Remote Control Is for Toys, Not Real Locomotives

You’ve seen locomotives, right?  Those enormous hulks of steel that haul things like people, coal, corn, and poisonous gases such as ammonia?  It turns out that the geniuses that run the railroad companies have all sorts of schemes to have them go barreling through the country with only one or even no crew person inside!  In fact, in recent years they’ve already starting instituting remote control operations (RCO) in train yards.  But don’t worry folks, the technology makes things even safer than before.  Does anyone else feel like they’ve seen this movie before?  It doesn’t end well.

It certainly didn’t for Jared Boehlke, the young conductor killed on Mother’s Day in Selkirk, New Jersey, performing RCO duties. Nor for Jody Allen Herstine, another conductor run over while moving cars with RCO in 2003. Nor for another man—a switchman—run over in Utah in 2005 while another worker moved engines using RCO. And a few days ago, came news of another death.

“My heart goes out to the Lundy family, I know the pain that they are suffering. This is exactly what I have been dreading the thought of, for the last seven months. The thought of yet another family in pain, it makes me so sick.” said Heather Boehlke, widow of locomotive remote control operator Jared Boehlke, upon hearing the news of the death of Samuel W. Lundy, who was killed while performing locomotive remote control switching in Minneapolis on Tuesday, December 29.

Railroad workers and concerned humans across the country are writing to Congressman James Oberstar, the powerful chair of the House Transportation Committee, to urge that strict regulations be imposed on the railroads using RCO.  You can get a sample letter here.  I’m sealing the envelope tonight and sending the letter tomorrow, because poorly regulated remote control operations of locomotives is a really dumb idea, and it’s costing people their lives.  If the railroads keep expanding the operations, how long before an accident involving hazardous materials seriously impacts not just one family at a time, but hundreds?

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3 Responses to “Remote Control Is for Toys, Not Real Locomotives”

  1. Donna Glaser Says:

    I think that “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!” sums it up.
    D

  2. Worker Safety Railroaded « Erstwhile Luddite Says:

    […] I’ve written before about some of the particular dangers that rail workers face, and how the nature of their work means that dangers to them also represent dangers to all of us. But today I would like to ask all of us to consider the safety conditions at our workplaces, and the safety conditions of the work others are doing for us. Take a moment to imagine the consequences if you don’t come home safely to your loved ones. Take the extra step to insist your employer provide protective gear (this works better if you are in a union, but even nonunion employers are required to provide a safe workplace). If you hired some guy to trim your trees or work on your roof, insist they work safely too. Pay extra for it if you have to. That’s the only way to give anything close to tribute to the thousands of people dying at work every year in this country. […]

  3. The Funeral Train Grows Longer « Erstwhile Luddite Says:

    […] written about this all before here, here, and here. I’ve resisted writing about it through the summer because without the resources for in-depth […]

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