Union Pacific Employees Honored for Outstanding Public Safety Commitment

Collage of Beachler Award winners Welch and James | LR

Beachler Award recipient Vernon James.

Beachler Award recipient David Welch.

Exemplary commitment to railroad safety and community outreach earned David Welch, conductor, and Vernon James, manager-Train Operations, Union Pacific Railroad’s 2023 Dennis G. Beachler Grade Crossing Safety Award.

David Welch and his team with the Beachler Award | LR

From left are Charles Gustafson, senior manager-Safety; David Welch, conductor; and Casey Clark, superintendent-Train Operations.

Union Pacific’s Beachler Award is awarded annually to both a craft professional and management employee focused on community grade crossing safety. Union Pacific shares the same goal as our regulators, customers and the communities we serve – to safely deliver every carload. Employee volunteers focused on outreach and proactive education play a key role in this effort.

“The award reflects our dedication to keep rail crossings safe and protect the public and our railroad family,” David Welch said.

Since 2007, Welch has volunteered for Operation Lifesaver – a national rail safety education nonprofit that partners with Union Pacific – to deliver rail safety presentations to Houston-area organizations, emphasizing pedestrian and driver vigilance around highway-rail grade crossings and railroad tracks.

“Identifying education opportunities may be as simple as reaching out to a trucking company along our route and setting up a rail safety presentation,” Welch said.

In Villa Grove, Illinois, Vernon James is an active volunteer in Union Pacific’s Crossing Accident Reduction Education and Safety program, known as UP CARES. A qualified presenter since 2006, he has spoken to more than 10,000 youth at high schools, driver education classes and Boy Scouts of America meetings.

“It’s fulfilling,” said James, who joined Union Pacific 20 years ago as a conductor. “You only need to experience one crossing incident to know you don’t want to see another.”

James noted most students don’t break down the math – the weight of a freight train versus their car.

“You can often see the moment it clicks with them,” James said. “There’s a need to continuously educate.”

Welch echoes James’ enthusiasm for these aha moments, noting it’s important for the public to gain awareness of the blue and white emergency notification signs at each grade crossing. 

“I love bringing rail safety directly to the public,” Welch said. “To be recognized as one of those doing extra to promote safety – with the public and our work family – is an honor.”

For more information, go to UPCARES.com to download rail safety PSAs and find additional rail safety information and links to Union Pacific’s rail safety partners. To learn more about Operation Lifesaver or become a volunteer, visit oli.org.

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