Tonight on the train we were cruising along when I heard a clunk noise and we started to slow down fairly quickly. Once we stopped (Im guessing at least a half mile from when I heard the clunk) a conductor announced that we had a "near miss with a trespasser." "Trespasser" is a Caltrain codeword for anyone or anything that goes around the crossing arms and gates when they are activated.
In this case, apparently a car did not want to wait and had driven around the arms and the engineer pushed the Emergency Stop button (or pulled the lever, or shoved the switch, or clicked the icon - I have no idea since I'm mostly making this up as I go). Before we could start going again, a conductor had to go outside and check the air lines and look for debris. So we sat for about five minutes and then were on our way again.
The emergency stop was not that much different than a normal stop when pulling into a station, and I'm sure this is on purpose to prevent people from getting hurt or spilling their beers (yes, you are allowed to drink whatever you want on the train, and some people really enjoy that, sometimes to excess).
If the car had not been narrowly missed I would have ended up sitting there for at least an hour, maybe two. Unless the train is damaged (and they rarely are), they make the passengers stay on it while the investigation carries on. I'm really hoping I'm never on that train, but chances are it will happen eventually.
That's it - move along...
PS: Actually, it nearly happened to me one other time. I had gotten off the train and into the shuttle bus. The bus had to wait for the next train though, so we sat there for a few minutes. Then we started to hear sirens - lots of sirens. It turned out that the train I had just gotten out of went about a half mile down the tracks and ran over someone. We drove by the scene in the bus (once it was clear it was going to be a LONG time before trains started running again) and it was not a good thing to see. Another trespasser bit the dust. Or the rails, as it were.