Freight train derails in Morrow

By Greg Gelpi

A Norfolk Southern freight train derailed, sending two engines and six cars off the tracks, in front of the Clayton County Water Authority along Ga. Highway 54 in Morrow around 1 p.m. Sunday.

Morrow police Capt. Richard Murphy said the derailment could have been much worse, saying there were no injuries as a result of the accident.

An initial report to police said that a vehicle hit the train causing it to derail, but Murphy said that was not the case.

"I think initially no one knew what happened," he said, explaining that both police and the railroads will conduct investigations. It's unknown at this point what caused the derailment, but said the switch on the tracks was open, when it shouldn't have been.

Many of the railroad ties had been replaced recently, but some of the ties near the derailment were splintered and crumbling.

The cars that jumped the tracks were empty, so there was no need for evacuations, Murphy said, adding that one of the engines had a small diesel fuel leak. Some of the cars of the 42-car train did contain ammonium nitrate, an explosive chemical, but those cars did not derail and there was never any danger from the hazardous chemicals.

As if parallel parked, five of the cars, some on their sides, rested on the side of the tracks. The two engines pulling the line of cars that backed up past Lake Harbin Road came to a stop half on the tracks, but upright.

The derailment occurred between two crossings and involved only the one train. The speed limit for trains in the area is 30 mph, but trains often travel slowed than that, Murphy said.

"This is the second derailment I know of in 18 years (in this area)," Murphy said.

Fire and police departments from Morrow, Forest Park and Clayton County setup a command center across from the derailment in the parking lot of Pilgreen's, but found the most serious problem was the traffic that resulted.

Traffic will remain a problem for the rest of the week as crews work on the train from equipment along Lee Street near Shirley Drive, Murphy said.