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Two freight train cars derail in Middlebury; no injuries or spills

MIDDLEBURY — Vermont Railway officials are pointing to “metal fatigue” in a track switch as the cause of the derailment of two freight train cars — one of them containing limestone, the other one empty — on tracks off Seymour Street in Middlebury at around 10 a.m. in Tuesday, July 2.
A crane was en route to the accident scene, located behind the Danforth Pewter property at 52 Seymour St., as the Addison Independent went to press on Tuesday mid-afternoon, according to Vermont Rail officials. Selden Houghton, vice president of Vermont Rail, said the crane would be used to lift the cars back onto the track.
The two cars were part of a lengthy string of freight cars headed north that day. Houghton said the limestone-bearing car didn’t spill any of its non-toxic cargo, and no-one was hurt during the derailment. He estimated the train was traveling less than 10 miles per hour at the time of the accident.
“It was a metal component that failed on a switch… We’re still investigating everything, but from what we can tell, metal fatigue was a factor,” he told the Independent as his colleagues secured the site.
Middlebury officials were breathing a collective sigh of relief that the derailment did not turn out to be a more serious affair. It was on Oct. 22 of 2007 that a broken section of rail line caused a train accident that toppled 18 cargo cars in downtown Middlebury, releasing hundreds of gallons of gasoline into Otter Creek. The accident paralyzed the downtown for several hours as emergency responders worked feverishly to contain the site and prevent the fuel from igniting.
The rail line through Middlebury hosts four daily train trips — two headed north, two south. The line in question received a major upgrade just a few years ago, according to Houghton, who added the rail switch in question was not a part of those improvements.
“This is what we consider to be a minor derailment; it’s more of an inconvenience than anything,” Houghton said.
He called the inconvenience to freight traffic “minor” because traffic was able to bypass the disabled train on a parallel track, according to Houghton.
Houghton estimated the rail cars would be righted and removed by Tuesday evening, followed by track repairs that would make the main line ready for regular train traffic by Wednesday morning.
“We’re very fortunate,” he said.
Middlebury Fire Chief Dave Shaw echoed those sentiments.
“Every once in a while, you get lucky,” he said.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com

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