BEVERLY, MASS. (WHDH) – A train roaring down the tracks has one sure way to warn those ahead — a steady blast of its horn.
But that’s not happening in some Massachusetts communities and the results have been deadly.
Former train engineer Mark Lyman has never forgotten one fateful October night 24 years ago.
Lyman was pulling into the Beverly Depot when, out of nowhere, a 17-year-old tried to cross the tracks.
“He came from behind another train and walked right in front of me,” Lyman said.
Lyman’s train hit and killed the teen.
“I have my own kids,” Lyman recently said. “If something like that happened to them, I don’t know how I would — I live with that to this day.”
The Beverly Depot is one of 25 state-recognized “quiet zones” where train engineers are not allowed to sound the train horn.
“I firmly believe to this day, if there was a horned crossing, he would have known there was a train coming in,” Lyman said.
Any city or town can petition the Federal Railroad Administration to create a quiet zone.
If approved, automatic warning devices like flashing lights and gates must be installed.
“There’s a huge process,” MBTA Chief Safety Officer Tim Lesniak said at a recent meeting.
But the Beverly Depot doesn’t have any of those safety measures. The FRA tells 7 Investigates that train stations are exempt from the rules. That has people who ride the train concerned.
“They’ll see the train coming but they will run across,” said Charles Case. “You don’t know how fast that train is going.”
“People don’t pay attention,” said Matthew Arlington.
The Beverly Depot is among the 20 most “problematic” stations cited by an internal MBTA safety group.
At least 10 people were hit by trains at the depot between 2010 and 2019. Half of them were killed, including Emerson College Professor Moses Shumow.
“He rode to the station and he was struck and killed at a pedestrian at-grade crossing,” said Peter Brown, the founder of Brown Legal.
Shumow was Brown’s best friend.
“There shouldn’t be any quiet zones out there that don’t have gates, that don’t have gate skirts, that don’t have crosswalks, that don’t have audio and visual warnings,” Brown said.
Brown has filed a lawsuit against the MBTA to make quiet zones safer. He believes a horn should be sounded if a pedestrian crossing has no gates or lights.
“To have it not protected like they should have, then they’ve gone and made the decision, the choice, to not go and sound the horn,” Brown said.
The MBTA says they are following the law.
In a motion to dismiss the case, the agency claims engineers have the option to sound their horn or ring the train’s bell as they approach a Commuter Rail station.
When 7 Investigates was at the station, we couldn’t hear the bell until the train was already at the platform.
And while the bell sound wasn’t clear to us, some residents of Beverly are very clear about what they want.
“Wood that goes up and down, or a light — red and green — something of that nature,” said Susan Loudervack.
“To have some success here, to have the MBTA make an effort to do something would mean the world,” Lyman said.
The MBTA recommends pedestrians and bicyclists look both ways before crossing railroad tracks and remove headphones to hear trains approach.
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