Auburn Students, Community Leaders Participate in Nebraska Operation Lifesaver
More than 400 Auburn Public Schools students participated in three passenger train excursions Friday, April 9, on the Nebraska Operation Lifesaver and Union Pacific Railroad safety train.
The students were in grades six through 12, said Kevin Reiman, principal. There were 140 and 110 students, respectively, on the two morning excursions and 170 students on the afternoon excursion.
The excursions were an effort to teach the public about railroad safety, officials said.
“They’ve been really successful trips. We’ve had full trains. School officials in Auburn have been cooperative. We worked with them last year. All in the Auburn Public Schools have had Operation Lifesaver. It’s a way of giving back to the community,” said Tom Hillyard, Union Pacific Railroad conductor and presenter.
The Auburn students rode on two morning excursions and one afternoon excursion. Students have had presentations throughout the 2009-10 school year. Officials of Nebraska Operation Lifesaver and the Union Pacific Railroad wanted to touch base with the students on different safety issues, said Chris Niemeyer, locomotive engineer and coordinator.
The safety issues included distractions while riding in an automobile, trespassing and that each crossing has a Department of Transportation number, Niemeyer said.
Niemeyer said that the excursions were a reward to the Auburn Public Schools administration for letting the safety and railroad officials conduct the program.
Niemeyer said that railroad trespassing fatalities have not declined since 1972. Niemeyer urged students not to get up on the railroad tracks.
“The railroad is not a place to play. If you’re in an automobile with another person, and they’re not doing the right thing, say something or tell an adult. If you’re in an automobile, you don’t want to be distracted by texting or using the phone,” Niemeyer said.
Ken Walters, locomotive engineer, said that there is a train or pedestrian collision every two hours in the United States. The collisions are not as frequent as in the past, Walters said.
“If the gates are flashing, just stop,” Walters said.
Late in the afternoon April 9, by invitation, community leaders made an excursion to be introduced to Operation Lifesaver.
Wednesday, April 7, two excursions were made from Fremont. Thursday, April 8, four excursions were made from Falls City.
Operation Lifesaver started in 1972. It is a nonprofit, national continuing public education program. It is designed to end collisions, deaths and injuries at places where roadways cross train tracks and on railroad rights-of-way.
To meet their lifesaving goals, Operation Lifesaver officials promote public awareness of the highway-rail crossing environment and encourage compliance with the traffic laws relating to crossing signs and signals, as well as the private property laws related to rail trespassing. The programs are sponsored cooperatively by officials of federal, state and local government agencies, highway safety organizations and American railroads. There are Operation Lifesaver state coordinators in 49 states and the District of Columbia. There are programs also in Canada, Mexico, England and Argentina.