Heart of Dixie performs accident simulation

A train belonging to the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum overturned Saturday near Shelby County 31, leaving 15 people trapped in two train cars.

Fortunately, it was only a drill.

Heart of Dixie volunteers spent part of their weekend participating in the museum’s annual train accident simulation. Conductor Bill Houston, who led training exercise, said this year’s goal was to lessen the orchestrated chaos that surrounded last year’s simulation.

Rather than rely on the train conductor for guidance, each train car crew took responsibility for their passengers.

“What we want is for the crew to take command of their cars and make things happen instead of going through the conductor,” Houston said.

Calera Police and Calera Fire and Rescue were on standby as volunteers boarded the train shortly after 1 p.m.

Passengers were assigned injuries, ranging from a headache to a badly broken leg. Once the train made an abrupt stop near Shelby County 31, the passengers played up their injuries flawlessly.

“My head hurts! I need help!” shouted one passenger.

“Ow, ow, my leg!” shouted another.

Emergency personnel immediately arrived on the scene to remove passengers and crew from the train. Everyone was allowed back on the train after fire and rescue officials “surveyed” the wreckage.

Before the simulation, volunteers spent the morning in a training class at the Calera Public Library. There, they learned of the various volunteer opportunities at the museum. Volunteers interested in a spot on the train crew must pass a test to be certified, said volunteer Marcy Williams.

“There are 20 questions, multiple choice,” Williams said. “One of the questions was what to do when a child sticks his head out the train window, and the choices ranged from have his mother spank him to politely but firmly tell the child to keep their head and arms inside the train car.”

Williams said volunteers can also be ticket takers or work in the museum’s library or gift shop.

Saturday’s volunteer training comes weeks before the kickoff of Heart of Dixie’s 2009 season. The museum will host “A Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine” beginning March 27.

For more information about Heart of Dixie, call 668-3435.