Harrisburg fire chief to demand better communication over train derailments

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Train cars fell off the tracks around noon Tuesday in Harrisburg, delaying other trains coming into the city.

Norfolk Southern is investigating how it happened.

The derailment happened just south of the Mulberry Street Bridge, not far from the train station. People stopped by on the sidewalk all afternoon to take a look.

All day long, trains come and go.

“Just about every day I come through this bridge,” Alonzo Spence said.

“Now, just saw this coming down the bridge,” added Wayne Chisolm. All day Tuesday, spectators like Chisolm stopped to watch and take photos.

“Here’s something new today,” Spence said. “A train fell off the track.”

“I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,” Raheem Smith said. “They said the train came off the tracks. I said get out of here. They said, yeah, right there on Mulberry Street.”

Empty Norfolk Southern freight cars, a total of nine, looked like they just fell.

“Yeah, fell over,” Chisolm said.

“It just came right off the track,” Spence said.

The derailment delayed two Amtrak trains with a total of 462 passengers on board coming into the city; one from Pittsburgh to New York, the other the reverse — one of them for more than two and a half hours.

“You don’t expect nothing like this,” Smith said.

Neither did the city fire department. Chief Brian Enterline said the rail company didn’t tell them.

“Even if it’s empty cars,” he said, “we need to know about it. And we’re going to be demanding that from Norfolk Southern.”

The company ran into the same problem last November when two train cars jumped the tracks in the same area.

Enterline said lack of communication would be a problem if the cars weren’t empty.

“When we actually have something leaking, that just puts the system to fail,” he said.

By early Tuesday evening, a crane worked to right the toppled cars as crews worked to figure out why they derailed.

Meanwhile, spectators were just thankful it wasn’t worse.

“It would have been ugly” if more of the mile-long train which stretched onto the bridge over the river had derailed, Spence said. “A disaster.”

“Fortunately, nobody was hurt,” Smith said. “That’s the most important thing.”

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