Survivor recalls oncoming train

January 23, 2001

Survivor recalls oncoming train


photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

Nelson BairSMITHSBURG - Nelson Bair says it was hard to bring himself to look at the pickup truck he was driving when it was hit by a train nearly two weeks ago because the image of the 900-ton Norfolk Southern locomotive bearing down on him is still fresh in his mind.


"I never believed in my wildest dreams something like that would happen to me," said Bair of Smithsburg, who was discharged from Washington County Hospital Sunday.

His arm and several ribs were broken and he was bruised in the Jan. 11 accident near Martin's Elevator in Maugansville.


The Norfolk Southern train, hauling paper and food products in eight cars, was en route to Shippensburg, Pa., at the time of the accident.

Bair, a Smithsburg contractor, was returning from dumping a load of fill at Martin's Elevator when he approached the tracks, which are on an incline on the grain company property.

Bair said he doesn't recall everything that happened but recalls driving up the incline and having difficulty seeing past a piece of equipment.

There are no warning lights or signs at the crossing.

Bair said he inched his pickup truck forward and a snow plow attached to the vehicle jutted out over the tracks.

"I saw the train coming and I put it in reverse," said Bair.

The train smashed into the left front panel of the pickup truck and the snow plow. The impact mangled the left side of Bair's truck and plow before pushing it aside. The truck came to rest perpendicular to the tracks and Bair was thrown from the truck.

Bair, 53, said he doubts he would have survived if the train had hit the side of the truck without being deflected by the plow.

"That snow plow was a lifesaver," Bair said.

He said he had only recently bought the plow and had used it three times.

Bair said he continued to experience numbness in his chest and arm. Despite his injuries, Bair said he knows he's lucky to have survived.

"I feel really fortunate," he said.

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