Situational Awareness

This morning (as with most Saturday mornings) I got up at 4:30 to open the Lawrence Amtrak station.

I arrived at 5:15 and noticed that the signal just east of the station was red. On this line, a stop indication means the main line is occupied between that signal and the next. As #4 was due at 5:47, I found it hard to believe that BNSF had run another train ahead of #4. (and even if #4 had arrived very early, it would not be allowed to leave Lawrence until 5:47) Better keep an eye on it.

At 5:40, #4 contacts the dispatcher (DS 104) to report that they had received a yellow “approach” indication at both ends of the siding at Lakeview. My signal, the next one that #4 will encounter, was still red. Upon arrival at the station, the engineer notes the red indication, and radio chatter indicates that they will attempt to throw the siding switch. Once everyone is aboard and the coaches are clear, #4 makes its way closer to the signal. A crewman gets off and throws the switch. The signal indication does not change. The switch is thrown back to the mainline. For this particular signal, red indicates “Stop and Proceed,” meaning that the train can continue past the red signal at 15 MPH without asking for permission from the dispatcher. I kept an ear to the scanner. #4 contacted the dispatcher and informed him that the signal at the west end of Lawrence was red, but that the one at the east end of the siding was clear (green signal)

Soon after the radio report, my signal turned yellow, and I kept an eye on it. Instead of turning green, however, the signal turned back to red. This is when I contacted BNSF (using the telephone number that is posted on every grade crossing) and gave my observations.

As of this writing (9:00), the signal appears to now be green (I have line of sight to that signal from family owned property) so I presume the BNSF signal crew found and repaired whatever was causing the signal to trigger a red indication.