Lawyers Investigating Train Accident Site Find Interesting Results, Union Pacific Releases Statement

Staff Report
NewsWest 9


It is a tragedy that the truck drove through the red traffic light at the intersection, and as noted by the NTSB, the active crossing signals, putting its passengers in harm's way. We would not be having this conversation had the truck not driven through the active railroad crossing signals.

Garfield Crossing Set-Up
The signal system at the Garfield crossing provides between 20-25 seconds of advanced warning, which ensures the red flashing lights activate at least 20 seconds before trains enter the crossing, whatever their speed. In addition, the system is set to ensure the traffic light at the Garfield and Front Street intersection turns red 10 seconds before the railroad warning signals activate. This means drivers approaching the tracks are required by law to stop at least 30 seconds before trains enter the crossing.

The NTSB has confirmed the signals worked properly and in accordance with federal guidelines on the day of the accident that occurred November 15. The timeline they released also indicates the second flatbed truck proceeded onto the tracks eight seconds after the bells and red flashing lights activated. In addition, the traffic light at Garfield and Front Street was red for at least 30 seconds before the train entered the crossing. There had been no train-vehicle collisions at that location 15 years prior to the accident and approximately 70 million vehicles crossed the tracks safely during that timeframe.

After review and testing of the signal system at the Garfield Street crossing, we are making an adjustment to the signal system to improve buffer time. Buffer time is additional warning time over and above the warning time required by federal regulations. The buffer time is added to further ensure that the signal system always provides the warning time required by the federal government—as it did on the day of the accident that occurred on November 15.


On Monday, December 17, 2012, a team of expert witnesses assembled by attorneys Bob Pottroff and Kevin Glasheen inspected the Garfield Crossing in Midland, Texas. Pottroff and Glasheen represent several veterans and their wives who were injured November 15, 2012, when a Union Pacific Train struck a tractor trailer that was part of a parade in honor of the veterans.

Pottroff and Glasheen have argued that the 20 second warning time given by the lights and gates system was a "short warning", which contributed to the accident. The veterans on the float had time to throw their wives to safety and report that, given a few more seconds, could have all escaped injury.

TXDOT rail division has released a copy of the signal plans approved by TXDOT in 1992. The approved plans prescribed a 30 second warning for this signal system. Inexplicably, the plans in the signal cabin at this crossing reflect that this crossing was installed to only provide a 25 second warning. There is no evidence so far that the Union Pacific Railroad obtained approval from TXDOT to shorten the warning time from the 30 second approved time to the 25 second warning time reflected in the plans on site.

NTSB reports that at the time of the accident the signals gave a 20 second warning.

During testing on Monday, December 17, 2012, the signals gave a 21 second warning. Experts hired by Glasheen and Pottroff were able to determine the nature of the defect in this signal system. This defect is caused by problems created by overlapping circuits from nearby crossings. When track speeds are increased, the signal circuits must be lengthened to accommodate higher train speeds. At some point, track circuits from adjoining crossings will overlap. The Garfield Road signal circuits have been extended to the point that the eastbound approach currently overlaps with three other circuits for nearby crossings. The failure to properly engineer these overlapping circuits is the source of the short warning problems at Garfield Road. This defect is something that the Railroad should have identified long ago. Increased train speeds should have never started with this defect in the system.

Pottroff and Glasheen obtained access to the lights and gates system by agreement with the Railroad, after filing a request for an injunction with the Court. That injunction request calls for the Railroad to inform the victim's lawyers before any changes are made to the system. The Railroad has notified Pottroff and Glasheen that the railroad intends to repair the defects in the signal system, beginning tomorrow morning, Friday, December 20, 2012. Pottroff and Glasheen have shared their expert's findings with the Railroad, and are working with the Railroad to ensure that the signal system defect is corrected.


MIDLAND - The lawyers, who inspected the railroad crossing where last month's deadly train accident happened in Midland, tell NewsWest 9 they got some interesting results.

Apparently, the signal went off five seconds too late.

Attorney Bob Potroff says the flashing lights and the crossing arms went down 21 seconds before the train hit the parade float.

But the system is set for a 25 second warning.

Another unusual find, the lawyers say the state minimum warning for that particular crossing is actually 30 seconds.

We are expecting a press release with additional information will be released soon.