Today in class our department administrator pulled me out and told me to bring my stuff. This had never happened to me in my life, and I was pretty scared of what she was about to tell me. In the hallway, she tells me that a police officer from Union Pacific (the owners of the railroad) had contacted her about my project. This, a day after it had been posted on www.boingboing.net and I had gotten so many cool responses from people all over the world.
So I called the officer back, and he was really nice and polite. He said they weren’t pressing charges, they just wanted me to stop. For him, this was an issue of safety (a problem that I had also cited in the ethical discussion of the work in my own notes.) He told me that there is an accident somewhere on the railroad every 90 minutes, especially because ambient noise makes it so that the train is hard to hear. His job, he said, is to look out for the conductors of the trains, and that he has had to do investigations of train crashes himself. And for anyone who has ever driven a train that hit someone, it sticks with them for the rest of their life. I can’t argue with that.
Furthermore, Penal Code 3699 cites railroad tresspassing as a misdemeanor.
Most of all, these folks are concerned with safety, and they don’t want me opening doors to put other people in unsafe situations. Fair enough. So just to let y’all know, the railroad margin is 50’ – 100’ depending on the place, sometimes marked by fences, but sometimes not. For the record, I am no longer walking by the tracks for this project.
The best part of our conversation, by far, however, was when
I asked him how he found the project. “One of our techies back in Omaha
So does the project end here? Not sure. I have the choice to walk on roads parallel to the tracks. More on this soon.