As the son of a former railroad engineer, this hits hard. By the era of diesel engines, even in the olden days, things were safer for railroad workers than the era of steam. Nonetheless, it was still a job with risks. You were working around massive industrial products, settings, and equipment. Those engines were big! I don't know if you've ever been near one, but they make standing in front of a semi truck feel like standing in front of a Hot Wheels car. I tried to stand right in front of one once but didn't have the nerve.
So things did happen, and even in the later years of my youth, sometimes people died. Again, it was overall safer, but the problem was certain things were simply outside your control as a crew member. The biggest problem is that you can't just stop a train on a dime. The main things we worried about were collisions with other trains, and the dreaded gasoline truck stalled on the tracks. More than a few train crews met their end that way.
One was a friend of my Dad's in one of those bizarre events that makes you realize sometimes it is just your time to go, and sometimes it isn't. Back before I was born, my Dad worked the road. That means he went to the local train yard, ran the train to another train yard often in another state, and then waited until it was his turn to get another train back. It worked in rotation. First one in was first one out.
There was a day when a friend of my Dad's was behind him in the rotation. He and his wife were planning a social event, and he asked if he could trade with Dad so he could get home first. Dad said sure, why not. The train came in, and just as my Dad's friend was getting ready to board, his wife called and said the social had been canceled. Being a good guy, he went back and offered my Dad his place back at the head of the line. So Dad got on the train and ran it back home. He came in and promptly took his obligatory two hour nap for the day.
While he was sleeping, the phone rang. My Mom answered and it was the railroad yard. They asked if Dad was home. She told them he was in sleeping. They said they were just checking, as there had been a train accident and apparently some mix up as to who was on the train.
Mom woke Dad up and told him him what happened. Dad called in to find out the details. It turns out that his friend was on the train behind him. On the way near Marion, Ohio, a switch had been thrown. This caused another train to run headfirst into his friend's engine. All but one of the crew in the two engines were killed instantly. The survivor was found wandering around a couple miles away later in the day.
Another of my Dad's friends, named Fred, was in the caboose of his friend's train. He said that, oddly enough, the train came to a smooth stop. Being a freight train, it could have been a mile or more long. He did say that when he looked out the window of the cupola, he saw a massive mushroom cloud rising up from where the engines were, but didn't know anything else. Only when they got out did they see the wreckage.
So had the fellow been selfish, he would have come home and lived on in life. As it was, he was thoughtful enough to trade back with Dad. I've often wondered if his wife was sorry about calling him and telling him the social was cancelled. Then again, I've often wondered what other options I have. If those events hadn't happened, I wouldn't be here today typing this story.
It's what I thought about when I read about the train collision. In such passing headlines, don't ever forget that there are lives involved, families and friends, and sometimes those not yet born. It's enough to more than just pray to God, but to trust God. And pray for peace for the loved ones, the victims, and all who were touched by this and all of the other tragedies that happen in a day