Marcum, a Norfolk Southern locomotive engineer with the Pocahontas Division, has been heading up an informative mission in the Tug Valley area for the past few years and is passionate about educating the public concerning the serious and sometimes fatal end results that occur from making a rash decision to "beat the train".
Operation: Lifesaver is a non-profit, international public education program first established in 1972 to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and on railroad right-of-ways. The program is supported by a wide variety of partners that include federal, state and local government agencies, highway safety organizations, law enforcement, the nation's railroads and their suppliers.
On June 19th, Marcum and fellow Norfolk Southern employees Randy Ooten, Eric Conley, Harrison Slone and Grover Adkins, all conductors, participated in a crossing blitz in Matewan. This year to date, three such blitzes have taken place in various parts of Mingo County.
What made the event at Matewan a little more popular than usual was the addition of three special guests.
Senate Majority Leader H. Truman Chafin (D-Mingo), who was born and raised in Matewan, Mingo County Sheriff Lonnie Hannah and Matewan Mayor Shelia Kessler, joined the Operation Lifesaver efforts, speaking to passing motorists and passing out informative literature.
"As a former Norfolk Southern road brakeman, I was honored to join current employees who spent time emphasizing crossing safety," Chafin said. "I treasure all the good friends I made while working on the railroad and know firsthand the importance of crossing safety.
"I hope and pray that our citizens will respect, obey and carefully understand the life and death decisions they make each time they approach a railroad crossing."
Sheriff Hannah spoke of the "no win" situation in the circumstance of vehicle vs. train, and wants to emphasize to the public to think before you act.
"You just can't win if an accident does occur between your vehicle and a train," said Hannah.
"What you lose could be far more than the cost to replace a car. You could lose your life, or those of the passengers traveling with you. My deputies are always on the lookout for people who violate the safety laws at railway crossings, and I can assure you they will issue a citation."
Marcum offers personal experiences from his years as an engineer to support his informative efforts.
"There is nothing more disturbing and traumatic for the crew on board a train that strikes a vehicle," Marcum said.
"It's something you carry with you for a lifetime, and will never forget."
Marcum conducts informative sessions at coal terminals, oil companies and other locations where a high volume of traffic at railway crossings occur.
The engineer said he figures that for every one person he educates, they will pass the information on to their family and friends, creating a domino affect and a positive situation for all involved.
"Please remember...you are dealing with a locomotive that alone, weighs 420,000 pounds. Counting the 100-150 railroad cars being hauled, you are facing an approximate total of 14,000 tons, traveling at a typical speed of 35 mph. It will take a distance of over one mile for the train to come to a complete stop," Marcum said.
"There's no such thing as a quick stop. You're talking metal on metal. It's as slick as ice," Marcum said. "If you make the decision to try to beat a train and are unsuccessful in your attempt, there's absolutely no way we can avoid a collision."
Marcum said he invites any individual, group or organization to contact him if anyone would like additional information or would like to request a presentation. He said he is always happy to oblige, and is proud to represent Operation: Lifesaver in the Tug Valley area.
Interested parties may reach Marcum by emailing Marcum at email@example.com.