Union Pacific Works With Little Rock Police On Crossing Enforcement

On May 9, 2017, Union Pacific invited media along to cover a joint enforcement operation with the railroad and Little Rock Police to watch for violations or trespassing at railroad crossings. As you can read in my story for KUAR-FM 89.1, the city’s police department had several officers on motorcycles who would be watching from a distance as a train, made up of only two engines, approached crossings and how drivers responded. The department also had two officers on board the train, radioing information to others.

I also rode in the locomotive and interviewed a spokesman for the railroad as the ride progressed. We only saw one violation that warranted a driver being pulled, though the enforcement operation continued for several more hours after I got off, with the train moving up and down the same stretch of track in the southwest part of Little Rock, which is the only part of town that Union Pacific’s busy main line has grade crossings. Elsewhere in the city overpasses take street traffic above or under the railroad tracks.

To offer the perspective from inside a Union Pacific locomotive, here are 16 images from my ride that morning.

Little Rock Police motorcycle officers wait as the train taking part in the operation approaches the Mabelvale Main Street crossing. All photographs by Michael Hibblen, click to enlarge.

The train stopped in the middle of the crossing, with a Union Pacific special agent at the side as two Little Rock officers climb on board the locomotive.

Union Pacific conductor Matt Baker fills out some paperwork before the train begins moving again.

Two Little Rock Police Officers in position to watch the track behind the engineer.

After crossing under the Interstate 30 bridge, the northbound train runs alongside University Avenue.

Engineer Damon Corder at the controls of the locomotive.

A pickup train is stopped for the train at the Forbing Road crossing.

A camera inside the locomotive monitors the engineer, and there is a forward-facing camera in the cab watching the track ahead.

The conductor watches the track ahead with his hand on the radio.

After crossing over Geyer Springs Road, the last grade crossing for the double-track main line the rest of the way north though Little Rock, the train made up of two locomotives stopped and everyone moved to the south-facing engine. We would then retrace our path on the same track, again with officers watching drivers at crossings. The train moved back and forth over this same stretch over several hours as part of the enforcement operation.

Conductor Matt Baker inspects the train’s equipment while walking to the other locomotive. The rest of us walked around the handrails of the locomotives.

One of the Little Rock officers walks to the front of the south-facing locomotive.

Union Pacific’s trademarked phrase “Building America” along with the company’s logo on the side of the south-facing locomotive.

The train then begins moving south, recrossing the same streets.

Approaching the 65th Street crossing.

The only vehicle to be stopped by police during my ride was this pickup truck. Officers agreed the driver appeared to speed up to get across the tracks after the crossing gates had started coming down. He was only given a verbal warning. Union Pacific Director of Public Affairs Brandon Morris said catching people like this and getting them to change their behavior around railroad tracks was a key goal of this campaign,

The Union Pacific special agent’s vehicle.

Back at the Mabelvale Main Street crossing, I got off the train, while police and the train crew would depart for another round of watch driver behaviors at the crossings. The railroad conducts operations like this almost every other day with local police departments around the country, Morris said.