Joe the Signal Maintainer

I met Joe, a delightful individual, last week in Decatur as he was preparing to perform his monthly maintenance check on the railway signal at the corner of College and Chandler. Joe has been working for the CSX railroad for 36 years. It is his responsibility to maintain the railroad signals along the stretch of tracks between Clarkston and downtown Atlanta. Because the railroad passes through the middle of Decatur, I am frequently stopped by the flashing red lights and gate arm to wait for a train to pass and find myself perturbed. The trains pass at a snail’s pace and appear to stretch on for miles. I have noticed that these signals engage as an approaching train’s whistle is heard but before it can be seen; ample time to safely clear the tracks. I asked Joe whether accidents occur on the tracks at crossings with these signals. I was surprised to hear that on occasion a driver will accelerate in the attempt to cross the tracks before the gate arm lowers. Sometimes the driver is not successful and becomes stranded on the tracks with an approaching train. I then inquired whether people got out of their cars when they found themselves in this dangerous situation and he replied that drivers often panick and remain in their vehicles. I am sure to remember Joe’s words the next time I feel peeved about being stopped by a railroad signal. A ten minute interruption in my daily routine is certainly preferable to the alternative.

  1. said:

    Love this – my major client is BNSF railroad and so I know the work of these guys intimately. In point of fact, its interesting to note how close to the track he is parked. I would have thought he is in violation of the safety guidelines! They generally need to be back at least 15′ – maybe CSX is not so strict as BNSF who have a pretty impeccable safety record. M

    • Joe was actually parked more than 15 feet from the tracks but the perspective of my shot makes it look a lot closer. Thanks for the comment Marguerite.

  2. Janet Hastings said:

    Beate -I am following your photo blog and loving both the photos and interviews- thanks- I just referred Ms. Gaines here- met her a Buddy Walk 🙂

    • So nice to hear from you and I’m glad you continue to enjoy my postings. Thanks for letting Mrs.Gaines know about my blog.

  3. Rick F said:

    Excellent post Beate! Things I wouldn’t worry about probably are lethal to many. Knowing the outcome of staying in harm’s way, I would take out the guard rail and pay for the lesser damage. Thank you again for sharing the world through your lens!

    • Thanks Rick. It pleases me that you are enjoying my blog.

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