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Train strikes car in Atherton

Original post made on Dec 17, 2014

A southbound Caltrain struck a on the train tracks at Fair Oak Avenue in Atherton at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 16. The driver was able to escape the car before the collision.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, December 16, 2014, 11:41 PM

Comments (9)

Posted by Bob
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Dec 17, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Make her pay for the damage to the locomotive and suspend her license.

Posted by Mary
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 17, 2014 at 12:58 pm

"The driver stated HE was following his GPS.." Not her.

"The car was pinned underneath the train and carried about 1,500 feet down the tracks, catching fire before the train came to a stop, according to the chief."

I'm pretty sure the driver has been punished enough for this terrible accident.

Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 17, 2014 at 1:04 pm

I am relieved no one was hurt in this collision. So the driver was following his GPS and drove onto the tracks, thinking they were a road. I find it hard to understand how that happens, but it does. This didn't seem to happen before GPS devices became common.

One correction: That type of locomotive -- an EMD F40PH -- weighs 260,000 pounds, not one million pounds. No diesel-electric locomotive ever weighs more than 500,000 pounds. And the cars in this train, if they were gallery cars, weigh 113,000 pounds each, and because CalTrain always runs 5-car trains, this means the train weighed 825,000 pounds empty, much less than one million pounds. Maybe Ms. Dunn got the train weight confused with the locomotive weight. In any case, she is right -- a train cannot stop on a dime.

There is an excellent railroad-highways grade crossing safety education program called "Operation Lifesaver", that is trying to lower the number of train-vehicle and train-pedestrian deaths and injuries. In it, they state that the weight of a locomotive compared to the weight of a car is around the same ratio as the weight of a car compared to the weight of an empty soda can! "Look, Listen, Live!" is their slogan.

Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Do keep in mind the bit about heavy rain. I consider myself to be a very good driver, but even heavy rain can make things hard to see. Regardless of the GPS (unless the driver was focused too much on that), I can see it being likely that a parson wanting to turn on a road just after the train tracks would end up on them. Glad everyone is safe, though (well, except for the locomotive; needs some work).

But definitely keep your eyes out and be aware of where you are at and the signs. Most crossings have a sign telling you the number of tracks.

Posted by JennyRedo
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 17, 2014 at 1:37 pm

I can totally understand how GPS could mess you up at that location. If you are crossing the tracks and wanting to turn right onto Lloyden Drive (37.464748, -122.198413), it is RIGHT against the train tracks. There are no street lights (I believe) at Lloyden so it is hard at night tell the difference, especially in a rain storm.

Posted by Barbara Wood
Almanac staff writer
on Dec 17, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Barbara Wood is a registered user.

I checked with Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn and she said Louise68 is indeed correct - it's not the locomotive that weighs a million pounds, it is the locomotive plus five train cars. BTW - her comment was: "Wow! What depth of knowledge."
Thanks for allowing us to clarify that point.

Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 17, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Barbara Wood --
It was my pleasure to be able to give the facts. (Just did a little googling to get the numbers.)

People need to realize that trains are very heavy, and Christine Dunn is right -- they cannot stop on a dime.

This collision is just one example of why using a GPS device is not a good idea in many cases. Sadly, I expect this sort of collision to happen again, involving CalTrain, because of the heavy use of GPS devices by many drivers.

I'm just glad that the train was operating in the pull mode, with that 130-ton locomotive on the front, and was not a train in the push mode, with passengers sitting at the very front of the car.

Posted by Horsewagled
a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Google map location 37.4649185,-122.19816. You reckon this crossing could be more sight obstructed if they tried? These gates are junk and miss the trains often and stay up till about the time the train hits.

I see fiber lines that video monitors could be ran off of ---electric where street lights could be put in ---the crossing could be painted a bright safety color---etc... Guaranteed we paid enough for the existing signals to have the equipment needed to compensate for the trains with sucky brakes and no steering to get stopped.

Posted by Big Enos
a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2014 at 8:45 pm

What are you talking about? The gates miss the trains??

[part removed] relied on the GPS instead of the brain! Do you have the luxury of a GPS when you take your driving test?

The problem is NOT the signals. The problem is the standards to which prospective drivers are held by the DMV. [part removed.]

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