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Origins of National Operation Lifesaver in Nevada

Nevada Campaigns for Operation Lifesaver

The state of Nevada, with the assistance of Southern Pacific, is the 45th state to join the national Operation Lifesaver railroad crossing safety campaign.

Governor Richard Bryan joined SP Chairman Denman McNear in the locomotive cab for a special train ride to take a first-hand look at the potential for crossing accident tragedy.

Some 100 federal, state and railroad industry representatives and members of the Nevada Operation Lifesaver Committee members rode in the special three-car train on its five-mile trip into downtown Reno where kickoff ceremonies were held. A video camera mounted on the locomotive sent pictures to television monitors in each car.

Governor Bryan, in a “whistle-stop” talk from the rear of the train, declared: “We observed from the locomotive cab, the problems faced by the engineer when motorists disregard the ‘signs of life’ – the early advance warning signs, flashing lights and automatic gates – and try to beat the train to the crossing.” The Governor said the trip served as a focal point for addressing railroad crossing problems statewide.

Joining Governor Bryan and SP Chairman McNear was Robert Irion, general manager of Union Pacific System. The state of Nevada, SP and UP contributed to the financing and planning of the campaign.

Also aboard the special train were William Loftus, executive director for the Federal Railroad Administration, Mark Garcia of the National Transportation Safety Board, Al Stone, director of the Nevada Department of Transportation, Scott Craigie, chairman of the Nevada Public Service Commission, and Ernie Oliphant of the National Safety Council.

Nevada statistics show that 17 people lost their lives in railroad crossing accidents since 1975. Another 82 people were seriously injured at Nevada’s 600 railroad crossings.

“This accident rate may seem small when compared to national figures,” Governor Bryan said, “but even one life is a tragic loss if it can be prevented.”

The special Operation Lifesaver train, powered by SP and UP units, was operated with a volunteer SP crew. Al Fronsdale, assistant legislative representative for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, was the locomotive engineer for the train and one of the speakers at the kick-off luncheon. Other crew members included Lee Wilkes, local chairman of UTU-Switchmen; and Bob Garrett, local president for UTU-Trainmen. All work out of Sparks.

Governor Bryan says the Operation Lifesaver message will be carried into schools, and drivers’ training programs, to truck drivers and into every home. The Nevada Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies will work for new awareness for crossing safety through enforcement of present laws. The state’s driver handbook is being revised to include tips on safe driving at railroad crossings.

Henry Ortiz, SP Public Relations Manager in San Francisco, is coordinating the company’s role on the Nevada Operation Lifesaver Committee. He is also co-chairman of the California campaign.

“Lifesaver campaigns have contributed to an annual reduction in crossing accidents,” Ortiz said. “When state agencies and departments, the railroads, safety organizations, trucking associations and parent-teacher groups join together, it strengthens traffic safety efforts across the boards and demonstrates how well government and the private sector work together to achieve a common goal.”

Printed in May/June 1985 edition of the Southern Pacific Bulletin

Contact Us

Larry Hamilton Nevada State Coordinator

(702) 286-3246 (mobile)

600 Yucca Street
Boulder City , NV    89005