A pair of bills limiting train length have been introduced in the Iowa House and Senate and have gained some traction. House File 2339 and Senate File 2286 both contain language that would limit the length of any freight train to 8,500 feet.

House File 278 (now renumbered as HF 2339) was introduced January 28, 2021, by David Maxwell (R – Dist. 76). The Senate companion bill, Senate File 2051 (now renumbered as 2286) was introduced by Sen. Jesse Green (R – Dist. 24) on January 18, 2022. SF 2051 originally had two-person crew language in it, but that was taken out so that the bill would match the House version of the bill.

As mentioned above, the bills, if passed, would limit train length to 8,500 feet and provide for a penalty of not less than $500, nor more than $5,000 per violation.

Currently, both the House and the Senate versions of the bills have passed out of committee and they await floor votes in each chamber.

“We’ve had good support at the committee level to get the bill to where it is now, but it only takes one to tank the whole thing,” Iowa State Legislative Director Chris Smith said. “I’m hopeful and I’m happy that we got it this far.”

Smith said that he also got House File 210 introduced by Rep. Ray Sorensen (R – Dist. 20) on Feb. 10. This bill would double the fines for motorists who traverse railroad grade crossings against a gate or signal at quiet zones. If passed, the fine would double to $520. If facing financial hardship, motorists would have the option to take a DOT class instead. HF 210 has passed out of committee and will be renumbered for the full House to vote on.

Smith says that he’s not sure when any of the three bills mentioned will come to a vote, but he’s hopeful that they’ll pass.

Lawrence J. Crist, 91, died Nov. 7 at the Sioux City hospital in Sioux City, Iowa.
Crist started his railroad career with the Illinois Central Railroad when he hired out as a brakeman and worked his way up to the position of conductor. A member of Local 493 in Waterloo, Iowa, Crist was elected to the position of Iowa state legislative director, which he held until his retirement in 1992.
Crist was a member of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus. In his free time, he enjoyed pheasant hunting, western books and movies, golf and spending time with friends and family.
Crist was preceded in death by his wife, Jeanine Crist; parents Benedict and Margaret Crist; two brothers and one sister. He’s survived by his two sons, Mike Crist and Kevin (Nancy) Crist; grandchildren, Audrey and Kena Crist; great-grandson, Kieran Crist-Kenworthy; and several nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.
Crist is interred at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Cherokee, Iowa. Click here to leave condolences for Crist’s friends and family.

Amtrak Logo WASHINGTON — Right now, you would need $75 minimum and at least nine hours of travel time to get from Chicago to Omaha aboard an Amtrak train cutting across southern Iowa and missing most of the state’s major cities.

Not very convenient, or efficient. If Gov. Terry Branstad and the Iowa Legislature had come up with the $20.6 million needed to match a federal grant awarded to Iowa and Illinois four years ago, a new intercity railway eventually could have run through some of the bigger cities in the eastern half of the state.

Rail passengers could get from Chicago to Iowa City in less than five hours. And the line potentially could be extended to Omaha.

Read the complete story from The Gazette.

RED OAK, Iowa — A BNSF conductor and an engineer were killed in a rear-end train accident near here Sunday morning, April 17.

Red Oak is southeast of Council Bluffs and is part of BNSF’s Creston subdivision, which has centralized traffic control, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Killed were conductor and UTU Local 199 (Creston, Iowa) Vice Local Chairperson Patricia Hyatt, and engineer Tom Anderson, both age 48. Hyatt, a resident of Creston, hired on with BNSF in March 2005. Anderson was president of BLET Division 642.

A BNSF spokesperson was quoted in news reports that an eastbound freight train pulling 130 loaded coal hoppers collided with the rear of a second BNSF train pulling 34 cars of railroad maintenance equipment. The accident occurred around 7 a.m, Central Daylight Time.

Reports say 10 of the cars in the lead train, two locomotives of the three-locomotive coal train and the two locomotives of the maintenance train derailed.

Witnesses to the accident told the Des Moines Register newspaper that the lead locomotive of the coal train was engulfed in fire, which spread to at least one of the coal cars.

There were no reported injuries of the two-person crew of the maintenance train.

The tracks on which the accident occurred are used by Amtrak’s California Zephyr as well as 40 freight trains daily, according to the BNSF spokesperson. Reportedly, the line linking Galesburg, Ill., and Omaha will be closed indefinitely, with trains rerouted to other track.

The FRA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the accident, and a member of the UTU Transportation Safety Team is assisting the NTSB in its investigation.

Hyatt is the first UTU member killed in an on-duty accident in 2011.

In March, a conductor trainee was killed — as was an engineer and a crew-van driver — in Kelso, Wash., when the crew van was struck by a BNSF freight train at a private highway-rail grade crossing. UTU conductor Dwight Hauck, a member of UTU Local 324, was seriously injured in that accident.

In February, UTU conductor Alvin (A.J.) Boguess, a member of UTU Local 623, was seriously injured when he fell 55-feet from a CSX rail bridge over the Jackson River during a switching movement in Covington, W.Va.

And earlier this year, a BLET member, Stanley Watts, was killed in a Norfolk Southern switching accident in Kankakee, Ill.

Eight UTU members were killed in on-duty accidents in 2010, and eight were killed in on-duty accidents in 2009.

Hyatt, daughter of Evan Aubrey Shiver and Christine (Elliott) Shiver, was born Feb. 25, 1963, in Fort Ord, Calif. She graduated from Crystal River High School in Crystal River, Fla. She went on to study for two years in college and served six years in the U.S. Army.

Online condolences may be given under the obituary category at www.powersfh.com.