We’ve all waited for trains. The blinking bar comes down to block you from crossing and you begin the long, monotonous process of waiting for the seemingly endless line of train cars to pass. You count them, fiddle with your radio or maybe even check Facebook and Twitter. But it’s over relatively quickly and you go on your way. That’s not the case for one Kosciusko County family.
“It’s gotten progressively worse over the years,” Mike Meck of Warsaw said. “There used to be a train out here maybe once a week for a half hour or something like that. But not hours and hours each day like it has been the past few years.”
The Meck family owns an 80-acre farm in Warsaw which has been in the family since 1959. It’s a beautiful plot of land, with horses and plenty of areas to take ATVs for a spin. But it has one caveat; the end of the driveway has train tracks on it for a passing lane used by Norfolk Southern. And they use it…frequently.
“Over the last 30 days, we’ve waited seven hours for access to our home,” Meck said.
The passing lane allows trains travelling in opposite directions to pass each other without a hitch, but the Meck’s have suffered tremendously from the delays it causes.
“There’s no schedule for the trains so you never know when you’re going to get blocked in,” Meck said. “We could go out to supper tonight and come back and sit out here for three hours to get in to our property and my wife has bad health.”
Wendy Meck was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. She is currently in remission but gets checkups every year but during her time with the disease, she would occasionally get blocked in her home making her late for appointments.
“Once in a while I’d be late for an appointment,” Wendy said. “Chemo or radiation. It just hasn’t been the best at times.”
And as agonizing as chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be, there were times she would come home and not be able to access her home.
“You just want to get in your house and lay down,” Wendy said. “It’s been a pain.”
Aside from Wendy’s medical issues, Mike worries about emergencies.
“I’ve had to rush my wife to the hospital because she’s hemorrhaging,” Mike said. “It just so happens there wasn’t a train here. But what if there was? They say if there’s an emergency they’ll take care of the train but I know they don’t. One day we came back from chemotherapy and she was so violently ill. We had to sit here for three hours. I told the superintendent how sick she was and we needed her in our home. It didn’t make a difference. They don’t care.”
One of the benefits of the farm is the amount of land the Meck’s have for their children and grandchildren to do whatever they want like riding horses or ATVs. However, if an accident happens and a train is in the way, things could get worse.
“If we have an emergency and a train is blocking the driveway, we’re going to be in trouble,” Meck said. “Paramedics can’t fit a gurney under the train if they need to get to us.”
“He should have the freedom of going whenever he pleases,” Sam Meck, Mike’s son said. “I hope they can come to some type of resolution and figure something out so my parents can have access and move freely so they’re not trapped by the trains.”
Mike and his family try to go about their normal activities even if a train is in the way. During the winter when schools were closed, his grandchildren would come to stay with him and his wife. One time there was plenty of snow on the ground and a train was blocking the driveway.
“I came out with a flashlight to help my little grandchildren cross the freight train that could start up at any moment,” Meck said. “But I couldn’t let them stay out there with temperatures a few degrees above zero. What’s a person to do?”
“It’s scary because it still makes noise and I’m afraid it will start up and start moving when we’re on top of it or under it,” Logan Svinarich, Mike’s grandson said. “It’s a hazard and could kill you.”
The inconvenience has started ruining holidays as well. On the 4th of July, the family was getting ready to see fireworks when a train pulled up at 7:30 p.m. It was there for over three hours.
“It pretty much ruined our entire cookout,” Mike said. “Everyone was getting ready to go see fireworks and we had eight to ten cars in our driveway that couldn’t go anywhere.”
The family was able to get out to see fireworks but their groceries haven’t been so lucky in the summer heat.
“I came home from getting groceries,” Wendy said. “It was hot outside and I had ice cream and butter and other perishables. The train sat here forever. We must have been out here for 45 minutes or longer.”
Mike has contacted Norfolk Southern and his local Senator about the situation but nothing has been fixed. He’s been told he can file a lawsuit, but he says it would cost thousands of dollars and he would probably lose.
“It’s frustrating, very, very frustrating,” Mike said. “It really eats at a person after a while. It’s very aggravating to know someone in this country, in this day and age, can deny you access to your home.”
We attempted to call Norfolk Southern for comment but no one was available on the weekend.