April 05, 2020

Bangor’s railroad issues

Renee Ordway’s moving piece in the Oct. 6 edition of the Bangor Daily News on the death of a 43-year-old Bangor man on the railroad track should serve as an eye-opener for city residents. Bangor has a highly visible homeless population that has been attracted there, in no small part, by the plethora of agencies established to help those unable to help themselves.

Having been employed by the railroad years ago, I have a general knowledge of this situation as it unfolded down by the Kenduskeag Stream bridge last week. As I understand it, a man was lying on the mainline track as a slow-moving train approached the place in the darkness.

You haven’t experienced instant horror unless you have been in a locomotive cab when a human form comes abruptly into view directly ahead of you. You sound the air horns even if it’s going to disturb the sleep of some cranky trackside resident, ring the bell and dump the emergency braking system, gripping the control lever so tightly you have to pry your fingers loose later. The human form disappears below your headlight and you put your hand to you face and pray.

Someone, perhaps a colleague in the engine, has to go to provide aid but you know that effort will be too little, too late.

My heart goes out to that engineman and trainman and those who were there. Railroaders have not been welcome around the site of the old freight yard by the Penobscot River for a long time now. It’s become a park of sorts; a festival center, I guess it’s called, though I remember it when it looked like a Third World combat zone.

Instead of kicking what’s left of the railroad out of town, Bangor needs to address some serious safety issues on behalf of its diverse population.

Herb Cleaves


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