Rail Safety

Brake-beam-repairToo often, we hear about accidents, injuries and fatalities on railroad tracks. With 75 rail crossings within the City of Windsor limits, and many, many more in the County of Essex we must do everything we can to reduce the risk of avoidable tragedies.

Part of the answer is prevention – signs, gates and signals that let the public know they are about to enter railway property and to stay out. Perhaps even more important is education about rail-safety and common-sense precautions that everyone can take to stay safe around trains and railway property.


Stay off the tracks

It is illegal to walk on railroad tracks or the “rights of way” on either side. A locomotive cannot swerve or stop in time to avoid a collision. If you are in the rail yard, or on railroad property uninvited, you are trespassing and subject to arrest and prosecution not to mention injury or worse. Don’t let trespassing carry the death penalty.

The right of way refers to railway owned property on either side of the tracks. As a general rule of thumb, it’s 50 feet from the center of the tracks outward. This property is owned and maintained by the railroad for the purpose of maintenance, repair and security.

Look both ways

Anytime is train time. Trains can run on any track, at any time, in either direction. An approaching train may be closer and moving faster than it appears. After a train passes, look both ways before proceeding.

Don’t get stuck on the tracks

Before you cross, be sure there is room to completely clear the side. Trains overhang the track by at least 3 feet on each side. For safety, leave yourself at least 15 feet between the rear of your vehicle and the nearest rail. Do not shift gears while crossing railroad tracks.

Get out and get away

If your vehicle stalls at a crossing, get everyone out and far away immediately, even if you don’t see a train. Call 9-1-1 immediately. Local law enforcement will contact the proper railway authority and advise of the situation in an attempt to avoid a collision.

Use extra caution with wheelchairs and strollers

Narrow wheels can get caught at railway crossings. If possible, walk – don’t roll- across. If you are in a wheelchair, consider getting assistance. Always cross at a 90-degree angle.

If you see a train coming, wait

Don’t be tempted to try and beat a train. An approaching train may be closer and traveling faster than it appears. Even in a tie with a train, you lose.

Trains cannot stop quickly

The average freight train traveling at 55 miles per hour takes a mile or more to stop. That’s 18 football fields. If the locomotive engineer can see you, it’s too late for him/her to stop the train.

Only cross at designated crossings

The only safe place to cross a railroad track is at a designated public crossing with a cross buck, flashing red lights, or a gate.

advanced warning   crossbuck  active  cantilever


Watch for vehicles that must stop at crossings

Many states and provinces require school buses, commercial buses and trucks carrying hazardous materials to stop at every highway-rail grade crossing.

Report all problems

Report any problem – stalled vehicle on the tracks, damaged sign, obstructed view, signal malfunction – to the railroad or local law enforcement immediately.

Examples of Trespassing

  • Walking on the railroad tracks
  • Walking or riding on railroad bridges or in tunnels
  • Placing items on the rails
  • Climbing into empty rail cars
  • Climbing under or in between trains to take a short cut
  • Fishing from a train trestle or bridge