Pa. family’s close call with train caught on camera

GREENCASTLE, Pa. (WHTM/CNN) - What was supposed to be a family portrait to remember nearly turned into tragedy. The Pennsylvania family was posing on railroad tracks when a train came barreling towards them.

The kids scattered as a man ran onto the tracks grabbing a small child and hurrying back across. The train was there within seconds.

Brock Kerchner with Operation Lifesaver of Pennsylvania works to avoid situations exactly like this one.

“You wouldn’t stand in the middle of an airport runway with a plane bearing down on you to take a picture, so why would you do it on a railroad track?” he said.

He said walking on tracks is illegal and considered trespassing. He also said it’s difficult to know when a train is coming.

"When you’re in front of it, it’s extremely hard to hear that train. And if the train's around a corner, you're never going to see it in time,” Kerchner said. “It's actually also an optical illusion. If you do see a train coming, you can’t tell how fast it’s going."

Kerchner said steel wheels on steel rails are rather quiet at a distance and that it takes a 100-car train traveling 55 miles per hour more than a mile to stop.

"They can blow the horn, they can ring the bell, they can put the brakes on and that’s all they can do in that case,” said Kerchner.

One of Virtual Railfan’s six cameras around Pennsylvania captured the video. Virtual Railfan is a website for train enthusiasts that hosts live webcams from around the country.

"We have cameras at hot spots all over the country, so you can literally tune in and everything is live. The fad of doing photography on the tracks, stuff like that, can go south real quick, and that video that proves it right there,” said Mike Cyr with Virtual Railfan.

"There were split seconds there. If she hadn't seen it when she did, we'd have an absolute disaster on our hands,” Kerchner said.

No one was hurt in this case, but officials said it serves as a good reminder to pay attention when approaching train tracks, no matter if you are in a car or on foot.

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