Danelle in ProPublica

In 2022, Danelle Morton teamed up with ProPublica, America’s leading investigative journalism publication, for a two-year probe of safety on the rails.  Read here the 12 stories exploring the issues with two-mile long trains, how blocked crossings endanger children on their way to school, and detailed looks at how the railroads cover-up accidents, discourage workers from reporting injuries and harass, and even fire, staff who report safety hazards. 

The True Dangers of Long Trains

by Dan Schwartz and Topher Sanders, with additional reporting by Gabriel Sandoval and Danelle Morton, graphics by Haisam Hussein

Trains have been getting longer and longer, often two to three miles long, but no government body has determined if these train increase dangers to the community.  In this story, the ProPublica team uncovers the real dangers of long trains.

As Rail Profits Soar, Blocked Crossings Force Kids to Crawl Under Trains to Get to School

by Topher Sanders and Dan Schwartz, ProPublica, and Joce Sterman, Gray Television/InvestigateTV

When long trains get stalled outside the rail yard, small children must climb through them to get to school, and first responders can’t get to people who need ambulances or firefighters. Cities and states who pass laws to regulate this practice find out nothing they do can rein in the railroads.

“Do Your Job.” How the Railroad Industry Intimidates Employees Into Putting Speed Before Safety

by Topher SandersJessica Lussenhop, Dan Schwartz, Danelle Morton and Gabriel Sandoval

Under relentless pressure to keep trains moving – and profit margins high – this story shows how employees are threatened with being fired for slowing freight trains when they spot safety problems. 

Union Pacific Fired Him Rather Than Heed His Warnings of Dangerous Rail Conditions

by Danelle Morton and Topher Sanders, with additional reporting by Jessica Lussenhop

Johnny Taylor was a track inspector just trying to do his job in a marshy train yard in the Louisiana bayou.  As Union Pacific started moving more crude oil through his territory, Taylor realized doing his job well likely would get him fired.  The story describes how Taylor stood up to the railroad, and the price he paid. 

When Railroad Workers Get Hurt on the Job, Some Supervisors Go to Extremes to Keep It Quiet

by Topher Sanders, Dan Schwartz, Danelle Morton, Gabriel Sandoval and Jessica Lussenhop

Railroad officials have lied, spied and bribed to keep workers injuries off the books, because each injury impacts supervisors lucrative bonuses and promotions.  This is a shocking tale of neglect and abuse in one of the most dangerous workplaces in the United States.

A Train Took His Legs and Career. His Employers at the Railroad Put the Blame on Him

by Jessica Lussenhop and Topher Sanders

Injured railroad workers often sue their employers for the actions ProPublica detailed in this series.  When they do, the railroads have a shocking history of hiding evidence, covering up official actions and trying to ruin the character of the complainant.

What’s Missing From Railroad Safety Data? Dead Workers and Severed Limbs.

by Topher Sanders, Dan Schwartz, Danelle Morton and Gabriel Sandoval

There’s plenty of loopholes in the way rail safety data is reported to the government, mainly because the railroads can decide what they don’t need to report.  This final story in the series takes a deep dive into the gaps in reporting that allow severe accidents, and even deaths, to go unreported.