Happy National Train Day
National Train Day was created in 2008 as a way to promote rail travel and its rich history in the U.S. It has been observed annually on or around May 10, the anniversary commemorating completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 when the Golden Spike was ceremonially driven at Promontory Summit in Utah. This year, National Train Day is May 13.
Railroads are vital to our nation’s intermodal transportation network and economy. Passenger trains connect people to work, school and family. So naturally, every day is National Train Day at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). While this day is usually marked by celebrations of railroad history, we think it’s a good time to emphasize the importance of railroad safety—the Department of Transportation’s top priority.
Everyone plays a vital role in railroad safety, and there are specific actions you can take as a motorist or pedestrian to improve it. Here are some tips to help you stay safe around railroad crossings:
- Always be prepared to stop at a crossing
- Slow down, look both ways and listen
- Do not enter a crossing unless you are sure you can make it completely across
- Observe and obey all advance warning signs and pavement markings. Note: Not all highway-rail crossings have active warning devices like flashing lights and gate arms. This is known as a passive crossing.
- Locate the Emergency Notification System (ENS) sign, which displays a unique crossing identification number and telephone number to report emergencies
- Never race a train
- Never stop on tracks
Another important component of railroad safety is trespasser prevention. Railroad trespassing occurs when people access railroad property without permission. This includes crossing train tracks at a location other than the designated location, taking pictures on train tracks, and walking along train tracks. It’s not only dangerous, it’s illegal. Additionally, railroad trespassing is the leading cause of rail-related deaths in America. It’s important to remember:
- Trains are moving faster than you think and can’t stop quickly to avoid collisions
- Trains are quieter than ever before, so you may not hear one approaching
- Trains usually overhang the tracks by about three feet on both sides
- Freight trains don’t operate on a set schedule—they run at any time of day and in either direction
- When you see train tracks, always expect a train
With these tips in mind, we encourage you to celebrate National Train Day. Take a ride on a train, visit a train museum, or participate in your local community’s train day events. Here’s a fun fact as you prepare for train day celebrations: Railroads created the first time zones because the efficient movement of people and goods required a uniform time-keeping system. Prior to the creation of time zones, the same train often had several different arrival and departure times.
No matter how you decide to celebrate, you’re sure to experience the world of transportation from a different perspective. Share your train day pictures with FRA on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #NationalTrainDay.