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Train derails in Martinsburg, W.Va.

April 07, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - It could be several days before railroad officials know the cause of a CSX freight car derailment in Martinsburg early Friday morning, a CSX spokesman said. Train traffic was expected to resume as early as this morning.

A 48-car freight train carrying new Ford trucks, newsprint and metallic ore broke in half near the Queen Street overpass, causing 15 of the cars to derail and collide with each other behind Williamsport Avenue.

One of the cars carrying the trucks sat in a crumpled pile of wreckage that included parts of train cars and iron ore spilled on the tracks.

The accident was not expected to affect passenger train traffic, but it was expected to delay freight train travel in Brunswick, Baltimore, Cumberland and Pittsburgh, Pa., said Gil Kovar, general manager for the CSX office in Baltimore.

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About 500 feet of track along the main CSX route was destroyed, Kovar said.

As of Friday morning, four trains were being held up in Brunswick, five were being held in Baltimore, three were being delayed in Cumberland and two were being held in Pittsburgh, Kovar said.

"But as the time ticks, it will be more and more. It will certainly delay freight shipments for about 24 hours," he said.

Train traffic was expected to be delayed until the tracks can be cleared, which could be as early as this morning, Kovar said.

No one was injured in the derailment, which was reported by a nearby citizen about 3:47 a.m.

Rachel Poling said she was sleeping when the train separated and caused a loud crash behind her house at 118 Williamsport Ave.

"It shook my whole entire house. It scared me to death. It sounded like an airplane close to the ground," said Poling.

It is not clear what caused the train to jump the tracks, Kovar said.

The train was coming down a slight incline near the Queen Street overpass and the engineer was applying a "dynamic brake," which slows all the cars, Kovar said.

"He said the train just derailed. In his own mind, he doesn't know what happened," Kovar said.

One car probably derailed and the force of the other cars at the rear of the train caused the 15 cars to buckle, Kovar said. After the train separated, the engine and some other cars traveled about 1,500 feet before coming to a stop just east of the overpass, Kovar said.

The train, which was traveling from Cumberland to Baltimore, was traveling about 38 mph in a 40 mph zone, Kovar said.

CSX officials will be reviewing an "event recorder," a computer in the engine of the train that will tell how fast the train was traveling, how the brakes were being applied and other information, Kovar said. It is hoped that information, along with an examination of the track where the derailment occurred, will allow CSX officials to determine a cause of the crash, Kovar said.

The pick-up trucks were in four train cars. Metallic ore was being hauled in five of the cars that crashed and newsprint was being carried in four of the cars, Kovar said.

A special wrecking crew from Baltimore arrived at the scene about 9:30 a.m. to clean up the debris. CSX officials were waiting on two trains from Cumberland and Baltimore which were delivering replacement track and gravel, Kovar said.

There was no hazardous materials on the train.

However, rescue officials were taking precautionary measures to protect a creek along the track from contamination, Kovar said.

Each of the 32 F-250 trucks on the train carry about a gallon of gas, just enough to transport them to dealers, Kovar said. Booms were placed around the creek in case there is any leakage of liquids while the trucks are being removed, Kovar said.

Kovar said the trucks may not be used for retail sale.

"If there is damage to them, they will just crush them. No one will want to get a truck like that," Kovar said.

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