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On Track In Massapequa

Trains can be a lot of big, noisy, speedy fun, whisking you away to all sorts of exciting locations; however, trains can also be a dangerous place where youngsters can get hurt if proper care is not taken when it comes to safety and following the rules.

Luckily, the Long Island Rail Road has been conducting outreach programs for the past 20 years on the importance of exercising care and common sense when it comes train safety; LIRR Community Relations Specialist Chrisann Fabio recently conducted one such program at Massapequa’s Bar Harbour Library that was aimed at younger kids, an age group that she said was especially important to educate on the subject.  

“We go out to schools, libraries, and fire departments, and talk to different community groups — depending on the age group — about how to be safe around the trains and the tracks...what to do and what not to do,” she said. “It’s a free service to keep people safe and prevent them from getting injured, and just to educate them about trains in general; so they know what a conductor is, what the third rail is, that sort of thing.”

Fabio’s program, entitled TRACKS — which stands for “Together Railroads And Communities Keeping Safe” — features an interactive lecture with the kids in the audience on aspects of train safety, such as where to stand on the station platform, stepping over the gap between the platform and the train, always holding a parent’s hand in a crowded train station, and many other ways of keeping sound an secure when traveling by rail.

The program also involves pictures, sound, and even a cartoon presentation with the program’s mascots: Sly Fox and Birdie the Bird. The gist of it is that Birdie always follows the rules, whereas Sly Fox...well, not so much. And it’s up to the kids to point out when Sly is engaging in risky behavior, such as when he’s walking on or placing found objects on train tracks or throwing objects at locomotives that are passing by, Fabio said.

“It’s to get down on their level so that they understand what I’m talking about,” she said. “So when they get older and they’re exposed more to the trains or when they’re even on their own, they know what to do, and more importantly, what not to do.”

Robert Pontecorvo of Massapequa attended the program with his two children; Kayla, age 7, and Matthew, age 5.

“We take part in a lot of things at the library...we enjoy their programs,” he said. “One thing that I was happy and surprised about was how the railroad’s campaign of ‘Watch the Gap’ has even sunk in on them...that my daughter knew how to answer that question when the lady asked it today. That’s in interesting result that’s boiled down to their level.”  

Kayla enjoyed the presentation by Fabio and the LIRR, and said that she learned a great deal about train safety that day.

“You have to listen to the rules,” she said. “If you don’t, you might get hurt or even killed. I don’t ride on trains much but sometimes I do, and the next time I’ll make sure I follow all the rules and stay safe.”

Matthew, a train-lover, had gotten a new train set for Christmas recently, and really enjoyed the chance to learn even more about them.

“I had fun today,” he said. “I learned that you can’t go on train tracks or train bridges.”

Fabio conducts these programs on a regular basis all over Long Island, including Queens and Brooklyn; she said that wherever there is a need, all a community has to do is call and she will respond.

“Any school, library, or anywhere else...if someone contacts us and tells us that they’d like us to come and do our program, we’ll go out there and set it up,” she said. “Keeping kids safe and secure is our number one concern.”

Appointments for the LIRR TRACKS program can be made by calling 718-558-3028.