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RJ Corman's Cleanup of a CSX Derailment

by Peter Wine

Reprints of this article come printed on quality  paper with high resolution pictures 

Ask any railroader:  one of the hardest parts of the job begins when a train leaves the rails.

There is something you'll almost always hear when you attend a train show.  During the usual two day show, a child will come up and ask whoever is running the train:  "Can you make it crash?"

When you hear it, the first reaction is likely something like: "What!  Are you crazy?  Do you know how long I spent getting it to run?"

When a model train has a problem, a hand comes over and picks up the cars and puts them back on the track.  Unless something unusual happened, the operator then turns up the power, and off goes the train, and within seconds it's all but forgotten.

When CSX (or any other major railroad) has a problem, it takes a large crew hours, and sometimes days, to do what the model railroader does in a minute or two.

Glenn Pyle is the manager of the Webster Street Market, and owner of the Market Deli.  On Friday, January 21, 2005, he was working late, when several cars of a Southbound (railroad West) train left the tracks.  

"It sounded like the roof had caved in," he said Saturday morning, amazed that none of the cars rolled down the elevated right-of-way into the parking lot of the Webster Street Market.

Reports on television on Saturday morning said that the propane tank by the tracks (used by a heater to keep the switch warm in the winter) had been damaged in the accident.  Upon my arrival, I determined that the tank itself was not damaged, so it must be the line to the tank that was damaged.  Either way, it was a good thing the propane didn't catch fire.

Kenny is a helper at the Market.  He was taking some bags of trash to the dumpster (at the bottom of the hill where the tracks are located,) when the accident happened.  Though not physically injured, Kenny was shaken up, and says it will be a while before he is comfortable going anywhere near the dumpster!

Tim Schulze is a member of Box 21Rescue Squad.  He is also part of the Miami Valley Garden Railway Society (So you could say he likes trains.)  He heard the emergency call on the radio and came over to see if there was assistance he could offer.  Fortunately, his services weren't needed.  While he was at the scene, he saw the first train cars moved off of the tracks.

Tim says that one of the cars was in such bad shape that the crew simply turned it over, to get it out of the way.  

Work was slow, methodical and cold.  Thursday's snow was still on the ground, (fortunately Friday's snow fell East of Dayton,) and the air temperature was falling.  During Saturday morning, additional ice pellets (which looked a lot like styrofoam balls) fell.  But that didn't bother the crew from R. J. Corman Derailment Services.

Working in conditions that most people try to avoid, work proceeded to clear the CSX mainline and return it to service.

The relatively new control box was undamaged, something that most of us would see as good thing.  One member of the crew, though pointed out that the box was slowing progress of getting the tracks cleared, since the heavy equipment had to maneuver around it.  (He was still glad it was undamaged!)Click here for a closeup of the damaged switch

The two new traffic control light towers in the area were also spared.

The mile marker near one of the towers wasn't so lucky.

It appeared to me that the major problem for getting the mainline opened was the destruction of the switch that was under one of the cars when it derailed.  While the track itself appeared usable, the switch was in bad shape.

While work progressed on getting the cars either off the track, or back on the track, another group tackled the task of getting the track itself in shape to use. 

Since the accident happened at the place where the two tracks merge into one (or split into two - depending on which direction you're going, I guess,) there was the job of making the track functional again, which included temporary repairs on the switch.

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