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Operation Lifesaver "Trucker-on-the-train"

on BNSF and UP in Southern California

June 9, 2011

Story and photographs by Richard Elgenson
RailNews Network writer

Thursday June 9, 2011 was the date for the first annual "Trucker-on-the-Train" law enforcement exercise scheduled to take place in the Southern California area on the BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad. Participating railroads included Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway, Union Pacific Railroad, Amtrak, and Metrolink.  These railroads represent major freight hauling and passenger movement capacity in Southern California and throughout the western United States.  Amtrak is our national passenger railroad serving most states.

The first order of business at Officer-on-the-Train events is the law enforcement briefing.  A total of 40 law enforcement officers from the BNSF Railway, Union Pacific Railroad,  Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, California Highway Patrol, Whittier Police Department, City of Vernon Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff's Department,  were on hand to participate on motorcycles and in cars.  On this day, the briefing duties were handled by Los Angeles County Sheriff Steve Smith, BNSF Railway Special Agent Scott Rust, and Union Pacific Railroad Police Department Officer Jorge Villaescusa.  This meeting and briefing took place at the Metrolink Norwalk Station.  I was assigned to ride with LASD Officer Albert Salinas.



The exercise then continues with what is called "directed enforcement" which means law enforcement officers and deputies deploy at preselected highway grade crossings.  On this particular day, the area ranged from Santa Fe Springs in Los Angeles County into Buena Park in western Orange County.

Deputy Salinas knew the enforcement area quite well, so we visited several diferent highway grade crossings of the BNSF Railway the first of which was at Los Nietos Road and Norwalk Boulevard.  In this area, both Amtrak and Metrolink run on BNSF rails.  One BNSF freight and one Metrolink passed while we were there.  Directed Enforcement officers were there and we saw no violations.


Next stop was Valley View Avenue and Stage Road in Buena Park.  East of this location, the BNSF mainline railroad is grade separated for several miles.  Deputy Salinas parked the car north of the grade crossing and I took off on foot.  Aside from the Amtak Sunset train and a Surfliner, the most interesting thing present was a memorial to someone, who, I guess, lost their life near this spot.  Again, I assume, the person was struck by a train.  If the person was a male, he was a Raiders football fan.  His loved ones do visit because you can see a Christmas wreath and Easter eggs hanging on the chain link fence.  How sad.



A motorist in an old Ford pick-up truck had mechanical problems.  Deputy Salinas moved in positon behind the truck to protect them while they were pushing it over the tracks.  Other than the truck, we saw no violations while we were here.



On our way to the next location, we passed by this scene (below right).  CHP is giving a man a field sobriety test.  It is legal to refuse.  Have them take your blood sample.  You might pass.


Deputy Salinas got a call from the Orange County Sheriff.  They had arrested a pedestrian who decided to duck under the closed crossing gate and cross the tracks.  Officers engaged the person on th eother side and found a gang member with a loaded gun.  Duhhhh....mb.  OC Sheriff's handed the suspect off to the LA County Sheriff Deputy Salinas.  It was at this time I was traded to BNSF Railway Special Agent Scott Rust.  The put me into the back of the BNSF SUV.  It was expremely uncomfortable and I had no way to open the window or door while Agent Rust and Metrolink Sheriff Steve Smith spoke to a motorist.  I was finally freed as the conversation took more time than anticipated.  On our way by Rosecrans and Marquardt, I got a photo of law enforcement who had the gang member.

Next, it was off to the races, er, Commerce Station for the press conference which was lightly attended by media.  It was a race against time on the very slow Interstate 5 Freeway north.  My driver wanted to exit the freeway, but I counseled him to remain on it.  It turned out to be a good idea.  We got to the press conference before starting time.

Trucker-on-the-train continued

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