Walkertown cemetery visitors frustrated by stopped trains blocking only entrance, exit

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WALKERTOWN, N.C. — Visitors to the Garden of Memory Cemetery in Walkertown say paying their respects has become even more difficult in recent months.

Ronald Lee Barton said while visiting his late wife’s grave site last week, he became trapped in the cemetery grounds by a stopped train.

“I stayed in here a little over two hours,” he said. “I walked back down in those woods, and back against the mausoleums back there and couldn’t find a way out.”

The cemetery on Old Wakertown Road is down the street from a Norfolk Southern distribution facility.

Kathy Trivette’s mother was buried in the cemetery more than a decade ago. She said she worries about emergency access for those visiting.

“It may be 30 minutes and the train does not move, so I’ll leave and come back. And a lot of times the train is still there,” Trivette said.

Damon Melcho, the regional administrator for the cemetery, said Tuesday they’d like to work with the railroad company to come to a solution.

“The information would have to come from the train company, if they’re willing to give us a phone number to contact, we’ll post it. If they’re willing to give us a schedule we’ll hand it out. Up until now, those are the only ideas I’ve had,” he said.

Melcho said the cemetery would pay to print schedules for visitors if provided the information.

Trivette said she hoped to see things improve and voiced her concerns to the company by phone.

“When you have a loved one that’s there, that you want to go see, and cannot get in to see and to put fresh flowers on their grave, I think it’s very disrespectful,” she said.

A spokesperson for Norfolk Southern said they are still gathering more information about operations on Old Walkertown Road, but gave to following statement:

“Norfolk Southern makes every effort to minimize the time that trains interrupt motor vehicle traffic at crossings. At times, operational situations, such as track or weather conditions, might require a train to stop or slow, resulting in a temporarily blocked crossing. We apologize for any inconveniences to the community.

“In all instances, NS works to resume the safe movement of a train as quickly as possible. If a train blocks a crossing for an extended period, residents can contact NS Police at 800-946-4744. This number is on the emergency notification sign posted at every highway-rail grade crossing. Report the location, time, date, and how long the crossing was blocked, and include the six-digit Department of Transportation crossing identification number. That way, our team can better look into the matter for you.”

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