Sinkhole disrupts freight service on railroad line

April 17, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

Freight service on Maryland Midland Railway tracks was interrupted for about 24 hours Thursday and Friday as company crews rushed to repair a sinkhole that developed under its line outside Westminster.

Paul D. Denton, president of the Union Bridge railroad, said the hole, which was 15 feet wide and 8 feet deep, was discovered RTC about 3 p.m. Thursday. The hole was near the two sinkholes that had developed in Wakefield Valley during the past two weeks.

A rail inspector found it while completing one of the company's twice-weekly inspections, Mr. Denton said.

"It's right in line between the other two," he said Friday.

On March 31, a huge sinkhole that opened up on Route 31 claimed the life of a motorist, a Taneytown resident whose van fell into the hole. The second hole was discovered a few days later during an inspection at the intersection of Medford and Avondale roads.

"You could have driven a car into it [the latest sinkhole]," Mr. Denton said.

He continued: "We are very, very fortunate we found it before a train came by, because it was big enough that it could have caused a serious derailment.

"But that's why we have track inspections."

Using excavation equipment rented from Thomas, Bennett and Hunter Co. in Westminster, railroad employees had to enlarge the hole to 25 feet wide and more than 25 feet deep before they hit bedrock, Mr. Denton said.

Crews re-filling the hole were expected to be finished by dark Friday, he said.

"We had to cancel one eastbound train and one westbound train," Mr. Denton said, adding that the company would not lose any direct income through shipping loss.

However, the railroad must pay for the repairs itself, unlike when roads deteriorate, he said.

"That's sort of a constant burr in our craw," Mr. Denton said. "The county and state will fix the road, but we have to fork this out of our own pocket. The trucks travel over the roads and they pay taxes, so the county will front the money and pay for it [repairs].

"Well, we also pay taxes, but we have to jump out and fix this ourselves," he continued. "It's the cross we have to bear."

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