A special passenger train is traveling across Iowa this week to educate community leaders about the importance of following the rules at railroad crossings and along the tracks.

Mark Davis, spokesman for the Omaha-based Union Pacific Railroad, says they’ll be offering some VIPs a short trip in the locomotive.

Davis says, “We offer rides to typically elected officials and emergency first responders and we help educate them on grade crossing safety along with pedestrian safety, which is becoming a concern with us.”

The program is called UP CARES, for Union Pacific Crossing Accident Reduction Education and Safety. Train engineers see motorists and pedestrians skirting the law frequently and Davis says city leaders need to see how bad the situation truly can be.

He says, “These trains help the elected officials as well as the first responders see what the train crews see on a daily basis.”

Life-threatening collisions are being averted routinely, but the engineers can only do so much. He says the short train rides can really make a vital point for the community leaders as pedestrians wander along the tracks or when motorists try to zip around the gates and over a crossing at the last second.

Davis says, “They’ll see, usually any given trip there’s at least one close call or at least one time where a person will not heed the warnings at the grade crossings.”

It’s a growing concern, he says, that people of all ages are walking along or on railroad tracks, often while wearing headphones or earbuds.

The UP Cares train will make trips this week between West Bend and Bode, from Emmetsburg to Graettinger and from Eagle Grove to Webster City. Learn more at: www.up.com

By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City