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Officials to investigate train derailment

December 06, 1999

Train derailmentBy MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




Norfolk Southern officials were trying to determine what caused six cars of a southbound freight train to derail Monday morning behind several houses south of the Virginia Avenue overpass.

The 156-car train powered by five locomotives was enroute from Harrisburg, Pa., to Roanoke, Va., according to Leanne McGruder, spokesman for Norfolk Southern in Roanoke.

"The affected tracks will be closed until further notice," she said Monday afternoon. "An adjacent track will be used in the meantime."

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No streets were blocked by the derailment.

Responding to the tracks off Wilson Boulevard at Pine Street at 7:09 a.m., Hagerstown Fire Department officials sized up the situation and determined no hazardous materials were involved.

"Two of the cars were boxcars carrying nonhazardous freight," said Battalion Chief Ron Horn. There was also an empty flatbed car.

Three tankers were off the tracks - leaning slightly but not overturned or in danger of toppling, Horn said.

"One tanker was heavily damaged but we learned it was empty," Horn said.

The other two tankers showed only minor damage. Horn said they contained a residue of a substance with an alcohol base.

Deputy Fire Chief Rick Kipe said the train was headed toward the Norfolk Southern yard off the Downsville Pike when it derailed.

By 8:18 a.m., the fire department equipment was heading back to their stations, leaving the cleanup to the Norfolk Southern Railroad crews, Horn said.

"I've lived here 21 years and I've never seen a derailment here before," said Terry Palmer who walked up to the scene from his West Wilson Boulevard home.

Pat Beasley of 533 W. Wilson Blvd., said "I heard a loud noise but that's not unusual."

Beasley, who said she has lived on Wilson Boulevard for 10 years, said she looked out her front door and saw the fire trucks. She said it was only when she happened to look out back that she saw the train nearly in her back yard.

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