Early County News

Working on the railroad

Next Week

Residents of all small towns have idiosyncrasies that distinguish them from non-residents. It is sort of like a secret handshake to let you know they belong.

In Blakely, we all know who is from in-town or out-of-town by watching their car as they drive across the railroad tracks. If you are from Blakely, you know to slow down and veer towards whichever side will do the least amount of damage to your tires.

One year ago this week, while on an early morning run, I came across a young gentleman with a full beard who was testing the rails near one of our city crossings. After garnering his attention, I asked what was the possibility that something might be done to improve that particular crossing while noting that there were many more in similar condition throughout our town, as if he didn’t already know. I showed him where the wood had deteriorated, and the metal bolts were sticking up high enough to severe a tire.

His reply was not one of optimism. Like everything else not voted on by Congress, money would be a problem. There is little allocated for such repairs. Lack of workers is also a consideration. “We’ve been short of help for over a year.” That’s two years now.

“Maybe we could do a coal patch for that one,” he stated while pointing at a particular crossing. He went on to explain that plans were already in the works to make some repairs at the track on North Main Street and he was headed there to inspect those tracks.

But he warned about calling the number on the cross gates to ask for assistance. “Be specific about what you need.” He said that if you call and just say there is a problem with that intersection, they are going to assume there is a problem with the gates. “Then they’ll call me, and I’ll have to drive from Valdosta.”

The gates coming down and getting stuck for long periods is a consistent problem. “It happens more often in damp weather. The controls inside the box initiate an automatic reset and the gates drop for no apparent reason. So, they call me.”

Inside that silver box lies the problem. “I have seen parts inside those boxes dated as far back as 1942.”

It would be myopic on our part to think that Blakely is the only small town in southwest Georgia with such complaints about the railroad crossings. If so, then some of our sister cities are likely experiencing the same problems.

A month or so after my encounter with the bearded gentleman, local citizens joined forces to make phone calls complaining about our tracks. Shortly afterward, work was begun on the North Main tracks. If you made one of those phone calls, don’t pat yourself on the back. Your call did no good. According to the bearded gentleman, that work was scheduled long before those phone calls began.

Blakely Mayor Travis Wimbush told us that many persons of authority have made such calls, including our state representative, but with little success. “The railroad people are not easy to deal with,” Wimbush said. “Enough people have called already that they are aware of our problems.”

But, just in case calling the phone number on the gates might still do some good in the future, keep calling. Let’s annoy the heck out of those folks. Otherwise, we can all make like Job and be patient. We can also rotate our tires more frequently.

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