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Officer-on-the-Train Pacific Harbor Line Page 3

Operation Lifesaver "Officer-on-the-train"

at Pacific Harbor Line

Wilmington & San Pedro, California

April 11, 2007

Story and photographs by Richard Elgenson
RailNewsNetwork writer

The last part of the Pacific Harbor Line Officer-on-the-Train event took place at an unusual highway-rail grade crossing.  Several streets and an arterial highway intersect with two surface rail tracks with a two track rail bridge flyover.  A train was heading off of Terminal Island on the flyover and PHL engine number 46 was heading towards the Badger Bridge and Terminal Island.



Below left, PHL engine number 45 is seen crossing Henry Ford Avenue on the tracks which form another wye.  This engine was also heading to Terminal Island via the western most surface track.



Eventually, the special train crossed Henry Ford Avenue and changed its direction towards Terminal Island via the western most surface track.  Several law enforcement motorcycle units were stationed to cite any violators.



Also present was PHL President Andrew Fox and Don Norton PHL Director - Marketing and Administration along with Port of Los Angeles motorcycle Officer Moto.  At one point I asked Officer Moto why a red pick-up truck was stopped and he replied that the truck was at a red light.  He elaborated that when trains are crossing the surface tracks parallel to the flyover tracks, motorists sometimes run around the concrete median along northbound Henry Ford Avenue into opposing vehicular traffic to leave the area.  While the special train was there, no motorist attempted this move.



After the special train, PHL officers and law enforcemnt left, I walked back to my car which was 1/4 mile south at an oil field entrance driveway.  By the time I got back to the complicated intersection, the crossing gate was down and a train soon appeared on the eastern most surface track.  I observed one pick-up truck moving towards me through the closed crossing.  Then, from behind my vehicle, at least two other north bound vehicles, including a black pick-up and a small red Ford drove around the concrete median, past the red traffic signal, through the closed crossing and left onto north Henry Ford Avenue, just as Officer Moto had described.  I waited 15 minutes for this crossing to reopen.



Below, the Pacific Harbor Line crew poses on engine number 42.  On the left is Assistant Engineer (Conductor) Jess Gallagher and Engineer/Manager Operations Support Gregory Peters.

After the event was over, I contacted PHL President Andrew Fox with a few questions.  Mr. Fox stated that PHL is a 24 hour per day, 7 day per week operation on 40 miles of track with approximately 60 highway-rail grade crossings.  I asked if safety was any different on a short line versus a high speed mainline?   His response was "...the issues are the same.  Because our trains move more slowly, maximum of 25 mph, drivers often take more chances because they are more confident about beating the train or they are more impatient because they think the train will block them for a longer period of time."

The violations cited or witnessed during this Officer-on-the-Train event are as follows:  vehicle citations 95;  vehicles warned/advised 5;  vehicles towed  9;  vehicles got away 46;  pedestrian trespassers  7;   and pedestrains that got away 5.


Pacific Harbor Line

BNSF Railway

Union Pacific Railroad

Operation Lifesaver

Richard Elgenson RailNews Site