CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Facing down the smoke and the fear, the largest commuter railroad in the United States says it’s making progress training suburban firefighters in the unique hazards of rail-rescue operations.

And on Friday, specialized training took place at the Metro-North train yard in Croton-on-Hudson, CBS 2’s Lou Young reported.

Firefighters were taken to a place where fire is the least of their worries, where one misstep can be fatal. It’s a world that they could be asked to enter at a moment’s notice to save you.

The training was done on trains that the public rides to and from work. They run through 11 different counties and hundreds of communities, and the last thing that anyone wants is for emergency rescuers to show up and not know what to do. Clearly, that’s a sure way to compound a disaster.

“[Firefighters] usually just ride on trains,” Hartsdale Fire Department Deputy Chief F.J. Spinelli told CBS 2’s Young. “They don’t actually have to think about how they run or how they operate on a daily basis, and this is a big eye-opener.”

“We took one of the mannequins out of [the train] in practice, and I’ve got to say that we had a little bit of a tough time getting through the seats in the train,” William Jones of the Larchmont Fire Department admitted.

Training involved smoke-filled electric trains and big-diesel engines with passageways like the inside of an old submarine. And firefighters learned how to take charge when seconds count to save a trapped engineer.

Wood chocks will hold a massive train in place, but once it starts moving very little can stop it. Five hundred firefighters have been through this course in the past four years, and it’s still a surprise every time.

“It was just the space itself,” Anthony Scopelliti of the White Plains Fire Department said.  “[I’m] looking in a confined space, up and down, underneath and even on the luggage rack. You never know where somebody is going to be. It’s very helpful.”

They used to do this training on the platform at Grand Central Terminal, but realized that most accidents happen in the open along the line, so that’s where they do it now. They want to make sure that the people who show up know what to do when the time comes.

Firefighters at Friday’s course came from departments as far north as Poughkeepsie and as far south as Long Beach in Nassau County.

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