Allentown
68° F
Mostly Cloudy
Mostly Cloudy

Reading mindful of holiday parade crossing train tracks on Penn Street

By Ryan Hughes, Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published On: Nov 15 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 16 2012 05:04:08 PM CST

Tragedy on the tracks in west Texas brings back memories in Berks County, and has some parade organizers thinking safety.

READING, Pa. -

Tragedy on the tracks in west Texas brings back memories in Berks County, and has some parade organizers thinking safety.

A celebration quickly turned tragic Thursday afternoon when a train slammed into a parade float in Midland, Texas.

Four veterans were killed and 16 people were injured when a train slammed into the float at a railroad crossing, officials said.

The float was carrying wounded veterans. Spectators could only watch as the horrific accident unfolded right in front of them.

The Texas train terror brought back vivid memories in Topton, Berks Co.

"People yelled for him to get off the tracks," remembered Anthony Branco, Topton's borough manager.

It happened last month during the borough's annual Halloween parade. A float stopped on the tracks at North Home and Centre avenues.

"In the meantime, the gate came down and he ripped the gate off, which caused the train to come to an emergency stop," said Branco.

It was a tragedy avoided, but the borough has launched an investigation.

Across the county, downtown Reading was in prep mode Friday for its annual holiday parade down Penn Street on Saturday. The accident in Texas has shined a spotlight on safety.

Trains run right through the parade route at 7th Street. Every year, parade organizers make a request to halt train traffic to keep everyone safe.

"We make a formal request in writing to Norfolk Southern. From approximately 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., we ask for that crossing to be closed, and they monitor if the parade is going to take longer they won't open it up," said Chuck Broad, executive director of Reading Downtown Improvement District.

Although the train company has been notified, Broad won't take any chances in case a train does pass through.

"We have people at 7th and Penn to make sure people clear that intersection before the gates come down," said Broad.