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CSX train derails on Falls Road in Baltimore; no injuries reported

A CSX freight train traveling north on elevated tracks near the North Avenue bridge derailed Friday afternoon, causing several freight cars to plunge onto Falls Road, according the fire and police officials.

No one was injured, and the freight cars appeared to be empty, according to fire officials. One woman barely escaped injury as an electric pole landed on her car.

The derailment, which occurred around 3 p.m. on the 1900 block of Falls Road, did not disrupt travel on Amtrak lines. The train was traveling on a bridge that carries the train over the Jones Falls and Falls Road, just north of the Howard Street and North Avenue bridges and near the Baltimore Streetcar Museum.

The derailment could be seen from the North Avenue bridge just west of Howard Street, as well as behind Wash Works, a popular car wash on Howard. The nine derailed cars did not appear to pose any hazard, according to Baltimore fire officials.

The train was traveling slowly around a curve when the accident occurred, according to a witness who did not want to be identified. He said the cars fell over slowly.

In a statement, CSX officials said no leaks, spills or injuries were reported and no hazardous materials were involved. Officials said specialized contractors will be coming to the scene of the derailment.

As a precaution against any chemicals leaking into the Jones Falls, the Fire Department had placed booms in the water, said Blair Adams, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Fire Department.

“CSX personnel are on site with local emergency management and will be evaluating actions to restore the site as quickly and safely as possible,” officials said in the statement. “Our main priority is the safety of the community, employees and emergency responders. We apologize for the disruption to the community.”

A regional inspector with the Federal Railroad Administration plans to take a preliminary look at the derailment and its cause, said agency spokesman Warren Flatau.

Mayor Catherine Pugh said in an statement the derailment is being investigated. “We are, of course, grateful that there have been no injuries reported," Pugh said.

Charles Village residents Samantha Garner and Zachary Utz said they were biking on Falls Road from Druid Hill Park when they heard the train go off the tracks.

“I heard like an explosion from one of the overhead lines,” Utz said. “We got closer and saw that the train had rolled off the tracks, basically.”

Fallen train cars were leaning against a Baltimore Streetcar Museum building, Utz said, noting that it appeared the building was keeping the train from falling further.

“So many people go up and down the trail,” Garner said. “It happened a minute before we rolled up. … I feel very lucky today.”

Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. workers at the scene told the couple to leave the area because they did not know what substances were in tanker cars being carried by the train, one of which derailed and was hanging down a wall, and they were worried about possible explosions.

Some of the other derailed train cars appear to be centerbeam cars, which are designed to carry bundles of building supplies, including lumber.

Roads around the site of the crash were closed Friday afternoon, and police were urging drivers to take alternate routes.

Paul Shepard, a spokesman for the Maryland Transit Administration, said the derailment has not affected service to Baltimore Light RailLink or MARC trains, and he does not expect any delays. Amtrak service also was unaffected, Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said.

Jennifer Gwynn, who cleans the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, had just driven away from the museum when she said she heard a loud bang.

“I looked up and there was a train falling off the bridge,” she said.

A freight car hit a small building next to her and a pole, which fell and hit the back of her car. She tried to continue driving but BGE workers nearby told her to get out of her car and run.

“I was in total shock,” Gwynn said. “It is not every day that a train falls on your car. If that building wasn’t there, it would have hit my car.”

The train derailed just north of the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, which was closed, but the news spread quickly among the volunteers.

Logan Tracy, who works in the shop repairing the historic streetcars, rushed to the crash site. He said it appeared one rail car that plunged off the bridge smashed the museum’s substation. During weekends, the streetcars travel back and forth at that very spot, often filled with families.

“We operated right under that CSX bridge, and one of us could have gotten seriously hurt or one of the historic cars could have been smashed,” he said. “And if there had been kids in there? That’s what really scares me.”

He said it’s doubtful the museum will open Saturday.

They run the streetcars each weekend, but are mindful of the trains passing overhead.

“Volunteers are careful,” he said, “to stay out from under crossing trains.”

Maryland Department of the Environment’s emergency response division was en route to the scene to assess the situation, spokesman Jay Apperson said Friday afternoon.

The Fire Department is expected to be on the scene into the weekend.

This is the just the latest CSX train derailment in Maryland. A year ago, a CSX train derailed on a bridge over the Susquehanna River, causing four empty rail cars to fall into the water below. No injuries were reported.

In 2016, 13 of a CSX train's 124 cars went off the rails at the Mount Royal Station and slid to a stop in the Howard Street Tunnel. In 2013, a CSX train struck a garbage truck, derailed and exploded in Rosedale. The truck driver was injured and later charged with violating traffic laws.

In 2012, a CSX coal train derailed in historic Ellicott City, killing two 19-year-old women who were trespassing on a railroad bridge.

Baltimore Sun reporters Kevin Rector, Scott Dance, Sarah Meehan, and Tim Prudente contributed to this article.

lireed@baltsun.com

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