This is another one of the activities that we did regularly, so I don’t have any real stories, per se, but I can describe what we would do. I also don’t recall who all did this with us, but I’m pretty sure Mark Woolley, Tom Triplett, Murray Triplett, Mark, John Carter, and Todd Haws all did this at one point or another. I will also admit that this was probably the most dangerous thing we ever did.
Not far from the overpass we frequented is a train bridge. Here it is in Google Maps:
The bridge goes over the Weber River, and just below the bridge on the east side was a little beach that was often frequented by couples making out and other people looking for fun. Often when we would get bored messing with cars on the freeway, or while doing that and we’d hear a train coming, we’d head to the train bridge for some excitement. There were three activities we engaged in. All of them were extremely dangerous. I’ll start with the least dangerous, which is marked in red on the map.
The bridge seems like it was basically designed for people to climb it (maybe the engineers thought no one would be that stupid). On the ends it sloped up at a relatively mild 30 to 35 degree incline and had large, protruding rivets that made it particularly easy to climb the ends of the bridge. But, even easier, were the support columns holding up the upper trestles. While they also had easy to grasp rivets, they were made up of X-shaped cross bars, which meant you could easily scale them. Anyone not afraid of heights with just moderate climbing skills could scale the bridge and be on top of the trestle in about a minute.
The spot marked in red was actually a nice big crossbar that ran across the tracks. It was about 4 to 5 feet tall and had thick ledges on the top and the bottom and long cross beams, making it easy to cross. If you timed it just right, you could climb up the end of the bridge, move onto that crossbeam, and watch as the train approached. And if the train’s interior light was on, you also got to see the face of the conductor as he initially freaked out, then honked his horn and did his best job to scold you for both scaring the crap out of him and being so stupid. While standing on that cross piece, the train would run just a few feet below you. While certainly dangerous, once you were up on the cross bar, you were relatively safe. The riskiest part after the train had gone by was getting down.
The spot marked with yellow is actually a little deceptive because it did not entail climbing up on top of the trestle. Along side the train tracks along the bridge was a walkway. It was a couple feet wide, at most. It could be used to easily cross the bridge when there was no train. However, when there was a train, the train actually hung far enough over the side of the tracks that, if you were walking along the walkway, you’d be hit (and probably die). But what you could do, if you were looking for a thrill, is lay down on the walkway before the train came. The train was always three or so feet above the walkway. So, if you laid down before the train got there, you could literally lay underneath the train as it whizzed past above you. If you sat up, you were going to die. If you made a wrong move, you were going to die. You had to commit, and simply lay there, with thousands of tons of steel rolling over your prostrate body. Yeah, that was dangerous.
But I’ve saved the best for last. This was done in the spot indicated with the blue marker. To do this you’d climb up to the top of the trestle. As you can see from the map, at the top of the trestle are x-shaped cross beams. Once you got on top of the bridge, you could sit on one of the cross beams and inch your way toward where they crossed. These beams were also made up of x-shaped beams with about 1 foot gaps in them (at the wide end; like the picture above). I can remember the first time I did this I climbed to the top of the bridge and, on the other side, were Todd Haws and John Carter. I think Mark was in the red spot, getting ready for the train to come. John and Todd had to coax me out to the center, then one of them, I think Todd, showed me how you did the next thing. You would work your way around to the east side of the cross and face west, put your legs through the gaps in the X’s, then swing upside down. It’s kind of hard to picture, but basically you would be hanging from the top of the bridge by your legs with your head facing the oncoming train. Remember, I said that the red spot was a couple of feet above the train. The top crossbeams were about 6 to 8 feet above the train. So, when you would flip upside down, you’d be hanging a good 3 feet above the train. There was always the risk that the train might have a slightly taller car that you couldn’t see that would hit you, but that’s unlikely as trains have to be very exact dimensions. And, of course, there was the possibility of slipping and falling onto a train crossing under you at about 50 mph. But we never did.
As far as I know, no one was ever hurt doing this, at least no one was when I was down there. I’m certainly not going to recommend these activities as I’m still a bit surprised I did them myself. But these were the kinds of things we were doing on the weekends when Mark and I were teenagers.
1 thought on “Mark: dodging trains”
I remember climbing up those with Dave and Scott when trains rolled through. We’d also lay beside the trains on the bridge. But never hung upside down.