Danger: Kids on Train Tracks


An urgent alert went out today to all parents of Montclair High School students, from the principal. Students are using local train tracks as a pedestrian thoroughfare.

A serious concern has been raised about the safety of our high school students walking on the railroad tracks everyday after school especially down by Watchung School playground. We have alerted the PTA Council and alerted Kim Nelson, our SRO officer, to report this behavior to the police. Unfortunately, the older kids are setting a bad example for the little ones as well as putting themselves in harm’s way. As parents, anything you could do to warn your children about the danger of this behavior would be much appreciated. If you see kids on the tracks, call the police, it could save a life.


  1. Considering how many kids have been killed on the tracks in Montclair I would think this would always be on top of the list of priorities. I had classmates and friends die on the tracks in town, and I saw the devastation that it wreaks on family and friends. Please tell your kids to stay off the tracks.

  2. This seems like another common sense issue, but then I remembered how many kids tune-out the world with their iPods and cellphones, so the ability to hear or even understand seeing a train can become compromised …

  3. A 17 year old boy was just killed by a train on Tuesday evening in Glen Rock, NJ. There is not enough awareness about this issue. With trains running right through the center of town, as quiet as they are, there’s bound to be a disaster if we don’t encourage people to be more alert.

  4. The “many kids” that have been killed may be fresh in our memory, Pete, but to today’s high school students, that is ancient history. Remember how you used to think time began when you turned 13?
    So we adults have to keep repeating and repeating the things that we would expect to be common sense, but are not to a teenager.
    Now. What is an SRO officer? And how much do we pay her?
    Is MHS really that overcrowded?

  5. A student in Montclair gets killed on the train tracks once every seven or so years… It’s just long enough for the students who remember it happening to be out of the school system… Not to be cruel or anything, but it will probably happen in another year or two (7ish years after Tony)

  6. Unless you put an armed guard every 25 feet, or put up a 20 foot tall fence, kids will always walk, cross and play on train tracks.
    Just like drinking and driving.
    They know better, but do it anyway (I believe it’s called the teenaged years.)
    Unfortunately, all we can do is continue to raise the issue and hope that some listen.
    Because others won’t.
    Kids live forever, right?
    Just ask them…..

  7. Scientific fact, no kidding. The last and final part of the brain to fully develop is the portion that judges risk. Usually doesn’t fully develop until ones early twenties with young men lagging a year or two behind young women. Explains a lot!

  8. Adults also take risks and get hit by trains, I’m sure. Think about an adult deep in conversation on a cell phone who drives into a railroad crossing just as the gates are descending.

  9. Driving down a road that crosses a railroad track is one thing.
    Intentionally walking down tracks is quite another.
    A distracted driver is different from a kid without a fear of risk.
    Same result though.

  10. I recall an incident a few years back where some poor girls were surprised while sunbathing on the tracks (and fell asleep.) as a kid, I remember we used to seek out these kinds of places. its as much about being off of the adult’s radar as it is about finding a “shortcut.” I almost got flattened while exploring the kingsland tunnel in lyndhurst when I was 12 or 13. I had the classic moment of looking back and seeing that sole headlight approaching. I made the decision to right towards the light where I came from and it probably saved my life – the tunnel in the other direction turned out to be about 3 times longer. it was almost exactly like the scene in Stand by Me when the kids make it off the bridge by a couple of seconds. yes, do remind them and remind them often. it might get through for a couple weeks at a time.

  11. Mr Mitty,
    The SRO is the School Resource Officer. Most schools have a police officer (or more assigned to the school. Stop by and meet Kim Nelson. She can tell you what she does and you’ll probably understand that she is worth every penny she earns and maybe more!

  12. There’s a police officer at the high school? So is she paid by the police department or by the board of education?
    And if there is a police officer at the high school, why do they ever call the police?

  13. kids use the tracks by watchung as a place to get stoned. even the platform! i got off the train a while back to the smell of pot and saw our teenagers getting high right there.
    of course nobody cares.

  14. “i got off the train a while back to the smell of pot and saw our teenagers getting high right there”
    Yeah, but in 1973 that was pretty common..

  15. NJ Transit train operators complain or warn about children on the tracks in our area almost every day. They aren’t just playing though…there are groups of teenagers who routinely throw rocks at the train or who gather to do lewd activities, etc.

  16. I’ve got a wonderful idea? I think that Montclair taxpayers should pay a million dollars to upgrade their rail crossings to ensure that NJ Transit trains need not blow their horns. We wouldn’t want those stupid teenagers to be aware that the train is coming now would we?

  17. That’s not at all true. With the new upgrades in place, the trains will still be required to blow horns at each street crossing, even with a night time quiet zone. The upgrades will make it almost impossible for drivers who disregard the current crossing gates to do so, thereby increasing safety. Trains at crossings will still be required to blow the whistle once, and still blow the whistle once at stations. And they will still be required to blow the whistle for emergencies. If a teenager (stupid or not) is near a street crossing, they will still hear a whistle as well as the bells of the crossing gate going down.
    The specific area mentioned here, the same area where a boy was hit by a train, has NO requirement for blowing the whistle. Watchung is above street grade – no crossing, no whistle. The same at Watsesssing where someone was hit by a train a few months ago – NO requirements for whistles if the train is not going through a street crossing.
    Kids need to be taught to stay off tracks. Period. Teaching our kids basic safety, whatever the cost, is necessary. Walking along an elevated track – there will be NO warning if a train is approaching. None. This should not be confused with the quiet zone, which is a separate issue regarding the health and safety of business, homes and recreational areas with street level trains.

  18. Jerseygurl,
    So a million dollars will maintain the reduction of the horn from 4 blows to one at each crossing. Sounds like an excellent use of my money.
    Personally, I think that the jets that take off from Teterboro are way more of a noise pollution nuisance than the train horns. Perhaps they can cut their engines as they fly over 07043? Or perhaps we can create a giant soundproof glass bubble that will fit over Montclair? Imagine how much better the snow plowing would be. Let’s get crackin and float some bonds NOW!

  19. The dangers regarding kids on tracks and the quiet zone are two different issues. They need to be constantly reminded of the dangers of walking on train tracks.
    As far as the need for reduction from 4 blows to one, when the whistles are at decibel levels that OSHA requires workers at that level of exposure to wear protective devices on their ears, many would say it’s needed. Montclair has a unique relationship with the trains, only one other town in NJ has trains running right through the center of town at street level with multiple street crossings.
    Right now we have a quiet zone in place. If we don’t comply with the new regulations and you were standing with your children at the Walnut St. Farmer’s market on a Saturday when we finally get weekend service, you would be exposed to enough noise with 4 long blasts as the train approaches the street to cause hearing loss. For anyone who lives within a block of the trains, that would also mean hearing blasts loud enough to keep you from sleeping a full night. In addition to hearing loss, studies have proven that night time exposure to noise that loud at night has effects that include learning disabilities, miscarriages, and a much higher risk of hear disease and diabetes. The plows don’t wake people up nightly. Neither do the planes. Neither do the trains right now.
    The feds changed the rules and the town wants to comply to keep people safe. It’s less than one million dollars and it’s a one time cost to permanently keep a quiet zone. A less than 1% savings in our $115,000 annual school budget for only one year would more than pay for it. Further, if all the homes within earshot drop in value by 10% – 20% if we let the quiet zone expire, the town will wind up losing more than $1mm in tax revenues since that would be an annual loss, not a one time cost. The math is on the side of mitigating something that is a health risk.

  20. There are an awful lot of assumptions made.
    1. Montclair is unique in that the railway runs right through the middle of town with multiple street crossings? Come on now.
    2. Drop in property values from 10-20%?
    Be honest with me. Is it safe to assume that your home is one that is sitting adjacent to the railway ROW? Are you also aware that if NJ Transit sells their ROW to Conrail, you have absolutely no say if nuclear or toxic waste is shipped through your backyard continuously. If you purchased a home on a ROW, you already received a discount when you purchased the property and are taxed at a lower rate than those located further away from the rails. You are now asking those who did not stupidly purchase a home on the rails to subsidize your ill-made decision. Perhaps all of the homeowners who live among the rails should chip in and pay for it. Personally, I see it as just another huge waste of Montclair taxpayer money.
    And remember, those who lived among the rails were adamantly against the Montclair Connection as the increase in trains were supposed to lower their property values. As a compromise, they received a 3-year moratorium on weekend service. Then their property values shot through the roof as any home within walking distance to a station commanded a premium.
    Be careful with your assumptions. We are all not morons, like one who purchases a home on a ROW in the most densely populated state in the nation. Of course I am guilty as well. I chose to buy a home in a town that never says no to anything the constituents ask for. I can’t wait for the new school to open and the town to go completely bankrupt when the operating costs at the BOE shoot to the moon. I suppose Alvarez will need another monstrous (and uncontracted raise) since he will now be overseeing more educational real estate.
    I would have been more than glad to have installed a few trailer classrooms like every other town in NJ does. But not in Montclair, we are unique!

  21. 1. Montclair is unique. Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, West Orange – none of those towns have multiple street crossings at track level. Westfield does, and they too have applied for quiet zone status.
    2. Calling people morons for asking to have a significant health risk mitigated does little to further your argument. At the moment, Conrail does not own the tracks. At the moment, there is a quiet zone. Living near the tracks is not an ill made decision, there are hundreds of residences near tracks, and yes, many smart commuters enjoy the benefit of a short walk. However, if the town decides that the well being of people living near them is not important then yes, property values will go down if the quiet zone is no longer in place if people who live within earshot of whistles start to hear them at 1am and 5am. If something like getting rid of geese and doing repair work to the pond of Edgemont park is deserves attention, and the Watchung station can be renovated to the tune of $1mm, protecting a group of citizens from ill effects of health risks as a result of a change in federal laws should also be deserving of attention.
    There is no weekend service right now for a variety of reasons that NJT cannot control and given their budget problems I doubt adding service is a priority.
    And you are correct, the new school will send our already hight taxes even further through the roof once the operating costs are included in the BOE budget. That does not mean that we can cut municipal services down to a point at which health, safety and quality of life are so severely impacted we wind up living in a highly taxed town with zero amenities. One of our council members suggested having people in accidents pay a fee for having police and ambulance response – or a fee for firefighters to respond to a burning home. If you’re stupid enough or a moron for not cleaning your lint out of your dryer hose, should you pay to have firefighters come to your home?

  22. Two adjacent posts, each will approximately the same number of words, regarding the same topic. Yet, one is infinately more informative, interesting and on point than the other.
    Bravo, JG!

  23. Sorry Mellon,
    Just struggling to make ends meet.
    I suppose a horn ban will not have appeared to be such a bad thing when I’m living on the street.

  24. We’re all struggling. We still want potholes filled, police showing up at accidents and a town council that will seriously consider mitigating health risks. The BOE budget is the gorilla in the room.

  25. I’d like to see to see the ‘thug’ bird who tore open a robin’s nest – next to our porch – and cast two newborn babies out caught and punished.
    Could it have been another bull male Robin trying to take over territory. Some of the male birds are quite large. I’ve seen the pair making a new nest on my neighbor’s property. Perhaps they will have better luck net door.

  26. If you’re stupid enough or a moron for not cleaning your lint out of your dryer hose, should you pay to have firefighters come to your home?
    In an ideal world? Yes. Stupidity should be punished.

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