Sunday, 21 April 2013

Stopped Dead In Our Tracks At Crescent Beach

THE DISTANT WHISTLE of a train clickety-clacking down the railway tracks once inspired only happy thoughts of faraway places and adventure.

My first train ride as a child was days long when I traveled with my family from Montreal to Alberta and later to BC. I wondered if the big passenger cars whisking me away, and filled with chattering strangers and dining room tables, were like rubber bands tied together. Maybe someday they would bounce me back to the people and places I was leaving further and further behind.

Not only passenger but freight trains unified the vast Canadian landscape with its diversity and daunting challenges. The railway is woven into the fabric of this country and it is not unusual for a Canadian family to recall a father or a grandfather who worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).

When a train breaks the stillness of a country road or city street in my world today, however, it is often a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) train from the US carrying cargo through southwest BC to be transported to Asia. The runs are becoming more frequent and the string of trains longer. Dangerous chemicals are often on board along with more people-friendly products.

Coal runs are increasing at an enormous pace, as is the push to expand ports. Some are concerned as I am about the dust left behind by the open cars carrying coal and the potential for mishaps along heavily populated areas. These trains travel through small towns and tourist destinations like White Rock where some visitors have a romantic notion about trains and perhaps do not exercise proper caution to avoid accidents. Some people have gotten arrested for protesting the increase in coal trains.

There is also concern about nearby Crescent Beach in South Surrey where the growing train runs have become more troublesome. There is no way for vehicles to get in or out when long trains with hundreds of boxcars chug methodically down the track blocking the only roads into the populated beach front area simultaneously.

My photographs are some of dozens I took while waiting over fifteen minutes for the train to go by. A calm day could easily transform into chaos should there be an earthquake or if an ambulance is needed because of an emergency on the other side.

Even graffiti that happens to look pretty cannot disguise that this situation needs to be addressed sooner rather than later to prevent a disaster that is surely waiting around the corner. How is it, I wonder, that the needs of commerce seem to supersede public safety?

Hopefully locals are not whistling in the dark when they express their concerns to those in authority. After all, industry and government leaders who regulate the volume and ways in which goods are transported have families, too, who need the same environmentally safe future we all do.

As we celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd by scouring beaches and roads for litter, we can add freight train runs to the issues that need confronting.

Read my previous post about the expanding freight trains here.

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Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

See more BC scenes at Penelope Puddlisms: BC Life Is A Whale Of A Ride.