east, Orangethorpe parallels the BNSF Railway for about 4 miles.  According to the Metrolink February 9, 2005 press release, the City of Placentia's "On Trac project encompasses a seven-mile railroad-mitigation corridor with 14 rail crossings in the cities of Placentia, Anaheim and Fullerton."  The project is a several hundred million dollar proposition to grade separate city streets from the railroad by putting the tracks into a trench similar to the Alameda Corridor.


The below two photographs are Rose Drive/Tustin Avenue highway-rail grade crossing which has been improved by the County of Orange and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.


After Rose Drive/Tustin Avenue, the train stopped to reverse movement.

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