Photo courtesy Virginia Farm Bureau

Much of the Eastern Shore doesn’t have to worry about railroad crossings since the Bay Coast Railroad stopped operating two years ago. But motorists and farmers will have more danger in northern Accomack County.   Railcar Express will continue to run trains as far south as Hallwood and have upgraded tracks to allow trains to run 25 miles per hour, much faster than when the Bay Coast trains ran.   Farmers with land near the tracks have already been notified that the train speeds will be much greater than before. Recently the Farm Bureau Magazine had an article on the dangers farmers face when crossing railroad tracks Farming can be a dangerous job, but there’s one hazard farmers may not have on their radar: railroad crossings.

Many farmers live near rural railroad crossings or have railroad tracks on their property, which can pose a risk for train collisions. According to Operation Lifesaver, Inc., a national rail safety education organization, approximately 15% of all rail collisions each year occur on private crossings such as those on farmland.

“Anytime you’re crossing a railroad, there’s always a chance of something happening,” said Andrew Smith, associate director of governmental relations for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Farmers usually have to go slower to make sure their equipment isn’t dragging or likely to get caught on rail lines, or if they’re going up an incline or over bumps. The safety concerns are there.”

In May an Augusta County farmer using as railroad bridge to cross a stream while repairing fences was fatally struck by a train.

Risk can increase with rural, private railroad crossings because many of them lack the gates or lights that signal an oncoming train. In addition, farm machinery is loud and farmers can’t count on hearing a train in time. Having visual contact with rail lines and looking both ways before crossing is critical. The American Farm Bureau Federation and Operation Lifesaver recently teamed up to remind farmers about the dangers associated with rail lines. Operation Lifesaver published the following safety tips:

  • Slow down as you approach a railroad crossing.
  • Stop no closer than 15 feet from the crossing.
  • Look and listen for a train. Open cab windows and turn off radios and fans and remove headphones. Rock back and forth in your seat to see around obstacles.
  • Look both ways again before crossing.
  • Once you start across, do not hesitate, Do not change gears.

“We can’t take a crossing for granted, and we can’t compete with a train”, Smith said.

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Kool Ford