Crews cleaning up train wreck

MOHAWK – Crews were working this morning to clean up the wreckage after Thursday’s two-train collision, which caused a 45-car derailment and threw one car onto Route 5.

Officials said heavy rain late Thursday and early this morning could slow efforts to reopen Route 5 and the railroad tracks.

Authorities this morning reported flooding in Fort Plain and other areas in Montgomery County west of the train crash.

A CSX employee working at the crash scene this morning said the wet weather will create an additional hazard but shouldn’t cause significant delays.

The worker, who wouldn’t give his name, said the biggest concern with the wet weather is safety of the workers at the scene and people living in the immediate area.

Thursday afternoon, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo visited the scene, telling people he hopes the tracks are back in service by Saturday.

“The good news is, despite a tremendous amount of damage with 40 cars derailed, no one had any serious injuries,” Cuomo said.

CSX workers and private contractors were cleaning up the wreckage this morning.

Officials say two CSX freight trains hit each other just west of Fonda around 8 a.m. An engineer and a conductor on one of the trains received minor injuries, authorities said.

Authorities closed a 12-mile stretch of Route 5 after the derailment from Fonda to Palatine.

Authorities said the two trains brushed against each other while they were passing each other in opposite directions on parallel tracks, resulting in the derailment.

CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan said one of the trains was traveling from Avon, Ind., to Selkirk with four locomotives and 126 freight cars. The other train was going from Selkirk to New Castle, Pa., with two locomotives and 83 freight cars.

Sullivan said four locomotives and 45 freight cars were derailed. Some diesel fuel leaked from the locomotives and crews were cleaning that up, he said.

“The cause is under investigation,” Sullivan said. “Crews are on the way to the scene to clear the derailment, repair the track and restore service as safely and quickly as possible.”

Speaking to the media for about five minutes after he toured the crash scene near Martin Road, Cuomo said no hazardous materials spilled in the accident.

He said the leaked diesel fuel posed no threat.

“There is no environmental harm done,” Cuomo said.

He said CSX is “making good progress” to get the tracks back in operation.

“It’s amazing how the trains get tossed around,” Cuomo said of what he saw. “It almost looks like a toy train system. It is also amazing no one got hurt.”

He said authorities don’t know the cause of the accident yet.

“I would caution any early assumptions as to what happened,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo said he isn’t sure how much commerce will be affected by the derailment.

“I don’t think there is going to be any significant delay to the overall commerce,” Cuomo said.

He said Amtrak, which uses the tracks for its passenger trains, is affected.

“People will feel [the delays], but it is a few days we can handle,” Cuomo said.

He said the state will oversee the situation, but the cleanup operation will be handled by private contractors.

Early Thursday, authorities said one of the cars leaked some type of material. They later determined the material posed no safety hazard. Montgomery County Sheriff Michael Amato said the material consisted of beads or pellets believed to be made of plastic.

Amato said the injured conductor and an engineer were taken to a local hospital.

Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Adam Schwabrow said the two trains collided near Martin Road.

One train was heading east and the other west, said Montgomery County Sheriff Michael Amato.

Officials said one of the trains was transporting chemicals, but that part of the train remained secure during the accident.

State Department of Transportation spokesman James Piccola said this morning weather is slowing the cleanup progress.

“The area is pretty flooded there, so I don’t think a lot of work has been done,” Piccola said.

He said DOT anticipates the highway will be closed for the next three to four days, but that will depend on what can be accomplished today.

“Once we have that area cleaned up, we can have our guys come back and make an assessment of the damage that was possibly done because of the derailment,” Piccola said.

“Yesterday, they were talking about having the road closed down for three to four days while CSX was in there because they had to get some heavy equipment in there to remove those carts,” Piccola said. “From my understanding, because of all the flooding that was going on, they didn’t get very far yesterday.”

A long line of flatbed trucks carrying cranes and other construction material were on the scene to remove wreckage.

Fonda Mayor Bill Peeler said much of the public traffic will be diverted through Fultonville.

“It’s going to put a bit more of a burden of the village of Fultonville,” Peeler said.

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole said Amtrak is canceling some of the train service west of Albany because of the derailment. In some cases, Amtrak is busing passengers.

Cole said four trains normally use the line every day in each direction.

In recent years, several trains have crashed in Montgomery County.

In 2005, a CSX freight train derailed in Amsterdam, sending 18 cars off the tracks. One landed partially in the Mohawk River.

In 2009, a dining car of an Amtrak train derailed in Tribes Hill. There were no injuries.

In 2011, two CSX freight cars and an engine derailed near Cranesville.