Vandals derail train, anger Md. Midland chief

April 22, 1993|By Bill Talbott | Bill Talbott,Staff Writer

Vandals are going to cost the railroad "a lot of money and could have cost a life," said an angry Paul Denton, president of the Maryland Midland Railway, after the derailment Tuesday night of two locomotives and three loaded boxcars in Westminster.

Mr. Denton said vandals had broken a lock and a control bar to throw a switch and send the train hurtling off onto a siding.

He said the railroad company is offering a $1,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who caused the accident.

Mr. Denton said vandals often place metal and other materials on the tracks between Green Street and Hahn Road.

Tuesday's accident occurred as the train was returning to Union Bridge from its nightly trip to Glyndon in Baltimore County.

"We were westbound, pulling three loaded boxcars and 11 empty hopper cars, and had just crossed Hahn Road when we [Conductor Jeff Barkdoll also was in the cab] saw the switch in the wrong position," said engineer Steve Stambaugh.

"I threw the engine into emergency stop, but there was no way to stop before we went off the main track onto the siding and off the rails," he said.

"We were traveling at 25 miles per hour and that's safe for going straight, but not for switching off."

Mr. Stambaugh said he and Mr. Barkdoll are glad the engines did not flip over.

It "felt like forever before the train came to a complete stop . . ." Mr. Stambaugh said. "We were rocking back and forth."

After the derailed cars are lifted onto the tracks, Mr. Denton said, about 300 feet of the main track will have to be replaced, which could shut down the line for about 24 hours.

The siding, which was repaired and opened about a month ago, will take much longer to replace, said Wayne Weska, manager of track construction.

Mr. Denton said state and city police told him they would be more aggressive in keeping vandals and others off the tracks in the area because of the accident and other recurring problems.

State police said they would investigate the accident.

The derailment blocked Hahn Road until the 11 empty hopper cars that remained on the rails were detached from the derailed cars and moved north of the road.

The derailed engines were back on the rails and moved back to the station in Union Bridge under their own power about 4 p.m. yesterday.

Railroad officials said they would continue to operate between Union Bridge and Highfield, at the Maryland-Pennsylvania line west of Emmitsburg, but the eastern section of the 50-mile line would remain closed until repairs were completed.

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