The Clinton rail depot will be bustling on Saturday with the type of activity it has not seen in years, and organizers are inviting everyone at the annual Court Square Street Fair to climb aboard.
The depot will host locomotive tours, motorcar and trailer car rides, along with a number of educational activities provided through Operation Lifesaver. said Clinton Terminal Railroad co-owner Bob Lowe. Also, in conjunction with Andy’s of Clinton and owner David Hunt, the restaurant will be serving free hot dogs between 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
The Clinton Terminal Railroad will be displaying a EMD GP9 locomotive at the depot starting at 9 a.m.
“We’re bringing our green GP9 and we’re going to open it up and we’ll be offering cab tours,” said Lowe. “The (GP9) is our primary locomotive. Our purple locomotive, which we call Barney after the dinosaur, is being rehabbed by a mechanic, and we have another Midwest Mining Corporation locomotive.”
As part of the festivities, Clinton Terminal Railroad is partnering with Red Springs and Northern Railroad, which will be bringing two motorcars and three trailer cars to give rides up and down Lisbon Street. They will have a tent set up all day for sales of T-shirts as well as handouts and fliers letting people know who RS&N are and the trips they offer.
The event, along with the fun and educational aspect, represents a reintroduction to the community for Clinton Terminal Railroad, which recently changed hands from longtime owner Gray Tuttle to Lowe and three other investors, with the sale closing Oct. 1.
Lowe said that, while there are some possibilities in the works that could bring more jobs and activity to the rail station, the wheels will move slow for the time being.
“The Clinton Terminal is what it is,” said Lowe. “We have no big plans. Our main focus is to be a good neighbor in the community and try to pick up some additional customers and businesses in the area.”
Part of being a good neighbor begins Saturday, with locomotives, motorcars and other activities being set up around 8 a.m. and scheduled to be open to the public around 9 a.m., remaining open to visitors and available for rides into the afternoon.
“We’re not exactly sure what to expect,” said Lowe, noting the location of the rail station away from some of the street activities, “but we expect there to be some interest, with three locomotives parked there where there hasn’t been anything for years.”
Lowe said he was excited to have North Carolina Operation Lifesaver visit Clinton Terminal Railroad as part of the activities in order to educate residents on railway and train safety.
Lifesaver’s mission is to do just that — end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and along railroad rights of way. “The folks with Operation Lifesaver will be here and they’ll talk about rail safety awareness and train safety,” Lowe said.
It is a deadly issue with which the state constantly deals.
According to Operation Lifesaver, North Carolina ranks in the top 20 states nationwide for highway-rail crossing collisions and in the top 10 for pedestrian rail trespass incidents. Federal Railroad Administration statistics show there were 45 vehicle-train collisions in North Carolina in 2012, resulting in two deaths and 42 injuries. Through April 2013, there have been 28 incidents with four resulting deaths and 15 injuries.
FRA statistics show that an additional 16 people were killed and 12 injured in North Carolina while trespassing on train tracks in 2012. Through the first four months of 2013, seven trespassers were killed and three injured.
Among its primary rail safety tips, N.C. Operation Lifesaver warns motorists and pedestrians to cross railroad tracks only at a public crossings and always yield to trains, because the distance and speed of an oncoming train cannot be judged accurately. A train can appear on any track at any time.
That is part of the public service message they will bring to Clinton Saturday, doing so through a number of activities, Lowe said.
The events at Clinton Terminal Railroad begin at 9 a.m. and will go into the afternoon. To learn more about North Carolina Operation Lifesaver at www.ncol.org. The national Operation Lifesaver Inc. website can be visited at www.oli.org.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.