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Cause of train crash determined

August 11, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - A collision between two trains on a Norfolk Southern line near Shepherdstown in April was caused by a maintenance train that was traveling too fast on the track, a Norfolk Southern spokesman said Wednesday.

The crash, which resulted in nearly $1 million in damages, occurred April 28 when the maintenance train struck the rear of a freight train off Gardner's Lane, about a mile south of Shepherdstown.

The crash caused an engine to tumble off the tracks and left another engine on the rear of the freight train. About 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from one of the engines.

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The maintenance train, referred to as a Loram Rail Grinder, was required to be able to stop in half of the distance of visibility, Norfolk Southern spokesman Robin Chapman said. It was traveling too fast to do that, Chapman said.

The crash resulted in $950,000 in damages to the Loram Rail Grinder and $4,500 in damage to the freight train, which was carrying plastics and mixed freight, Chapman said.

Norfolk Southern investigated the crash, Chapman said. In train crashes, typically the company that owns the railroad does an investigation into the cause, Chapman said.

Federal authorities only get involved once damage estimates reach a certain level or if there are fatalities, which was not the situation in the local crash, Chapman said.

Three people were injured in the crash, although Chapman said he did not know the extent of the injuries.

The freight train was owned by Norfolk Southern, and the Loram Rail Grinder was part of a team that was contracted to do work on the railroad for Norfolk Southern, Chapman said.

Several witnesses saw the crash and one of them said the train that struck the freight train was blowing its horn constantly as it came down the tracks. Another witness said the wreck was "like watching an accordion."

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