published Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Derailment closes section of Cummings Highway


by Matt Wilson
  • photo
    Staff photo by Danielle Moore/Chattanooga Times Free Press Thirty cars derailed from a Norfolk Southern train late Friday night around 11 p.m. at the base of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga. The train, which was carrying 134 cars at the time, had 30 cars detach leading to a small propane leak near the tracks. The Chattanooga Fire Department, Hulcher Services and RJ Corman Derailment Services were working throughout the day Saturday to control the area. Officials said the 30 cars should be back on the tracks in two to three days.

Repair crews were on the job Saturday working to get a train that derailed by Cummings Highway at the foot of Lookout Mountain back on the track.

According to Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner, the Norfolk Southern train derailed just after 11 p.m. Friday.

Susan Terpay, a spokeswoman for Norfolk Southern, said her record showed the train derailing at about 10:25 p.m. She said the train had around 134 cars of "mixed freight."

No injuries have been reported.

Mr. Garner said a portion of Cummings Highway has been closed, and that it would take two or three days for crews to clean up the accident.

"It'll be at least through Sunday night before the equipment's moved," said Chattanooga Fire Department Chief Randy Parker.

Ochs Highway and Scenic Highway also were closed Saturday.

"For all practical purposes, we're here," said Lookout Mountain Town Councilman Dan Crates.

Mr. Crates said Lookout Mountain residents have the option of leaving the mountain by going toward Trenton, Ga., but "that's pretty dicey down there, too." He said local police had suggested not leaving the mountain Saturday.

Cleanup crews patched a small leak in a 1,000-gallon propane tank by the track, which fuels a "switch heater," a device that keeps track switches operating in cold weather, Mr. Garner said. A private contractor will burn off the remaining propane, he said.

A boxcar, one of 30 that derailed, struck the half-full tank, according to a release from Mr. Garner.

Chief Parker said there were hazardous materials on the train, but not on any of the cars involved in the derailment.

Most of the cars that derailed were inside a tunnel on the side of Lookout Mountain.

The cause of the derailment is under investigation, Mr. Garner said.

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