WSOR Safety

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Safety has been a top priority for WSOR since the inception of the company in 1980. We recognize that safety is an obligation to our team members, to our customers, and to the general public.

Involved training, continuing education, and frequent proficiency testing of our team members reinforces the value we place on safety in the workplace and on the rails. Team members of all levels are accountable for ensuring their own safety and the safety of their co-workers, preventing accidents and injuries, and having a positive safety attitude. Our trainmen are reminded about safety every day. Many of our locomotives carry a sign near the steps: “YOU HAVE THE RIGHT AND THE OBLIGATION TO WORK SAFELY.” At the start of every shift before any work is begun, a Job Briefing is held where safety issues are addressed. No job is so important, no service so urgent, that we cannot take the time to perform all work safely.

We are also committed to providing a safe work environment for all team members. Watco initiated a Team Safety and Improvement Committee (TS&IC) in 2010 to address team member safety concerns. Meeting monthly, safety issues are discussed, courses of action determined, and assignments given to specific departments. As a result of these meetings, many improvements have been made.

We have published a Safety Handbook to help our customers handle, load, and unload their cars safely. Our staff visits customer locations to assist with safety issues and answer questions. WSOR has promoted safety awareness training with area public safety agencies and taken strong measures to ensure the public’s safety at grade crossings.

Training Department

An integral part of WSOR’s Safety program is the thorough training of new job applicants whom have been selected for employment with WSOR. Existing team members receive refresher training on issues such as: Safety, Train Handling, Air Brake Systems, Hazardous Materials, Operating Rules and Regulations, and Mechanical Procedures.

Training Program Mission Statement: The Wisconsin & Southern’s Training Department offers a quality program dedicated to the education of qualified employment applicants who need to obtain a working knowledge of freight railroad operations with an emphasis on safety and sound tradecraft. These courses are supported by up-to-date materials and hands-on field experience. Individual instruction by qualified presenters and limited class sizes ensure the personal growth and success of participants.

Awareness Training

awareness_training1 WSOR is dedicated to working with state, county, and local governments to make our rail corridors safe. Each year, WSOR hosts emergency training in cooperation with area emergency responders, police departments, and fire departments. An emergency situation is simulated to create a real-life environment for hands-on training. In this way, responders, officers, and fire fighters can become familiar with the unique aspects of railroad equipment and how it operates.

Field training is supplemented with classroom sessions that cover topics such as safety around railroad tracks and equipment, handling of hazardous materials by rail, emergency contact information, stopping trains, locomotive emergency response, and methods for use in extricating crew members from damaged locomotives in train wrecks.

WSOR has also partnered with GATX, —a dealer of rail tank cars, —to enhance tank car training for local law enforcement and emergency responders from all over southern Wisconsin. The 3-day event has been held in Janesville and Horicon, Wisconsin and has attracted hundreds of responders. For awareness_training2these events, an actual tank car with displays of tank car equipment was on site. Attendees walked through the interior of a tank car to view first-hand the safety mechanisms that today’s tank cars have in place to protect the safety of the general public and railroad personnel. A classroom session also explained the mechanics and background on tank cars.

For more information, contact Matt Koser at (608) 620.2043, or by email at

Crossing Stop Signs

Grade crossing incidents are a major concern for any railroad company. For several years, WSOR made it a priority to install stop or yield signs at every passive (non-signaled) grade crossing on the WSOR system. Countless presentations were made to local governments to state the case for stop sign installation. The goal was to significantly reduce grade crossing incidents and improve public awareness of the dangers associated with grade crossings.

The successful efforts have had a state and national impact. In 2006, the state of Wisconsin enacted law that mandates installation of yield signs at all passive highway-rail crossings. Three years later in 2009, the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, a part of the Federal Register, mandated the display of yield or stop signs along with standard crossbucks at all passive highway-rail crossings. The Federal Highway Administration noted that “while the crossbuck sign is in fact a regulatory sign that requires vehicles to yield to trains and stop if necessary, recent research indicates insufficient road user understanding of and compliance with that regulatory requirement when just the crossbuck sign is present at passcrossing_stop_signs1ive crossings.”

WSOR’s progressive action to improve public safety has had a statewide and national impact that will save lives now and in the future.

Operation Lifesaver


The Wisconsin & Southern Railroad supports Operation Lifesaver, because we would like to remind you to always use caution at railroad crossings.

Operation Lifesaver is a national, non-profit education and awareness program dedicated to ending tragic collisions, fatalities, and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and on railroad rights of way. To accomplish its mission, Operation Lifesaver promotes the three E’s:

Education: Operation Lifesaver strives to increase public awareness about the dangers around the rails. The program seeks to educate both drivers and pedestrians to make safe decisions at crossings and around railroad tracks.
Enforcement: Operation Lifesaver promotes active enforcement of traffic laws relating to crossing signs and signals and private property laws related to trespassing.
Engineering: Operation Lifesaver encourages continued engineering research and innovation to improve the safety of railroad crossings.

Operation Lifesaver started in Idaho in 1972 when the national average of collisions at highway-rail grade crossings exceeded 12,000 per year. A six-week public awareness campaign called Operation Lifesaver” was sponsored by the office of Governor Cecil Andrus, the Idaho Peace Officers, and Union Pacific railroad as a one-time, one-state initiative. During the campaign’s first year, Idaho’s crossing-related fatalities dropped by 43 percent. Since then, 49 states have initiated independent Operation Lifesaver programs. Operation Lifesaver’s website offers railroad safety tips for motorists and pedestrians. It also provides statistics, contacts at the 49 state Operation Lifesaver programs, and other information of interest.operation_lifesaver1

Nationwide, Operation Lifesaver has thousands of trained and certified presenters that deliver Operation Lifesaver’s safety message to millions of people every year. These presenters are available for school and civic groups, and public events.

To request a Presenter, contact Matt Koser at (608) 620.2043, or by email at

For more information on state and local activities and volunteer opportunities, please contact Jim Tracey, Wisconsin State Coordinator of Operation Lifesaver at 1-800-WIS-RAIL (947-7245) or by email . You can also visit Operation Lifesaver’s website.

Customer Safety Manual

WSOR’s staff has prepared a handbook designed to assist our customers in the safe handling of railcars within the confines of their facilities. WSOR is safety_manualcommitted to offering the highest level of service to all of our customers. In order to do that, we have asked each of our team members to unconditionally commit to workplace safety.

Our Customer Safety Handbook will serve as a guide to safe rail operations, with special focus on customer trackage. It is intended to educate customers’ employees on the hazards of rail operations, and will increase their level of awareness of situations that may impact the safety of both WSOR and customers’ employees. Topics include Working with Railway Equipment, Clearance Requirements, Track Maintenance and Inspections, and general information on Hazardous Materials.

Informing our customers and contractors of the hazards of rail operations and safety compliance requirements is key to the continuous improvement of our safety performance and our commitment as a partner.

Download 2016 Safety Manual

Weed Control Operations

The Wisconsin & Southern Railroad conducts routine weed control spraying along all railroad rights of ways operated and under the control by Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co. This is a standard measure to control weeds, maximize the effectiveness of existing drainage facilities, improve safety of railway workers, and to lengthen the useful life of railway infrastructure.

If you have any questions regarding a recent or upcoming weed control application, you may contact Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co. directly at 608-620-2048. Or you may call the following toll free number to reach the chemical manufacturer if you have specific questions about the composition and/or manner of herbicide applications: 1-800-441-7515.