Trains and People

csxt316 at lightfoot1


I’m sure I’ll be savaged for saying this, but I just finished watched a story on the 11pm news about a 19 yo girl being hit and killed by a train. She and her boyfriend had been fishing from a trestle and she couldn’t get out of the way in time. Now, this is a sob story why??

I grew up in a railroad family and from the time I was old enough to understand my dad always told me to stay off the tracks. He taught me the dangers of trains very early on. Thus, I know how this works.

Now before you savage me, read on and I’ll explain some things. First off, look at the train above. Do you see an end to those cars? I bet not. I can tell you, since I took the shot, that there were 150 fully loaded coal cars for export. That meant the train in question was around 16-17k tons and a mile and a half long.

Ok, we’ve established this now, so keep up with me-ok? Now the train is running 40mph and it’s on a steel ribbon. Now, let me ask you a question: if the train runs on those two tracks, can it turn? Can it turn left or right? The answer is no. All it can do it go forwards and backwards. This means it can’t swerve to avoid you.

With that established, let’s move to the next stage. Do you know how much these engines weigh? At base weight from GE they’re 432k pounds. CSX has ballasted then to 452k to get better traction and pull from them. So, all that to the 17k train. Still with me?

Now, with something that heavy, how long do you think it takes to stop it? Try two miles. That’s right! Two miles! And it’s not because the engines don’t have brakes, it’s due to the pure weight of the train. It takes a long time to stop one once it’s at speed. That’s pure physics…nothing more nothing less.

So, now that we’ve established the train can’t turn, that it weighs 17k tons, and it takes 2 miles to stop, who’s at fault here? It’s not the RR! And keep in mind, there’s a man or woman at the controls (or at the conductor side too) that dumps the air brakes (dumping means they’ve killed the air, which caused the shoes to lock onto the wheels and start to stop the train. All they can do is sit there and hope to God you get out of the way. There’s nothing they can do at that point but pray.

Imagine being in their shoes, unable to stop on a dime, blowing the horn, dumping the brakes and you can’t keep from hitting and killing that person. Could there be any possible worse feeling to have as a human being? These men and women clocked in to go to work and now have to live with the fact that someone died and they couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it.

I’ve known people who have had to take early retirement from the RR after a crossing accident or hitting a person. They just couldn’t do the job anymore for various emotional and psychological reasons. Keep in mind this is their livelihood and how they support their family, so imagine how traumatic this is on them too.

So, all I’m saying is to bear in mind that there’s a man or woman on that train that can’t do a thing to prevent what’s happening and has to live with it the rest of their lives. So, the family of the ‘victim’ isn’t the only one having to live with the pain of a lost life.

I want to leave you with this video to see. I want you to keep an eye out for the black vehicle and tell me if that engineer had time to do anything. And keep in mind, 5 kids died doing this stunt.

Gives you an idea of what kind of things railroaders have to deal with.

Crystal Singer

I thought I’d write about a book that I found fascinating when younger and wish I owned. It’s called ‘The Crystal Singer’ by Anne McCaffrey.

The novel centers around a young woman named Killashandra  Ree, who has spent ten years studying to be an opera singer and fails. One day she runs into a man at the spaceport and they get to talking. After a whirlwind romance, she learns what he does for a living and eventually (for reasons I don’t want to give away) follows him back to the world of Ballybran.

Ballybran is the source of crystals that power the engines and communications systems of Anne’s world. However, only singers with perfect pitch can operate the voice activated cutters. And there’s a catch: there’s a spore that invades a person’s body when they arrive on Ballybran. Some people die from it, others only partially adapt (leaving them deaf but with high visual acuity among other things) and the ones who fully adapt are the crystal singers.

The spore keeps it’s host alive for hundreds of years, but the only ones who can leave the planet are the singers and they only can for short vacations. So, with that said, what happens to Killashandra?

You’ll have to read and find out.

Pick it up and check it out.

Series Writing

It’s always been said to new writers to not try to do series but to stick to single novels. While that is true for getting started (doesn’t mean you can’t leave the first novel open ended or have character’s that have enough back story that you can write more books) it doesn’t mean you can’t do it either. In fact, Goodreads. com listing of top Science Fiction of 2012-13 is nothing but series after series.

Kind of makes you wonder doesn’t it?

More than 100 lovingly remember boy killed by tree – Richmond Times Dispatch: City Of Richmond


More than 100 lovingly remember boy killed by tree – Richmond Times Dispatch: City Of Richmond.


This was a tragedy and I’m heartbroken over it, but now I have to ask the question: Why were you at the Park that afternoon when they were calling for BAD STORMS FOR TWO DAYS. There was a 48 hr warning that heavy storms were coming and yet you still take the kids to that park, which is full of trees, in the afternoon when the weather is inbound?

It doesn’t make a bit of sense and it’s a question many people in the Richmond area are asking. And make this clear: I’m not belittling the father or having a lack of sympathy either. It’s just a question I think we’d all like to know the answer to though.

By taliasworld Posted in Life

Novel Openings


I cruised the various boards today and another familiar question has come back up. “How do I start my novel?”

There’s two school of thoughts about this and I’ll share them both. The first believes in the ‘wham bam’ type opening. Something BIG happens, either an explosion or car chase or something, right off the bat. This viewpoint says that the reader will instantly be hooked by the rapid-fire action. The second feels that a slower, more cerebral entrance will draw the reader in. While there’s merits in both, whether or or the other is best to use depends on what genre you’re writing.

In novel writing you have two types of openings: 1. Action  2. Active. Let me break them down.

A “action opening” is exactly what it says. Something big is happening, whether it’s a foot chase, a battle, or something that involves some sort of physical action. This, when used correctly, can draw a reader in to the story off the bat. In my opinion it’s a bit of a gimmick, but I’ll explain that later.

An ‘active opening’ is a different type of beast. There’s not overwhelming ‘action’ even happening but it’s more cerebral in how it gets the reader’s attention. A typical opening of this type presents a problem, or a situation, that makes a reader start to wonder what’s happening and will compel them to read on to see the answer.

My personal opinion is that the ‘action’ opening is overused. It’s become a gimmick, similar to those things done in Hollywood, to get the attention of a person. Any person can write a pure action scene, but what happens after that scene’s over?

Active openings take more skill from the writer to pull off but have the higher reward. When done correctly, they completely engross the reader with the world and they keep turning the pages. The trick, though, is how to pull it off. And there’s only one sure fire way to learn this skill, and that is to continually practice on it.

Here’s a blog post on the matter by a literary agent named Kristin on her blog on blogspot about this subject.

I hope this helps out in understanding the difference.