Amtrak: DPU responsible for signaling devices at railroad crossings


LONGMEADOW, Mass. (WWLP) – Longmeadow DPW worker Warren Cowles was killed instantly Tuesday when his plow truck was hit by an Amtrak Train clearing snow of the tracks.

The 22News I-Team has been at the crash site these last two days and discovered this isn’t the first deadly accident at this railroad crossing. We’ll reveal the warnings that have been ignored for decades.

The I-Team was at the crash site Wednesday afternoon and watched crews pull the Cowles DPW truck out of the pond alongside the tracks. Out of respect for the family, we didn’t show that on air, but we can show you just how dangerous this railroad crossing is.

At crossing on Birnie Road in Longmeadow there aren’t any flashing signals or crossing sticks to warn a driver a train is coming.

“This is why people die like that like is because there is no warnings and warnings should be everywhere,” said Eric Frehoffer from Lee.

This also isn’t the first time a deadly accident has happened at this Birnie Road railroad crossing. The I-Team pulled accident records and discovered 5 people have died and there have been 7 accidents involving a train here since 1975.


  • 8/26/75 – One person killed when their truck was hit while it was moving over the tracks at 1:25AM
  • 5/20/81 – Two people were killed when their car was hit while it was stopped on the tracks at 5:00PM
  • 12/10/82 – One person was killed when their truck was hit while stopped on the tracks at 7:05PM
  • 6/20/83 – No one was hurt when a car was hit when it was stalled on the tracks.
  • 11/18/90 – One person injured when a car was hit moving over the tracks at 2:43PM
  • 7/27/05 – No one was hurt when a car was hit while it was stopped on the tracks at 1:20PM
  • 3/14/17 – One person was killed when their truck was hit crossing the tracks at 4:00PM

Still, there is just a stop sign warning drivers of any incoming train.

Investigators were back at the crash site on Wednesday, getting the truck out of the pond alongside the tracks.  State Senator Eric Lesser told 22News after the investigation is finished, lawmakers need to make sure this intersection is safer.

“We can decide things like more gate restrictions, better safety precautions. Because it absolutely is a tragedy and we owe it to the public to make sure something like this never happens again,” said State Senator Eric Lesser, (D) Longmeadow.

A Federal Railroad Administration spokesperson told 22News flashing lights and gates cost around $250,000.

An Amtrak spokesman told 22News in Massachusetts the state Department of Public Utilities is responsible for installing any signaling devices at railroad crossing at public highway railroad grade crossings.  If one is installed the railroad owner would have to maintain it.

(Story Archive from March 15, 2017)

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