Train Derails

FRA: Train speed likely not a factor in Monroe Township collision

2013-09-14T07:00:00Z 2013-09-14T07:23:46Z FRA: Train speed likely not a factor in Monroe Township collisionBy Christen Croley, The Sentinel The Sentinel
September 14, 2013 7:00 am  • 

MONROE TWP. — While state police continue piecing together details of Thursday’s train derailment, Federal Railroad Administration officials say speed and collision dangers at railroad crossings remain “two separate issues.”

Administration spokesman Rob Kulat said Friday that decreasing train speeds when approaching highway-rail grade crossings only exacerbates the potential for a crash.

“Trains are not required to slow down at crossings,” he said. “In fact, it’s more dangerous to decrease then increase speed. Constant speed is the safest way to operate.”

Kulat said decreasing train speeds can trigger derailments due to the compression and extension of railcars, a phenomenon called “buff and draft.”

Pennsylvania State Police released no new information Friday regarding what role speed played when a freight train collided with a tractor-trailer at the Brandtsville Crossing, a Norfolk-Southern railway, near the intersection of York and Creek roads around 1:40 p.m. Thursday.

The truck driver, Robert Esposti, survived the crash unscathed, but his cargo — a 131-foot, 71-ton concrete beam — lay scattered across the scene, closing both lanes of York Road for more than 24 hours.

In the moments before the crash, Esposti was repositioning the tractor-trailer as he navigated a sharp right turn onto York Road.

“Then all of a sudden, the blinkers came on, the things (railroad crossing barriers) came down, and the train whistle blew,” said New Oxford resident Shari Weary, who witnessed the crash from a friend’s car as she waited to cross the tracks. “It was unbelievable.”

Operation Life Saver, a nonprofit organization on a mission to “end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings,” warns commercial drivers to avoid train tracks if at all possible, but if stuck, get out of the truck and call authorities immediately.

Esposti, who admits clinging to the steering wheel as the train smashed into his truck, said under state law, “super loads”, such as the concrete beam he was hauling, require a law enforcement guide to follow the driver. He said an escort vehicle cleared the crossing just moments before the train whistle blew.

“Malfunctioning gates and lights are very rare, and it seems like they were functioning fine in this instance,” Kulat said. “Police will probably look at the locomotive’s video recorder, to be sure, and the locomotive’s “black box” to determine if speed was a factor in the accident.”

Administration statistics say Pennsylvania ranked 11 nationwide for collisions at highway-rail grade crossings, with a total of 60 incidents reported in 2012. Texas topped the list with 227 collisions — outranking number two state California by 106 reported incidents.

The administration’s partnership with Operation Life Saver and other non-profits has reduced the number of train collisions by 83 percent since 1972.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

Four more containers still need to be removed from the scene of the train derailment at the Brandtsville Crossing in Monroe Township, state police said Friday at 12:45 p.m.

Police said the crossing gate also needs to be fixed.

Once both are completed, however, York Road should be completely open.

Currently, one lane is open, and police anticipate having both lanes open by 5 p.m.


Update Friday at 7:25 a.m.:  One lane of York Road in Monroe Township reopened around 5:15 a.m. after a tractor-trailer hauling a 135-foot concrete bridge span was struck by a freight train at a railroad crossing.

The other lane in that area is not expected to reopen until noon Friday at the earliest.

The crash occurred at a Norfolk-Southern railroad crossing near the intersection of York Road and Creek Road at 1:40 p.m. Thursday.

The intersection is about two miles north of Dillsburg and four miles east of Boiling Springs in the village of Brandtsville.


Update: Cumberland County Public Information Officer, Megan Silverstrim says officials expect to have the roadway opened within the next two to three hours.


MONROE TWP. — By the time Robert Esposti saw the train coming, it was too late.

Esposti, a driver for Harris Camden Terminal Co. out of New Jersey, said he was maneuvering his truck across a railroad crossing at York Road near Creek Road in Monroe Township in order to make the sharp turn on York Road (also known as Route 74) around 1:40 p.m. That’s when he heard the train’s horn.

He said, at that point, he knew it was too late.

“I just sat there and held the wheel because I was afraid when he hit it he was going to roll the truck, but he didn’t,” Esposti said.

The oversized load — a 131-foot, 71-ton concrete beam — the trailer hauled was not as fortunate when the south-bound train slammed into the vehicle at the intersection, which is about two miles north of Dillsburg and four miles east of Boiling Springs in the village of Brandtsville.

Esposti was not injured in the crash. Police said the train engineer only suffered a minor injury from the collision and derailment.

The Norfolk Southern train was traveling between Harrisburg and Atlanta on the Lurgan Branch line, which runs between Harrisburg and Hagerstown, Md. Fragments of the once-enormous beam were scattered all over the roadway and around the scene Thursday evening. The dolly transporting the beam, which Esposti said his company makes, was twisted almost beyond recognition. He said the trailer costs roughly $400,000.

York Road was closed between Park Place and Williams Grove Road late into Thursday evening as crews cleaned up the crash scene and worked to determine exactly what happened. Pennsylvania State Trooper Adam Reed said the speed of both vehicles will be considered in the investigation, which was in the early stages. Reed said around 6 p.m. Thursday that it could be between 15 to 24 hours until the roadway is open again.

A severe thunderstorm system that moved through the area around 4 p.m. Thursday was an initial concern shortly after the crash. However, Reed said the clean up would move forward once the storms passed through the area.

Dave Pidgeon, manager of public relations for Norfolk Southern, said the investigation is in the hands of law enforcement, but the company would look into the circumstances of the crash. He said there have been other derailments across the network, but he could not give a specific number.

“We want to get it done safely,” Pidgeon said. “We want everyone to go back to normal, but we have to make sure we do this safely.”

Esposti said law enforcement is required for transporting “super loads,” so he was being guided by an escort vehicle and a Pennsylvania state trooper on the trip.

Shari Weary, of New Oxford, and Brenda Chestnut, of Wellsville, were riding together behind Esposti’s vehicle. They said they watched as Esposti attempted to reposition his vehicle to make the sharp turn that navigates the railroad crossing and then a bridge across the Yellow Breeches Creek.

“Then all of a sudden, the blinkers came on, the things (railroad crossing barriers) came down, and the train whistle blew,” Weary said. She told Chestnut to back their vehicle up as the collision occurred. “It was unbelievable.”

Deborah Ealer told abc27 News she witnessed the crash while she also waited for the oversized load to cross the tracks.

She said the safety escort had already crossed, but the truck driver had to back up to make a turn from York Road.

“He was backing up and starting forward again to give himself a little space, and the railroad lights started blinking, the arms came down and I heard the train horn, and the train blew through the intersection and hit the concrete girder,” Ealer said.

Reed said incidents like these are not uncommon, but it was the first one he was aware of happening at that particular location.

“Occasionally you do see it, unfortunately,” he said. “Railway crossings can be tricky for large trucks like that.”

Weary and Chestnut said the train seemed to be speeding during the collision, but Pidgeon said the track speed limit in that area is 50 mph.

“Track speed is something that is set and regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration, so in this case, you have track speed registered at 50 mph for freight trains,” he said.

Pidgeon said there was a small diesel leak from the last car that was derailed, but state police said there were no hazardous material concerns in the crash.

The American Red Cross responded to the scene to offer refreshments, beverages and a place for respite to first responders. The Monroe Township Fire Department, Dillsburg EMS, state police, Norfolk Southern Railway representatives, Cumberland County emergency response team and PennDOT were also at the scene.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

The engineer of the train from the Norfolk Southern Lurgan Branch line was treated at the scene for a minor injury after the freight train struck a tractor-trailer and derailed at the Brandtsville railroad crossing on York Road in Monroe Township, state police said.

Police said the incident occurred at 1:40 p.m. and involved a tractor-trailer carrying an oversized load – a concrete beam. The tractor-trailer driver, who was uninjured in the crash, was attempting to negotiate a curve in the road while traveling south on York Road at the railway crossing when the freight train struck the trailer. As a result of the crash, several freight cars derailed from the tracks, police said.

Cumberland County Department of Public Safety said there were no hazardous conditions at the train derailment, though Norfolk Southern officials said there was a small diesel leak.

The department said crews will remain on the scene for an extended period of time for clean-up. Police said the roadway will remain closed while the freight cars are cleared from the area surrounding the tracks.

Police said there is no danger to the public due to the derailment. Emergency personnel, however, ask drivers avoid the area while the scene is cleared.

There is currently no estimate as to when the roadway will reopen.

The American Red Cross responded to the scene to offer refreshments, beverages and a place for respite to first responders. The Monroe Township Fire Department, Dillsburg EMS, state police, Norfolk Southern Railway representatives, Cumberland County emergency response team and PennDOT remain at the scene.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

A spokesman from Norfolk Southern said there was a small diesel leak from the train derailment in Monroe Township.

Dave Pidgeon, manager of public relations at the Harrisburg office, said the derailment caused a rupture in the last car that was derailed, which caused a small leak.

Norfolk Southern crews were dispatched to help with clean-up at the scene.

Pidgeon said the area at Brandtsville has a track speed of 50 mph. He said the Federal Railroad Administration designates what tracks have what speeds.

A reporter at the scene is still awaiting a briefing from state police.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

York Road is closed between Park Place and Williams Grove Road. Creek Road is closed at Leidigh Drive.

Officials did not say how long the roads would be closed.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

The HazMat team arrived at the scene of the train derailment at 3:50 p.m.

Clean-up has begun on the train derailment.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

Cumberland Valley School District warns residents that the train derailment may cause a delay in students' arrival back home.

Bus transportation will be affected for students in the southern portion of Monroe Township.

The district office may be in contact with families of those affected by the traffic delay.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

The truck involved in the train crash was carrying an oversized load - a 131-foot, 73-ton concrete beam, which the front of the train hit.

The truck was trying to reposition itself to cross the tracks when the train hit the truck, according to reports from the scene.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

Reports from the scene indicate there were no major injuries in the crash, train derailment in Monroe Township this afternoon.

The driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured.

Check back as more information becomes available.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

Reports from the scene confirm there was a crash involving a tractor-trailer and a train on York Road in Monroe Township.

Multiple cars have derailed from the train, according to reports.

Check back as more information becomes available.


Posted at 1:54 p.m. on Cumberlink:

MONROE TWP. - Cumberland County Department of Public Safety is warning area residents to avoid the area of York Road at Creek Road at the railroad crossing in Monroe Township as emergency crews operate in the area.

abc27 confirmed reports there was a train derailment at the crossing around 1:45 p.m. today.

Check back to Cumberlink as more information becomes available.

Copyright 2015 The Sentinel. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(6) Comments

  1. ButThatsShacksTrain
    Report Abuse
    ButThatsShacksTrain - September 16, 2013 7:28 pm
    Negotiating that area with a 48' or a 53' trailer is tight enough. The other person here just seemed to be mudslinging, and has no experience in transportation, other than a 4wheeler
  2. ButThatsShacksTrain
    Report Abuse
    ButThatsShacksTrain - September 16, 2013 7:25 pm
    Mr Stine, for the most part I agree with you, as you are correct in stating the motor vehicle was in the wrong place when the crossing gates came down. I will recant my earlier statement that PENNDOT was "at fault". What I mean to say is that a load of this length should not be routed on a road such as 74 unless it is going to a location close. Using this road as a short cut to another highway from another highway( 81 to 15) is risky at best.
  3. Dennis Stine
    Report Abuse
    Dennis Stine - September 15, 2013 9:03 pm
    Truck drivers and State Police who do not check schedules are the factors which caused this accident. It does not matter if the train was over speeding or under speeding the vehicle was positioned where it should not have been when the bell started ringing and the arm came down. Not the rail lines fault.
  4. ButThatsShacksTrain
    Report Abuse
    ButThatsShacksTrain - September 15, 2013 7:31 pm
    I am not trying to be abusive in this forum. I am very familiar with this crossing. And as you can tell by my handle,also a rail fan. However, by trade, I am a tractor trailer driver with 30+ years of experience. As I stated, this overlength load should NEVER have been permitted down RT74 for the very reasons that driver had to make his back up move. Permit loads are not allowed to deviate from the routing PENNDOT gives them, hence the escort cars and PSP. Thank god nobody got hurt
  5. ButThatsShacksTrain
    Report Abuse
    ButThatsShacksTrain - September 15, 2013 7:14 pm
    You are WAY out of line by saying that. As stated, the track speed limit is 50 mph. Also the driver said he made a backing move to clear the sharp turn at said crossing. Perhaps you would like to count all the containers on that train, then put that many trucks on the road. I'm sure YOU will be crying about that also. If anybody is at fault, it is PENNDOT for routing the oversize load this way in the first placej
  6. Horsewagled
    Report Abuse
    Horsewagled - September 14, 2013 10:38 am
    So why aren't these railroad bought Feds in prison for knowingly allowing trains to be out of control creating a public safety hazard?

    We pay these FRA suckers millions to sleep until the railroad needs a good cover story after the news goes beyond a local level.
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