Jackie Antee has lived on Buddy Brown Road for 30 years, and he can’t count the number of times he’s driven over the railroad crossing on Walter Lyons Road. In the past, crossing the tracks was simply an exercise in caution, watching for approaching trains.
Today, he has to be more careful than at any time in the past. Antee and other residents who live in the area must avoid loose timbers, rough roadway in the crossing, bent railroad spikes with sharp edges around the heads and one spike with its rounded head missing.
“It’s been in pretty bad condition for the past 15 to 20 years and it has deteriorated even more since that time,” Antee said, pointing to a particularly rough section of the crossing. “I’ve crossed it every day for 30 years and I’ve never seen it this bad.”
Antee said he remembers reading a news story in July in which officials for the operators of the railroad, Watco Companies of Pittsburg, Kan., said repairs on the Walter Lyons Road and Dorcheat Road crossings would begin July 14.
“I was pleased to hear that, so I waited until July 14 and came to the crossing several times, but did not see any work going on,” he said. “I know things happen and schedules sometime change, but July 14 has long since come and gone and still nothing has been done.”
David Gallion, roadmaster with Watco which leases 157 miles of track from Kansas City Southern under the name Louisiana Southern Railroad, said Tuesday that he hopes to begin work on the Walter Lyons Road crossing in the very near future.
“We know it needs to be done and I plan to get to it as quickly as I can, hopefully in the next few weeks,” Gallion said. “We’re also planning to do repair work on the Dorcheat Road crossing which is some distance north of Walter Lyons Road.”
Gallion was speaking of the second Dorcheat Road crossing near the Methodist Camp Road.
Gallion said he had planned to begin work on Walter Lyons Road earlier this year but other projects got in the way.
“A while back we had it set up to do, we just got busy on other projects that really had us strung out,” he said.
Antee said he was glad to hear that Watco was still planning to repair the crossing, but he is also worried that vehicles, including a school bus which navigates the crossing four times daily, could be damaged.
“Cars have to come almost to a complete stop and ease across,” he said. “The residents out here pretty much know how to avoid the spikes and bad places, but someone who isn’t familiar with the crossing could seriously damage their car. Two vehicles can’t cross at the same time without taking a chance of damaging one of them.”
“The condition of the crossing seriously concerns me,” Jerri Lee, the Webster Parish Police Jury member who represents the area said. “People have to angle to cross here and you could have something serious happen.”
Antee said he will be waiting for repairs to begin. When that happens, he said, it will put the finishing touch on a promise he made to himself and others in the area.
“I’m not one to give up, and I promised to continue trying until (the crossing) gets fixed,” he said. “I’ll be watching for the repairs to begin.”