Four cars in a train heading south on the railroad trestle through Catskill broke loose when the train derailed and plummeted onto Main Street in a spectacular derailment in 1978. The cars, all tankers, were empty when they fell. Had they been fully loaded with oil or other hazardous material, the explosion and fire would have been catastrophic.
With railroads running over and through the streets of Catskill and crossing the business district in the heart of Hudson several times daily, we have a vested interest in safety.
CSX responded quickly by widening the trestle at the point of the derailment and installing crash-proof guardrails along the trestle’s highest points. There has not been another life-threatening derailment on the trestle in 45 years. CSX did the right thing then. Will it happen now?
Don’t take anything for granted, said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who sent letters to CSX and Norfolk Southern, the operator of trains that derailed Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio, and March 4 in Springfield, Ohio, and other major freight railroads urging the companies to enumerate the steps they are taking to improve communication with regulators and overall safety on the railways.
“Upstate New York hosts some of the most active freight rail lines in the country,” Schumer said Tuesday. “There is the CSX line that follows the Erie Canal through the Hudson Valley to Buffalo, and the Norfolk Southern line that runs through the Southern Tier. Freight trains run through nearly every region of upstate New York, connecting the main trunk lines with communities north and south.”
The letter demands each railroad outline exactly what steps they will take to prevent what happened in Ohio from occurring in upstate New York and explain how they’re improving to local governments and first responders.
Mandating railroads to keep local governments and especially first responders informed of safety advisories is a good start, but it will take more. We can remind ourselves by thinking about what might have happened in Catskill 45 years ago.
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