MD: massive train derailment

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http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A2249-2001Apr25.html

Freight Derailment Disrupts MARC Brunswick Line To Shuttle Riders On Buses Today

By Lyndsey Layton Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, April 26, 2001; Page B02

The MARC commuter railroad's Brunswick Line will remain closed this morning as work crews continue to clean up after a CSX freight train derailment Tuesday night that scattered 28 rail cars across two tracks in Frederick County.

Starting at 5 a.m. today, MARC will run shuttle buses from its Brunswick, Point of Rocks and Germantown stations to the Shady Grove Metro station.

Passengers should follow their usual train schedules, MARC spokesman Frank Fulton said. Both Ride On and Metro are accepting MARC monthly tickets, he said. If rail service is not restored by afternoon, the shuttle buses will run in the reverse direction.

CSX, which owns the track and leases its use to MARC, said it is not clear why part of the 88-car freight train went off the tracks about a mile east of Point of Rocks.

The derailment is still under investigation, but it does not appear to have involved human error, CSX spokesman Rob Gould said.

The accident caused estimated damage of $500,000 to the rail cars and $80,000 to about 1,000 feet of track, Gould said.

The train was headed from Cumberland to Richmond when it derailed about 10:40 p.m. Tuesday. Two rail cars carried hazardous material -- potassium hydroxide and molten sulfur. About a quart of the potassium hydroxide, a corrosive material, leaked from a car that had tipped over, said Mike Sharon, chief of the emergency response division at the Maryland Department of the Environment. He said there was no threat to the environment from the spill.

The other rail cars carried rice, malt, lumber, paper, soy meal, clay and sand, and the accident resulted in powdery piles of grains spilled across the track bed, Sharon said.

The Brunswick Line, which runs between Martinsburg, W.Va., and Union Station, with stops in Frederick and Montgomery counties in Maryland, carries about 5,000 passengers a day. It is the second-busiest of MARC's three commuter rail lines. The entire railroad carries about 20,000 riders a day.

CSX was able to reroute its freight trains to another rail line that runs toward Frederick and down to Baltimore, Gould said.

"The biggest inconvenience was not to our freight customers but to our commuters," Gould said. "It's a very unfortunate situation."

2001 The Washington Post Company

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So I've been driving, yesterday and today. And I wonder: do I want to continue riding the train? What if that had been a commuter train? From late December 1999 into this past fall of 2000, I did not ride the train because of my Y2K concerns; when most of 2000 passed OK, I figured they'd gotten a handle on it. Now I wonder.

CSX, which owns the track and leases its use to MARC, said it is not clear why part of the 88-car freight train went off the tracks about a mile east of Point of Rocks.

The derailment is still under investigation, but it does not appear to have involved human error, CSX spokesman Rob Gould said.

Along the rail they have these automated devices; when I am sitting near one of the conductors, I hear his pager suddenly start speaking in a mechanical voice, "Mile marker number seventy point two: no defects!" The voice is scratchy and broken up at first, but gradually clears as we approach its position, and then fades again. There are a couple of them; one of them is more or less in the vicinity of the above derailment.

-- L. Hunter Cassells (mellyrn@castlemark-honey.com), April 26, 2001

Answers

I pass daily a large busy railroad switching area in central Louisiana. 2 cars fell over due to track failure directly in front of the main office. It took a month for them to have 18 wheelers park on the side of the interstate and off load them. Sheesh, no Amtrack for me.

-- Wm McBride (mcbri29@attglobal.net), April 28, 2001.

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