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Train operators: Children’s rides safe

By Karissa Minn
kminn@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY ó After a miniature train ride in South Carolina took a deadly turn off the rails Saturday, local park officials say they will continue to take measures to ensure their trains are safe.
Three of the trains depart from the Hurley Train Station at Dan Nicholas Park in Salisbury on warm-weather weekends. Children and their guardians ride on a track in compartments pulled by a pint-sized locomotive.
Don Bringle, director of the Rowan County Parks and Recreation Department, said the North Carolina Department of Labor inspects the parkís trains and tracks annually.
The park submitted a request for inspection in February and is waiting for a reply before the current inspection expires March 30.
Village Park in Kannapolis also operates a miniature train ride. Manager George Hall said the park had its yearly state inspection last week and was told there were no problems.
A park in Spartanburg, S.C., also passed such an inspection last week before a miniature train derailed and overturned, killing a 6-year-old boy and injuring 19 others. According to reports, a state safety inspector has been fired after admitting he falsified his report after failing to check the train for engine speed because the battery was dead.
But state inspections are not the only safety measures taken at local parks, the officials said. Staff members at Dan Nicholas Park inspect the tracks weekly and gauge them monthly to make sure they are aligned properly.
Bringle said operators must follow a standard checklist before each day of running the train.
ěThey check the oil, they check the gas, they check the belts and they check the condition of the train,î Bringle said. ěThey go out on the track itself and inspect the track for any limbs, rocks or any debris that could be on the track and clear that. Then, they make several test runs around the track before we allow any passengers on the train.î
Hall said drivers at Village Park also inspect the train and tracks and do a test run before operating the ride.
Operators at both parks are given annual training on how the train works and how to operate it safely. Hall said new drivers receive more extensive training than returning ones.
ěItís quite a process before they can actually go out on their own without any supervision,î Hall said. ěThey have numerous runs under their belt before they even do it with passengers.î
Both officials said that to their knowledge, the trains have never had accidents.
Bringle said over the past several years, Dan Nicholas Park has converted to a hydrostatic drive mechanism, which eliminated some parts and improved braking on the trains.
He said he doesnít expect anything to change because of the Spartanburg accident, but a risk control manager contacted him to do a visual inspection this week to make sure everything is safe.
ěIt definitely raises our awareness,î Bringle said.
Hall also said he doesnít expect Village Parkís operating procedures to change.
ěIt kind of makes you perk up a little bit and be aware,î he said, ěbut safety is always number one with us.î
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.

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