Calhoun Police Chief Tony Pyle said this week that although some people may not know it, walking on the train tracks that bisect Downtown Calhoun is not only dangerous but illegal.
“Technically it is trespassing. You could get arrested for it,” Pyle said.
The warning came after a Wednesday incident in which a train conductor alerted authorities after he thought he had struck someone on the tracks near the Highway 41 bridge just north of Cherokee Drive in Calhoun. Calhoun police officers and other emergency responders searched the area for an extended time but found no evidence anyone had been hit.
Pyle said the conductor reported seeing someone sitting on the tracks under the bridge and began stopping the train and sounding the horn but that the individual did not appear to move.
“By the time he got the train stopped, the guy was gone,” Pyle said.
The chief said afterward that he’d rather his officers search for a few hours and find nothing than the alternative. He also said he was told afterward that a train moving at 55 mph can take up to a mile to stop, even in an emergency situation.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize just how dangerous it is,” said Pyle, who noted that about 500 pedestrians are killed by trains each year in America. “If you’re hit by that train, it’s almost impossible that you’re going to survive.”
The chief said there have been multiple strikes over the years in Calhoun. He recalled three instances that all occurred in about the same area as the false alarm on Wednesday.
In one of the more recent situations, a woman was walking down the tracks with headphones on and was struck from behind and killed. In another, a car was struck while crossing the tracks and all members of a family were killed, save one.
Pyle also shared a particularly gruesome story from about 25 years ago when he was still working as a patrol officer. He said someone was hit and killed, and while Pyle was searching the woods he found the man’s decapitated head.
The police chief said he thinks some people walk the tracks because the path can make for a more direct link between two places, but he cautioned that the risk isn’t worth reward.
“As the old saying goes, ‘don’t risk a life for a little,’” said Pyle.