ROCKLAND, Maine — Edward Thorbjornson didn’t hear the bells, he didn’t see the flashing lights. So imagine his surprise when he looked out the window of his pick-up truck to see a train barreling toward him and his 13-year-old grandson, Jayce, as they crossed railroad tracks in Rockland Tuesday.
Lucky for Thorbjornson, 71, of Tenants Harbor, the cab of his truck had made it over the tracks, so when the train smashed into the back of the truck, neither he nor his grandson were hurt.
“We were very lucky,” Thorbjornson said Wednesday. “That’s the reason I’m talking to you I guess.”
Thorbjornson said he was driving his grandson, Jayce Thorbjornson of Rockland, from school to his home when the truck rattled over the tracks.
“I didn’t hear any horn until I got to the tracks, and I look to my left and there it is coming right at me,” he said. “I didn’t have time to think. It hit me in about 2 seconds.”
Thorbjornson was expecting to stop at the redemption center in Rockland, just hundreds of feet from the accident (“We never got to that”), before driving to his house. The bottles and cans were in bags in the back of the pickup truck and went flying into the road when he was hit.
“Had I been 2 seconds slower, you wouldn’t be talking to me. It was very lucky the way it happened the way it did,” he said Wednesday.
The train’s impact spun the truck around on Pleasant Street, knocking it into an electric pole which shut down power locally for a while Tuesday.
The truck received about $14,000 worth of damage, according to Rockland police officer Lloyd Daniels. The train, which was carrying six Dragon Cement carriers, sustained minor damage.
The railway intersection on Pleasant Street near Rockland City Hall has a bell system and a flashing light system, but no gates. Thorbjornson and two other witnesses said they did not hear or see any warnings until the train’s whistle blew. But when police asked the train to back up to test the alarm system, all was in working order, Daniels said.
Gordon Page, vice president of Maine Eastern Railroad said the driver, Andrew Blanchard, 35, of Cushing, was following the rules. Train alert systems on roadways are regulated by Maine Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration.
“The railroad was operating under federal rules and everything was working and was in compliance,” Page said Wednesday.
Alcohol, drugs and speed were not factors and no charges are pending, police said.