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I don’t walk along the railway tracks, although it often seems to be the shortest distance between two points in Parry Sound. Spending time on the tracks can be deadly.

But what the odds were of ‘running’ into a train if you decided to either cross the tracks, or walk along them. These are quick and dirty numbers. The figures I’ll present relate to the CN, track; that is the track used 95%+ of the time by the southbound trains, and winds its way through town crossing Isabella Street, Church Street, Cascade Street, Forest Street and finally Parry Sound Drive.

If you were to approach this track and decide to cross there is a one in twenty (5%) chance that there would be a moving train blocking your path. This is based on my measurements earlier this year that found an average of seventeen trains pass through town on this track, each taking an average of about four minutes to pass by any point.

That’s not too hard to understand. If there is a train in your way you will make the decision to wait and cross after it has passed. And if there is no train blocking the way, and you don’t see one coming (you need to look both ways because they do change direction from time to time), the odds are high that you can make it across safely. The exception of course is if you are trying to move equipment across the track, or you have some type of motorized vehicle that might get caught on the tracks as recently happened north of town.

But what if you wanted to walk along the track to ‘take the shortest path’? If you were to walk along the tracks for ten minutes there is a one in eight (12%) chance of ‘meeting’ a train. That’s better than the odds for Russian roulette at one in six, but the outcome is the same.

If you did meet a train the chance of getting off in time is lower than you might think, especially if you were if you were walking in the same direction with headphones on and the train came up behind you. The train would literally sneak up on you. And with the many curves in the track hiding the approach of a train, and hiding you from the engineer, the odds of an accident become unacceptably high.

What about the north bound track, the CP track that goes over the high bridge? The odds of meeting a train would be about the same, but you would have even less time to get out of the way. The northbound train travels about 50% faster than the southbound train, 75 kph versus 50 kph. There would be even less chance to get out of the way in time.

The bottom line; walking on the tracks is a bad idea; the odds are not in your favour. If you want to play the odds, go to a casino. You’ll still lose on average, but it won’t cost you your life.