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Kiwanis Clubs learns about railroad safety; welcomes new member

The Carmi Kiwanis Club met on January 11. Club President, Holly Healy, welcomed all guests including Key Club members from Carmi-White County High School. Club member Scott Johnson was the winner of the Split the Pot drawing.


Club member Toby Brown shared good news that the Carmi Chamber of Commerce’s Winter Gala will feature the music of Rob Endicott. Rob is a gifted musician who attended the Julliard School of Music. The gala will be held February 10 at the Elks Lodge.


President Holly Healy announced that the club’s Pancake Day will be February 17 from 7:00-11:00 AM at Washington School. Advanced tickets can be purchased from any club member for $5. Tickets will be available at the door for $7. The club also welcomed Luke Saylor, inducting him as its newest member.


Club member Adam Winkelman introduced the speaker for the day, Aaron Kleinschmidt, a locomotive engineer with Norfolk Southern Railroad. Aaron has been employed with Norfolk Southern for the last sixteen years. He presented a national safety program called Operation Life Saver.

In 2017, 333 million vehicles passed over railroad crossings in the United States. During that time, there were 760 incidents and over 200 lost lives. Sadly, many of those deaths were suicide. In the state of Illinois, 42 people were killed at railroad crossings in 2017. Illinois has over 10,000 railroad crossings, ranking them at the top with Texas and California.


Aaron shared many facts about railroad crossing safety. For example, a train with 115 cars traveling 35 mph takes 1 mile to stop. He explained the laws, lights, signs, and road markings that are found at every crossing. If your car stalls while on a crossing, Aaron said the safest action is to exit the vehicle immediately at a 45 degree angle from the train. Once safely away from the vehicle, call 911. You can avoid stalling on a crossing by following the “3 Don’ts:  Don’t pass on the tracks;don’t change gears on the tracks; anddon’t stop on the tracks.” It is a $500 fine to drive around a closed gate. Fifty percent of railroad crossing incidents happen from attempting to drive around a closed gate. Trains cannot swerve. They overhang their rails by three feet, and moving trains create a suction of wind turbulence.


During his years traveling from Princeton to St. Louis as a conductor and engineer, Aaron has witnessed many unsafe practices on the part of the public. He emphasized that railroad tracks are private property. If you are on a railroad track without permission, you are trespassing and subject to a fine. This includes railroad tunnels, bridges, and trestles. It is illegal to place objects on rail tracks, as is throwing objects at trains.  Bottom line, Aaron said, “Tracks are for trains, not people. Look, listen, and live.”


During a question and answer time, Aaron explained the 13 different horn patterns used by engineers. He also shared how he became an engineer after leaving the police force. When Toyota turned down his application, he responded to an ad from Norfolk Southern. The club got a good laugh when he said, “Toyota wouldn’t hire me, but they let me transport their cars.” The club enjoyed Aaron’s program, and thank him for his reminder concerning railroad crossings.