Parked train causes problems

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 4, 2004

COFIELD – Anthony Herring loves to write poetry. It appears lately he has had plenty of time to enjoy his hobby.

On Sunday, Herring waited a shade over six hours for a North Carolina-Virginia Railroad Co. train to clear the crossing that dissects Country Lane near Cofield. Herring’s home sits south of the tracks. He enters the lane from the north end, turning off River Road as he makes his way home from his job at QVC in Suffolk, Va.

While it’s not very strange for Herring to encounter a train at the crossing, often times waiting 45 minutes to upwards of two hours for one to clear, Sunday’s ordeal finally got the best of this soft-spoken Hertford County native.

&uot;Sure, this is a very busy line now that Nucor is running at top speed and because Perdue (Cofield Feed Mill) is right up the track from us,&uot; said Herring. &uot;But over six hours of waiting just struck a raw nerve.&uot;

What made Sunday’s ordeal even more of a headache was that, apparently, the personnel operating the train were nowhere to be found. According Herring’s neighbors, the train came to a stop at 4:15 p.m. It was moved at 10:30 p.m.

&uot;I didn’t know what else to do, so I called 9-1-1,&uot; he stated. &uot;That put me through to the (Hertford County) Sheriff’s Office. They, in turn, said they had no local contact number for that particular time of day. They finally got through to someone in Vermont.&uot;

As it turns out, a Vermont company handles the after-hours dispatch for the NC-VA Railroad.

&uot;When our office closes after regular business hours, all calls are directed to the district dispatch office in Vermont,&uot; said Brad Ovitt, General Manager of NC-VA Railroad, from his Ahoskie office. &uot;The local law enforcement is aware of the phone number to call in situations such as the one which occurred on Sunday night.&uot;

But what caused the situation in the first place? Herring said he was told that the train’s engineer and brakeman were asleep at a local motel. Ovitt blamed the problem on what he referred to as, &uot;inexperienced employees.&uot;

&uot;Nothing was done with intent in this situation,&uot; noted Ovitt. &uot;We were made aware of the problem and have taken steps to rectify the problem.&uot;

That was good news to Herring.

&uot;It all boils down to a matter of safety,&uot; stressed Herring. &uot;What if someone back here was in need of the fire department or the rescue squad? There’s no way to answer our calls for help if the train is blocking the road.&uot;

Herring said his residence and three other homes are located south of the railroad crossing. Those four families total 17 individuals, including one elderly person and several children.

&uot;Again, it’s like I said before, we’d be in a real mess back here if the train was blocking those responding to an emergency call,&uot; he said. &uot;For that matter, the train would block us from getting to our homes if we were called to get home quick because of a problem.&uot;

Hopefully, other than a train operating on a normal routine between Perdue and Nucor, Herring’s waiting time will now be reduced to jotting down a few verses of prose rather than scripting an entire poem.