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Blue sign at railroad crossings could save lives

C.Mae Design/Getty Images abstract train in motion
LIFESAVING SIGN: You will find a blue sign with important information at every railroad crossing, even if it is a gravel road or a farm lane. If you get stuck on the tracks, call the number first!
Landowner points out the value of knowing those signs are present at every crossing.

People are discovering there are lots of funny signs posted in Indiana — some to convey a message, others just for fun. Maybe it is the way the sign is worded, or maybe where it is posted that makes it humorous. We document as many of these signs as we can in the Spotted…in Indiana column. Keep them coming!

Joe Rush, Cass County, Ind., was reading the November issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer, which featured two signs in Spotted…in Indiana and another in Front Porch. It prompted him to think of a sign that many people see every day but might ignore. Some people may not know why it is there or how it could help them in an emergency.

This sign is not funny. Instead, it is a crucial sign posted at every railroad crossing. It’s the blue information sign; you may find it attached to the flasher post if the crossing has flashers, or it may be on a post by itself.

“I’ve been through many railroad crossings, and I’ve never seen a railroad crossing where the sign wasn’t posted,” Rush says. “You will even see one posted if the crossing is a farm lane and not a public road.

“The sign is there so that if you get a pickup or piece of machinery stuck on the track, you can call the phone number and report it directly to the railroad immediately. There is a code number which identifies the exact crossing where you are. If a train is headed your way, that gives personnel who answer the call time to notify the engineer driving the train and get it stopped.”

Joe Rushemergency information sign

1ST STEP: Experts recommend calling the number on the blue sign first in an emergency — even before calling 911.

Practice railroad safety

Fred Whitford, director of Purdue University Pesticide Programs, says Rush is right on the money. Whitford believes the blue sign at railroad crossings might be the most important sign there.

Purdue Pesticide Programs published a color publication about railroad crossing safety in 2020. You can download PPP-135 online.

It includes information about the blue sign. Each sign will identify the railroad that operates on the tracks, the emergency number, and a Department of Transportation number specific to that crossing, even if it’s in the middle of nowhere.

Calling 911 first in an emergency is a conditioned instinct, and normally it’s the right call. However, experts point out in the PPP-135 publication that in this case, you should call the number on the blue sign first. That puts you in direct contact with someone at the railroad, who can notify engineers on trains nearby to stop. Remember that it can take up to a mile for a train to stop.

Then call 911 after you have called the railroad, experts advise. If you need help getting the vehicle off the tracks, they can dispatch a tow truck. Be sure to notify the railroad again once tracks are clear.

Thanks to Joe Rush for helping remind all of us why the blue railroad sign is important.

Comments? Email [email protected].

TAGS: Safety
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