CSX Worker's Vigilance Spots Potential Problems

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Harvey W. Strickland saw sparks on the way to work last week and, for the second time, may have prevented a train wreck, according to the Florida Times-Union.

Strickland lives in Blackshear and drives two hours daily to his job in CSX Transportation's signal shop near Savannah. His predawn drive parallels CSX tracks and, when he was riding along in the dark last week, he saw a flicker of sparks coming from the wheels of a rail car, Strickland said.

He called the 800 number CSX has to report blocked crossings and other mishaps and the dispatcher said it probably wasn't much of a problem. But Strickland, matching his speed with that of the freight train, watched as the sparks increased and then saw a glow.

"I called back, reported what I saw and said, 'I think you'd better stop it,''' Strickland said.

Once the train was stopped, he and the conductor uncoupled the car and left it on a siding in Offerman and he and the train headed toward Savannah.

About 2 1/2 years ago, he spotted a far worse problem and called it in and that car was also taken out of service before it caused any problems. Strickland said the wheels of that car were dangerously hot, possibly from a brake or bearing problem.

"You could feel the heat from the wheels 20 feet away,'' Strickland said.

CSX spokeswoman Susan Keegan said employees' vigilance often prevents worse problems.

"He's the only guy I know of to do it twice,'' she said. "It was good work.''

Part of CSX's safety program is for employees to watch passing trains, and it works.

"It's an excellent safety program,'' Keegan said.

Although Strickland may have averted some severe problems with his attentiveness, it's impossible to tell. He does know that the company was grateful enough the first time to reward him with some stock and a plaque that hangs on his wall.

Keegan said she knows he will at least be strongly commended for his most recent work.