Miracle on Railroad Street revisited - the quest to say thanks

Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 06:04 PM.

Alvelo has no memory of the May 14, 1982 incident that almost took her life. She was 18 months old and playing with her 2-year-old cousin, Shaniena Tampakov, on the railroad tracks near their home on Railroad Street in Havelock.

Coming up the tracks, engineer Gerald Johnson was at the controls of a fully loaded Southern Railway train with Dunn as the conductor. Dunn had unsuccessfully tried to get off the run through Havelock that day but there he was aboard the 100-car train moving at 20 mph when he and Johnson noticed something on the tracks ahead.

“By the time we realized it was children, I

didn’t think we were going to get stopped,” Dunn said.

Johnson hit the brakes on the locomotive and sounded the whistle. Dunn said he bolted from the engineer’s cab onto the platform. Waving his arms, he frantically shouted, “Get out of the way! Get out of the way!”

Tampakov was standing at the edge of the tracks, but Alvelo was sitting between the rails as the 71,000-ton engines came upon her. It became apparent to Dunn that the children were going to be struck by the grab iron, or cowcatcher, a low metal skirt just inches off the ground that is designed to clear the tracks ahead of the locomotive.

“I hollered for her to lay down and she laid down just like I hollered,” Dunn said of Alvelo. “If she hadn’t, it would have cut her in two. It would have clipped her head right off.”



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