Trains derail at same site within 24 hours
Dec. 21, 2004
By Stan Maddux / Post-Tribune correspondent
PINOLA — Two trains, including one heading to Burns Harbor with 104 freight cars of steel, derailed within 24 hours of each other at the same location west of LaPorte.
By late Monday, officials with Norfolk & Southern were hopeful of removing the 13 derailed cars and making whatever repairs were necessary for trains to pass through again just north of Indiana 2 in Pinola.
”Our focus right now is getting one of the tracks back in service,’’ said Rudy Husband, a spokesman for Norfolk & Southern headquartered in Philadelphia.
At 7 a.m. Monday, Husband said the freight train carrying slabs of steel was heading from Elkhart to Burns Harbor when 13 cars hopped the tracks, blocking the crossing at County Road 400W.
None of the cars tipped over, but several were tilting as they sat in the snow-covered dirt between two sets of tracks.
”They’re leaning pretty bad,’’ said LaPorte area resident Dave Ambers, who happened to be passing through the area.
The cause of the derailment remained under investigation, said Husband.
However, LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Andy Hynek said the cause might be linked to Sunday’s derailment of an Amtrak train which was also pulling about a half dozen freight cars.
According to police, the Amtrak train with more than 170 passengers enroute from New York to Chicago came to a halt about 8 a.m. when a metal wheel on one of the cars broke in half.
Just the car with the broken wheel came off the rails.
'’It looked like it was more of a mechanical failure like a stress fracture in the wheel itself,’’ said Hynek.
All of the passengers were loaded onto six buses and transported the rest of the way to Chicago, Hynek said.
After speaking with railroad investigators at the scene, Hynek said the Amtrak derailment could have damaged one of the tracks just enough that it collapsed underneath the weight of the passing freight train.
By 10 a.m., the 90 or so cars that remained on the tracks resumed the trip to Burns Harbors.
Several pieces of heavy equipment were also starting to arrive to remove the derailed cars from the scene.
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