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Baltimore Streetcar Museum closed indefinitely as cleanup continues after CSX train derailment Friday

Several train cars that went off the tracks Friday and fell onto the 1900 block of Falls Road were removed by Saturday morning as cleanup continued. (Sarah Meehan, Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun video)

Two weeks after the Baltimore Streetcar Museum reopened for the season, the Falls Road museum was forced to close until further notice after a train came crashing onto a small building that powers its streetcars.

A CSX train traveling north on elevated tracks near the North Avenue bridge derailed Friday at about 3 p.m., when five cars plummeted to the road below. No one was injured, and no leaks or spills occurred, according to CSX.

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Crews worked overnight and through the day Saturday to remove the derailed cars and debris from the crash, according to CSX officials, and several cars that derailed had been removed by Saturday morning. CSX specialists assessed damage to the railroad infrastructure — including the bridge and tracks — and made repairs to restore train service in the area, according to the company.

CSX has several rail lines that pass through the area, and trains were running on them again before noon Saturday.

Local emergency management and CSX officials on the scene of a CSX train derailment in the 1900 block of Falls Road in Baltimore.

Workers from the Baltimore Department of Transportation were replacing a barrier along the tracks where the train derailed, said James Bentley, a spokesman for Mayor Catherine Pugh.

Below the raised tracks, a portion of Falls Road stretching from north of the streetcar museum to its intersection with Maryland Avenue remained closed Saturday as work crews continued to clean up the site. Several cross streets in the area leading to Falls Road were also closed. Bentley said crews hoped to complete the cleanup along Falls Road and reopen the street by the end of the day Saturday.

The Baltimore Streetcar Museum, located beneath the elevated tracks at 1901 Falls Road, was largely unscathed, but it sustained damage to a small but crucial building. Freight cars crushed the museum's George F. Nixon substation, a cinder-block structure housing a transformer that powered overhead lines that allow visitors to take rides in historic streetcars. Some of the overhead power lines snapped under the train's weight, and the derailment also knocked out power to the museum's visitor center, museum president John O'Neill said.

The substation converts the AC power the museum buys to DC power, the type needed to power its old-fashioned streetcars.

Established in 1966, the Baltimore Streetcar Museum has a fleet of about 10 historic streetcars from Baltimore, Philadelphia and Newark, N.J. The all-volunteer organization has offered rides on them since July 3, 1970.

"It's probably going to be a little while before we're able to offer rides again," said Robert Krueger, the museum's event coordinator. "Unfortunately, we've lost our big attraction."

Still, Krueger said, he expects the museum's visitor center will reopen soon. The museum is typically open on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. from March through December. And from June through October, the museum also operates on Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m.

"It's a labor of love for a lot of people for many, many years," Krueger said. He helped build the substation decades ago as a teenager, he said.

The equipment inside the substation building was not damaged, O'Neill said. He had not yet inspected the tracks on which the streetcars run to see whether switches and other pieces of the rail were intact.

"Most of the stuff we have down there we actually salvaged form the streets of Baltimore," he said.

Two railcars that went off the tracks Friday were relocated next to the streetcar museum's tracks, where O'Neill said they would be scrapped.

The derailment did not disrupt service for Amtrak, MARC or Baltimore Light RailLink trains.

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CSX was not able to provide additional information Saturday about the cause of the derailment. The Federal Railroad Administration was also investigating. A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said the organization was aware of the crash but was not investigating it.

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