M B: ‘It’s not the cross ties’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

The Meridian & Bigbee Railroad (M&B) train derailment on Feb. 25 has caused quite a stir.

The derailment occurred at 9:40 p.m. on Highway 41 near Craig Field. Seven boxcars derailed – six of which overturned cutting off power to the railroad signal. A woman was also injured when her car ran under an upright boxcar.

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There has been speculation as to what may have caused the train to derail. Some people have speculated that rotten or unstable cross ties may have been at the root of the derailment.

“The cause is still under investigation, but we are pretty sure it’s not cross ties,” Don Vincent, M&B senior operations manager said.

Vincent also said that a problem with a boxcar is suspected, but that’s not a concrete fact. According to Vincent, the incident is still under investigation and the railroad inspector is scheduled to look at the site “today or tomorrow” Vincent said on Wednesday.

“We’ve got to look at everything,” Vincent said. “We’ve just gotta have the facts.”

Though no hazardous materials were on any of the derailed boxcars, Vincent confirmed “we did have some hazardous materials on the train.”

“We take every precaution we can,” Vincent said.

Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Pam Cook expressed she is concerned about the high number of derailments that have occurred over the past two years – one in 2005, three in 2006 and two in 2007. According to Cook and the Federal Railroad Administration (safetydata.fra.dot.gov), there have been six and all have been operated by M&B.

Also a concern of Cook’s is a possible chemical spill, or worse.

“It could have just as well happened this weekend,” Cook said.

Railway workers have worked diligently to clean up the overturned boxcars and repair the broken track.

The Jan. 19 derailment occurred just a few miles north of this week’s. Boxcars still remain at the site along both sides of the track. The boxcar on the highway side of the track sits in the swampy waters.

“We can’t even get in to get them.” Vincent said. “It’s a swamp there.

According to Vincent, the heavy machinery used to move the derailed boxcars is unable to get into the wet areas.

Vincent said the boxcars will be cleaned up as “soon as the weather cooperates.”