Skip to Main Content
Railroad News

Twin Cities Suburb Not Happy with Stored Rail Cars Attracting Local Children

By Pottroff & Karlin LLC |

(Lakeville, Minnesota – August 30, 2013)

 As residents of a St. Paul, MN neighborhood reel in the aftermath of the tragic injuries resultant from a local nine-year-old’s tragic encounter with a train while playing near his home last week, another Twin Cities suburb, where trains and standing rail cars are all too familiar, is recruiting help from high places, hoping to prevent a repeat of the tragedy in their community.

Lakeville, MN, home to not only short line railroad conglomerate Progressive Rail, Inc., but also to a large number of adventurous kids and concerned parents, has reached out both to the news media as well as elected officials as they battle for safer conditions in an area used for short and long-term storage of rail cars that seem to serve as an “attractive nuisance” for local youngsters.

On Thursday, August 15, Marshawn Farr-Robinson, 9, of the St. Paul neighborhood known as North End, lost both of his feet when he tried to climb aboard a slow moving Canadian Pacific freight train on tracks owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe in an area known to be frequented by children and adults both, and which had questionable-quality protection or warning from the hazards obvious to the railroads but not necessarily to elementary school children.

Last Thursday, local MSP TV station KSTP-TV, Channel 5, Reporter Beth McDonough and a news crew made a visit to Lakeville, on the far south side of the Twin Cities area, to study the situation and hear the nature of the community’s concern.

Lakeville community activist Rick Gonzales lives within sight of what he calls “an eyesore” and “dangerous”: stored rail cars held on tracks that run through the city’s neighborhoods and serve as a temptation for unsupervised or adventurous children. “Rail cars are heavy, metal, sharp objects, (and) it’s just a matter of time before an accident happens – and it’s not going to be pretty, “predicts Gonzales.

Lakeville Police officials are aware of and have responded to complaints of children seen playing on or near the stored railroad cars 13 times through the summer months of June, July and August, according to LPD Chief Tom Von Hof, who acknowledged the potential of the danger of children being trapped inside or falling from the tops of the rail cars, but also that city authorities are stymied in getting assistance from Progressive, which stores as many as 300 cars in the allegedly active rail yard. As is the standard operating procedure of railroad companies, Progressive claims federal exemption from local ordinance or regulation and therefore has no intention of changing.

Lakeville residents – at least 150 of them, altogether, who have suffered a five percent decline in their property values, a drop attributable by assessors as the simple fact that the properties are in a “blighted” area simply because of their proximity to the railroad yards.

But another entity to which Lakeville residents have appealed, federal elected officials, have threatened to come to the residents’ aid if local efforts continue to be ignored. According to the office of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), “These empty rail cars need to be moved. They are compromising public safety, negatively affecting home values and burdening businesses and residents in Lakeville. I have urged the railroad to work cooperatively with the residents of Lakeville and will continue to work to find solutions to resolve the issue.”

Meanwhile, even though the beginning of the new school year may otherwise occupy children’s idle time for several hours daily, the temptation remains. As one youth, identified as Aidan Gott, told KSTP in summing up the kids’ argument, “I’m bored, (and) it gives you something to do in the summer.”

Unfortunately, the situation is neither productive, educational, nor safe. And as Gonzales warned earlier, “it’s just a matter of time before an accident happens…”


Railroad News


Train crash cases are unique and complex with many different potential pitfalls, such as federal preemption. Anytime I get hired or even get a call from a train crash victim, my very first call is to Nathan’s firm. Nathan’s knowledge and experience in handling and trying cases against these litigation savvy railroad companies gives me the confidence to know that the clients and cases I refer to him are getting the best of the best.

James Perrin Lubbock, Texas

I have had the opportunity to work as co-counsel with Nathan on several railroad crossing accidents cases. In each case, Nathan always possessed an incredible knowledge of the law and the facts, possessed a great talent for aggressive - strategic legal planning and trial tactics while, at the same time, displaying great skill as an effective negotiator. I would recommend him to anyone without hesitation.

Scott McCluen Harriman, Tennessee

Nathan Karlin has my strongest endorsement in the field of railroad crossing cases and personal injury law. I had the pleasure of working with Nathan in a complex railroad personal injury case. I was impressed by Nathan’s knowledge, his work ethic, and his dedication to the client. I look forward to working with Nathan on future injury matters. I am also aware firsthand that he has obtained excellent trial and settlement results in numerous cases involving members of the public harmed by railroad companies.

Joseph M. Miller Mandeville, Louisiana

Nathan is a warrior fighting the railroads. As a fellow personal injury lawyer, I have constantly been impressed with his depth of knowledge and his capabilities from case to case. I’d take him into battle with me any day against the biggest railroads and insurance companies on the planet.

Jon C. Clark Austin, Texas

Bob Pottroff has fought for the victims of the railroads’ callous disregard for safety more than any other attorney that I know. I should know because I am currently Chair-elect of the Railroad Section of ATLA.

Robert Schuetze Boulder, Colorado

Mr. Pottroff has shaken the rail industry to its very roots. Settlements are now more common as a result of the way he has exposed the industry’s wrongdoing.

Mike Easley Arkansas

Bob Pottroff’s work in railroad safety law is unmatched and he has been the source of great advice and phenomenal creativity.

Roger Brown Jefferson City, Missouri

In addition to his substantive contributions to railroad grade crossing safety, I have personally observed his untiring efforts and contributions to improving the integrity of the legal system.

Elizabeth Hardy Lake Charles, Louisiana

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8