INTERVALE — An information attendant at the Intervale Scenic Vista rest area has been credited with saving a woman from a train when her SUV ran out of gas on nearby tracks.
Along with providing maps and information, Kerry Eisenhaur also makes sure the facility, one of 12 safety rest stops managed by the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs' Bureau of Visitor Services, is clean and tidy.
That’s why he was outside on the afternoon of Aug. 28, tending to the lawn, and how he came to the aid of a motorist who ran out of gas on the railroad tracks, as a Conway Scenic Railroad excursion train was making its way down the track, back to the station in North Conway.
“I heard the train whistle in the distance, and I went over to tell a family that the train was coming along, to make sure the kids got to see it when it came by,” said Eisenhaur, himself a train aficionado.
“Then I went back to what I was doing.”
But, he said, for some reason, he looked up again from his weed-whacking task and saw on the road — busy U.S. Route 16/302 — a gray SUV with its flashers blinking, stopped right on the tracks.
“She had run out of gas and was calling a friend to come help her,” he said.
“I told her there was a train coming and she looked at me and said, ‘You’re kidding!’”
Adrenaline kicked in, and Eisenhaur started pushing the vehicle, which had one tire on the track.
“I had to rock it a couple of time to get it over the track, and she was pushing and steering at the same time, and we got it clear of the track before the train came zipping through,” he said.
“I knew I had enough time to push (the vehicle) off the tracks, but I would have settled for just getting her out and waving goodbye to the car if I had to.”
Eisenhaur estimated 30 seconds elapsed between when the car was safely off the tracks and the train came by.
With the help of a bystander, Eisenhaur pushed the car to the safety of the rest area parking lot and went back to work on what turned out to be a not-so average day at the office.
The woman, whose name he did get, got help from a friend and went on her way.
He said he thinks she's from Fryeburg, Maine, as she said she was local, and her car had Maine plates.
“Our staff at the safety rest areas have a lot of responsibilities, being on the front line of providing information, advice, and a clean and safe place to take a break on their trips,” said BEA Commissioner Taylor Caswell.
“Saving lives is not in the handbook, but going above and beyond their job description is something they do every day, and Kerry is a great example of that. If not for him, this particular afternoon could have had tragic consequences.”
Brian Solomon, manager of marketing and events at Conway Scenic Railroad, issued the following statement:
"Crossing safety is an ongoing concern at the Conway Scenic Railroad and at railroads across the state of New Hampshire," he said.
"The railroad does its part to maintain its crossing with highways and provides required warnings to motorists of oncoming trains. It is the legal and moral obligation of the motorist to yield to trains at crossings and stay clear of the tracks.
"At busy grade crossings, (where tracks intersect with a highway at grade) crossing lights are in operation," he said.
But "unlike highway vehicles, a train is incapable of stopping short of an obstructed crossing. Furthermore the failure of a motorist to stop when the lights are flashing is an offense. Most crossing accidents are the result of motorists failing to yield," he said.
"Grade crossings are equipped with a blue Emergency Notification Sign with a unique identification number and an emergency phone number," Solomon said. "In the unlikely event that your vehicle stalls on railroad tracks, you should evacuate your vehicle immediately and call the emergency number. Remember that seconds count."