Train derailment due to split rail

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 27, 2007


A railroad spokesman said Monday the cause of the area’s most recent train derailment in Beloit was due to a split rail.

The Aug. 19 accident left 17 cars off the tracks about 12 miles southwest of Selma, with the force landing several cars a few feet away from Highway 22.

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Genesee & Wyoming purchased the line in June 2005 from Rail Management of Panama City, Fla.

Jerry E. Vest, vice president of government and industry affairs for the Pittsburgh, Penn., company was in Selma on Monday surveying the railroad crossings. Vest photographed rails at the Lapsley Street crossing.

Vest said he had been meeting with city officials discussing the dilemma of slow moving trains that blocked traffic in the heart of town. He deferred all questions related to the derailment to Michael Williams at the corporate office.

Williams, a spokesman for Genesee & Wyoming, Inc., the parent company of M&B Railroad, said Monday the cause is believed to have been &8220;a vertical split head.&8221;

The Federal Railroad Administration had dispatched an investigator from Washington to look into why M&B Railroad has had so many train derailments. Dallas County Sheriff’s deputies and Alabama State Troopers blocked traffic several hundred yards from the site because at least one car contained vinyl chloride. According to the Emergency Response Guidebook, vinyl chloride is a gas that is &8220;extremely flammable&8221; and unstable. The gas could be &8220;easily ignited by heat, sparks or flames.&8221;

An inspector with M&B at the scene, who asked not to be identified, said the train was not supposed to exceed 10 miles per hour. Don Vincent, M&B senior operations manager, was en route from Meridian, Miss., late Sunday evening to assess the situation.

The Dallas County Emergency Management Agency, the Potter’s Station Volunteer Fire Department, the Selma Fire Department, and the Dallas County Hazardous Materials/WMD Response unit responded to the disaster site.