Train derails in Collegedale after collision with truck carrying concrete

Photo by Todd Pettibone Aviation Specialists Inc. / Emergency vehicles respond to the scene of a Norfolk Southern Railway train derailment in Collegedale on December 20, 2022.

A collision Tuesday between a semitrailer pulling a concrete bridge beam and a Norfolk Southern train in Collegedale derailed the train, left two people with minor injuries, and the crossing where the incident happened completely blocked as an investigation continues into what happened.

According to Hamilton County Office of Emergency Management spokeswoman Amy Maxwell, a motorist alerted officials to the collision about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, and Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department and Collegedale Police Department responded to the scene and confirmed a large train derailment.

Initially described by officials just getting to the scene as a collision with a concrete truck, the big rig was actually carrying a beam measuring 134 feet long, Maxwell said.

Firefighters called for a mutual aid for additional emergency crews and hazardous materials clean up efforts, Maxwell said. Hamilton County hazmat and Hamilton County Rescue and Chattanooga Fire Department responded.

According to fire officials, the driver of the tractor trailer was stopped on the railroad tracks waiting for the light to turn green on Tucker Road, Maxwell said. The Norfolk Southern railroad system activated its crossing arms, and the tractor trailer was unsuccessful getting clear of the railroad tracks and was hit by the train, she said.

"Three locomotives and 10 railroad cars derailed and slammed into each other causing a disastrous mess," Maxwell said.

A 14-second video posted to Facebook on Tuesday shows the truck with the bridge beam across the tracks as the train with its horn blaring smashed into the beam near the rear trailer wheels. The beam was knocked into the air as it tangled on the leading locomotive engine and was dragged down the tracks and out of sight in a cloud of dust and debris.

Two Norfolk employees sustained minor injuries and were transported to area hospitals, and emergency crews used absorbent booms and pads to assist with the large diesel spill for the three locomotives, Maxwell said.

In an email, Norfolk Southern spokesman Connor Spielmaker said there have been no reports that any hazardous materials train cars were involved.

(READ MORE: Freight train derailment prompts changes to Amtrak schedule)

Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Rae-Anne Bradley said the concrete beam was being delivered to the Apison Pike project. University Drive and Apison Pike remain closed near the scene, Bradley said Tuesday in an emailed statement. The closure will stay in place until the investigation has been completed.

"Consider an alternate route through the area if possible," Bradley said. "This will be a lengthy closure."

Collegedale Police Department Assistant Chief Jamie Heath was at a loss to describe the wreckage less than 15 minutes after reaching the scene Tuesday.

"I've never seen anything like this," Heath said.

Contact Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569.