Have you ever seen a pickup truck driving along the railroad tracks in Albuquerque, Los Lunas, or Belen, and wondered how in the world is that possible and what is it doing out there? The pickup truck is actually called a Hi-rail, and the driver is Vincent Garcia, one of three Track Supervisors for Herzog Transit Services working along the New Mexico Rail Runner Express corridor.
As Track Supervisor, Garcia has a singularly important job – keeping people safe.
“I’m responsible for the railroad track from Belen to the Los Ranchos Rail Runner Station,” says Garcia. There are two other Track Supervisors that oversee the rest of the track from the Los Ranchos Station all the way north to Lamy.
Driving the Hi-rail at approximately 25 mph along the tracks on guide wheels that lower from the front and rear of the vehicle, Garcia looks for every possible problem with the track and the surrounding area. “I inspect the track for any deviations, bad areas, and alignment issues. I make sure the signs are put up right. I also inspect the right of way to insure there are no weeds that might impede the train, items on the tracks, and even people on or by the tracks.”
Garcia’s diligent inspections keep the track, which is used by the Rail Runner, BNSF and Amtrak, in compliance with Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) requirements. “It’s my responsibility to make sure the trains are going safely at the speed they need to go,” he says.
When asked what the most important rail safety tip advice he would share with the public, Garcia did not hesitate in his response. “Don’t park on the track when you come to a road crossing. And don’t walk on the track. A train or a Hi-rail vehicle can come at any time,” he says.