Curious gravitate to scene Spectators: As the initial investigation and mop-up proceeds, train buffs and onlookers gather around the Silver Spring train wreck, as neighbors who helped during the disaster withdraw indoors.

February 18, 1996|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF

Roy Kirk is a train buff. So when he heard about Friday night's collision in Silver Spring, he readied his video camera and drove from his Reisterstown home to the scene.

"This is something you hope never to see happen," said Mr. Kirk, a quality assurance manager by trade, who arrived in Silver Spring at 10:30 a.m. yesterday.

"But since you'll never see it again, it's something I thought I should record."

Mr. Kirk was part of a subdued group of walkers, neighbors and pets who watched yesterday afternoon as emergency workers cleared the tracks of debris and as investigators tried to sort out the train's pieces.

It seemed at times that the workers' numbers were matched by the train aficionados.

Mr. Kirk, for one, recalled how he'd taken the Capitol Limited, the same Amtrak run involved in the crash, to Chicago in July.

It was a beautiful ride that Friday night's passengers would have enjoyed, he said, with soaring views of Appalachia and Midwestern scenery.

"I'm here because I love trains," he said.

"I collect trains. I've never even bothered to fly on an airplane."

Visitors came from Pennsylvania to southern Virginia, though several of the passers-by had local concerns.

Nelson Bavaro, a 37-year-old maintenance man, said he came out of concern for the homeless men who, he said, often rest alongside the train tracks.

Standing on the 16th Street bridge in Silver Spring yesterday and surveying the wreckage below, Mr. Bavaro said he used to call that stretch of track home.

"I would sleep down there in the ditch," said Mr. Bavaro, who said he was homeless for "a time" five years ago.

"It was a good place to drink, just watch the trains go by, and keep away from the cops."

With the sun out yesterday, there was no place to hide.

Still, it was a gray day.

Everything and everyone in the quiet woods around the tracks seemed covered by a film -- exhaust, perhaps, from the dozens of police cruisers and emergency vehicles.

Only perfectly coiffed NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell looked clean, as she stood on the tracks and stumbled through a half-dozen takes.

More than once, her timing appeared to be thrown by neighbors' dogs that barked and fought as their owners pulled on their leashes.

The dogs had better traction; one man slipped twice on the ice next to the tracks and his pet broke away.

"I heard the noise from the crash from my neighborhood" in the Chevy Chase suburb of Washington, said Jenny Rohrer, a film producer who brought her 3-year old Wheaton terrier, Nellie, to the scene.

"And I thought this would be some excitement for the dog."

Neighbors said much of Friday's commotion had died down.

A lobby at the Park Sutton apartments that had been a first-aid station less than 24 hours earlier was clean and empty yesterday.

Media-weary residents who had taken blankets to the injured the night before stayed indoors yesterday, doing chores and ignoring their ringing doorbells.

Still closed was 16th Street, and the train-watchers weren't drumming up enough business to suit employees of several food

businesses along the road.

Since he bought a Baskin-Robbins franchise here two years ago, Saturdays have been Hassan Paterrov's best business day.

But yesterday, there was "almost nobody."

Perhaps the most striking scene yesterday was several parents leading small children close to the scene.

I= Most said they had wanted their children to see in person

what they'd seen on TV.

"My wife threw us both out of the house," said Brett Rouillier, 43, who carried his 2-year-old son, Justin, along the train tracks.

"Justin likes trains," said Mr. Rouillier, a D.C. government employee.

"He saw the accident, and what happened to the trains.

"But we're trying to keep the people part out of the conversation."

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