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Crews scurry to clean up after train derailment

Photo by Mel Grubb An aerial view of Friday's 16-car train derailment in McDowell County.
Photo by Mel Grubb
An aerial view of Friday’s 16-car train derailment in McDowell County.

By Bill Archer
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

VIVIAN, W.Va. — Train traffic through McDowell County is one of the constants of life, and when a major derailment occurs, alarms go up throughout the region.

“We’re lucky it happened where it happened and when it happened,” Jimmy Gianato, director of the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said. He added that there were no injuries in the derailment.

At 8:35 a.m. Friday, 16 cars of an eastbound Norfolk Southern mixed freight train traveling from Bellevue, Ohio, to Linwood, N.C., derailed. The derailed cars were near the head-end of the train that included three locomotives and 111 cars.

The 16 derailed cars included 12 filled with asphalt tar, two carrying soybean oil, one loaded grain car that was overturned and one load of railroad cross ties. One of the tankers carrying asphalt tar ruptured and spilled liquid tar into Elkhorn Creek. The contents of the compromised car were in a liquid state during transport, but started to solidify when it cooled.

“Booms are in place to stop the tar from moving down stream,” Gianato said. “West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection personnel and Norfolk Southern Railway environmental people are here.”

By 2 p.m. Gianato, who is also chief of the Kimball Volunteer Fire Department, proclaimed that there was “no danger” to area residents. “The real danger is over,” he said.

By 3 p.m. NS crews began bringing large cranes and machinery to the site to clear the railcars from the derailment site and to start the process of repairing an estimated 700 feet of track that will need to be replaced before the NS mainline can be re-opened, according to Robin Chapman, NS spokesman.

He said that the crews would install lighting and work through the night to clear the derailed cars and repair the track.

“That’s a very important section of track to the railroad,” Chapman said. “Those guys work fast. They expect to have the mainline re-opened by 3 p.m. (Saturday),” he said…

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