GARDENDALE, Ala. (WIAT) – The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating a train derailment that happened in Calhoun County Thursday. Officials say 37 train cars were involved that spilled a “little bit” of diesel fuel, but none were carrying hazardous materials.
This derailment comes after at least two others nationwide since February. We’re getting a sense of how trains impact people who live and work near tracks.
In October 2021, McCormack Drive was totally blocked for about half a day. The road is the only way for about a dozen neighbors to get to and from their homes. Residents were either stuck or could not get home without walking between the train cars, becoming a safety issue.
Jim Thompson mows the lawn weekly across the street at New Castle United Methodist Church.
“I don’t understand why they stop on the road,” Thompson said. “Why particularly do they have to stop at these certain places? There’s several instances where that happens quite a bit, just the short time that I’m here.”
Gardendale Mayor Stan Hogeland said it became a safety hazard, especially when one neighbor needed medication and they had to pass it through train cars.
“When it goes on for hours, that’s unacceptable,” Hogeland said. “I made the threat about it’s a shame that it’s going to take somebody to die to get y’all to react because you know if anyone ever does die in that situation I doubt if it ever happens again.”
Back then it was blockages that we found down the tracks from only a few intersections that have tracks. But derailments seem to be more frequent nationwide now.
“Depending on what derails and the chemical in it, it could impact quite a bit of folks, but there’s only so much that one person can do,” Thompson said.
Hogeland said first responders are trained and prepared should something like that happen. He said other jurisdictions would be willing to help, too.
“It’s just training and preparedness and making sure we can react in case something does happen,” Hogeland said.
Thompson said he prefers that chemicals travel the rails instead of the interstates because they’re filled up already with so many semi-trucks. He said the biggest nuisance for neighbors is the whistles each time a train crosses and the 15-to-20-minute delays for people trying to cross.
Hogeland said he hasn’t had blockages anywhere near what it was like here in October of 2021.