IN ADDITION to permanent warning signage, railroad personnel have placed numerous fliers like this one, located at Fitch Place crossing of Park Row and Federal Street, to warn people that trespassing along train tracks is a crime and could get them hurt or killed.

IN ADDITION to permanent warning signage, railroad personnel have placed numerous fliers like this one, located at Fitch Place crossing of Park Row and Federal Street, to warn people that trespassing along train tracks is a crime and could get them hurt or killed.

When Amtrak’s trains begin service to and from Boston in November, railroad personnel worry that people who walk alongide the tracks — in violation of federal law — will be putting themselves in danger.

SIGNAGE along the tracks near Brunswick Station warns pedestrians that walking along railroad tracks is a crime and could get them hurt or killed.

SIGNAGE along the tracks near Brunswick Station warns pedestrians that walking along railroad tracks is a crime and could get them hurt or killed.

Railroad workers and contractors say they frequently see people walking, biking or using all-terrain vehicles on the track beds.

Many of the trespassers don’t know it’s against the law. Police say others don’t care.

In many areas, tracks that now will be traveled by the Downeaster passenger train have not been used regularly for years. The relative inactivity has led some people tend to think it’s safe to walk alongside them.

But they’re mistaken, said Doug Clark, a contractor for Pan Am Railways and Maine Eastern Railroad.

Clark, who often works as a flagman for work crews who are upgrading the rails and track beds in advance of the Downeaster’s arrival, has been posting warning signs and placards on the timber ties in problem spots.

“All of (the trespassers) tell me they didn’t know it was illegal,” Clark said, “and others have said they didn’t see the warning signs.”

Two weeks ago, Clark saw six trespassers — “A group of five kids, couple of them pushing bicycles, and later a guy came out from Maple Street on what looked to be a convenient short cut,” he said — along a stretch of track between the Federal Street bridge and Park Row.

Three signs and a warning banner are posted at that spot, two on either side of the Fitch Place crossing. Two signs are large, more than 2 feet square; one is small; and the banner is 3 feet by 2 feet.

The signs hang at eye level, warning pedestrians that the track beds are off-limits; the banner hangs from an armadillo fence between The College Store and Androscoggin Savings Bank.

A 2011 study done by the Federal Railroad Administration found that the number of trespassing fatalities nationwide actually fell 1.4 percent last year. Still, local railroad personnel worry increased service will translate to a spike in incidents.

“There were no tresspass injuries or fatalities in Maine in 2011, which makes it sound like there’s really isn’t much of a probem,” said Fred Hirsch, state coordinator for Operation Lifesaver, a national railroad safety organization. “Near-misses aren’t usually reported. But talk to any train service personnel and uniformly they’ll you it’s almost a daily occurrence.”

Only four incidents occurred in 2011. Of those, only one — when the driver of a trailer-truck loaded wth trash broke through a closed, gated road crossing, and was struck broadside by the Downeaster at 70 mph — caused a fatality.

So far in 2012, there have been two track-related deaths.

In April, a Biddeford man walking along tracks with earphones on was struck and killed by the Downeaster, apparently because he failed to hear it coming. In a second incident, also in Biddeford, a man jumped from a trestle into the Saco River and drowned.

“There wasn’t a train coming, but he shouldn’t have been up there in the first place,” Hirsch said.

Police in Freeport and Brunswick plan to step up trackside patrols in the coming weeks and begin informational safety campaigns.

L.L.Bean warned its Casco Road and Double L Street employees not to recreate along the track right-of-way.

Warning information will be broadcast on the town’s local cable channel, and railroad security will partner with Freeport police for patrols along the track rightof way, more to pass out general information and copies of state and federal statutes than to “’cuff-and-stuff” violators, said Freeport Police Chief Gerald Schofield.

“People used to park along Hunter Road and go in there, but I haven’t seen that in quite a while,” Schofield said.

Meanwhile, Maine Eastern Railroad Vice President Gordon Page spoke of an incident this summer when, with a train bearing down on them, two men refused to move from where they were sitting directly between the rails — or, in train-speak, “between the gauge.”

The engineer and conductor put the train into a “controlled stop,” got out of the engine and asked the men what they were doing, Page said. They argued and eventually, without standing up, the pair slid and scooted off the tracks but did not leave the rock bed banking.

Police eventally took the men away in handcuffs.

The Downeaster weighs 570 tons unloaded. At its top speed of 70 miles per hour, it needs almost one-third of a mile to stop once the engineer applies the brakes. By comparison, “light rail” trains such as subway cars or Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s “T” trains need 600 feet for a full stop.

In the modern age of railroads, other historic warning signals don’t exist anymore. No black clouds billow from a smokestack, steam whistles no longer bellow and many rural crossings don’t even have swing-down gates.

Even the iconic “clicketyclack” of steel wheels rolling over the joints in spike-driven rails is a memory: Train officials say the Downeaster and other, higher-speed trains now glide over seamless welded rails, which are denser and run much quieter than the old jointed rails.

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