BRUNSWICK, MD — When an Amtrak train hit a lumber trailer at a crossing here Wednesday evening, it had all the makings for a tragic disaster.
But, the train stayed on the rails, none of the 140 aboard was injured; and the driver of the rig hauling lumber that was stuck on the tracks escaped before impact, Brunswick Fire Deputy Chief Steve Shook explained.
“It could have been one of the worst events in Brunswick. It certainly had the potential,” Shook said. “We were very, very lucky yesterday.”
Had the Capitol Limited train not hit the end of the trailer, Shook said he believes there very likely may have been a derailment.
The rig had just left the 84 Lumber distribution center located in the western section of the railyard. The driver was trying to make it across the tracks when the incident occurred. Upon impact, the tractor struck a pickup truck that was stopped at the signal and pushed it into the Brunswick Railroad Station.
The driver of the pickup was transported to a local hospital for injuries.
Shook, who quickly established a command post, sent two crews into the train to inquire if anyone was injured. Others did a 360 to ascertain if there were leaks or other hazards.
“Once they determined no one on the train was hurt, we had them stay on there. It was way too hot to allow them to get out,” he said adding that due to the heat index hovering near 100, he called for a canteen unit from the Independent Hose Company. “I knew right away we were going to be there for a while.”
With no hazards to deal with, the deputy chief started scaling back the response. He noted that one of the things that made things work well operationally was the command post had officials from Brunswick Police, a county battalion chief, Amtrak and CSX.
“Amtrak was anxious to get out of there. But we first had to make sure everything was safe, They had examined the train for damage, but it needed to be moved to check closely.”
With responders back at a safe distance, the train slowly pulled away from the piles of lumber. After it was determined that the damage was superficial, it continued its trip to Chicago.
Commuters arriving on the MARC trains were allowed to disembark. However, they had to stay in their vehicles as the crossing remained closed for hours as 84 Lumber crews cleared the debris.
The historic Brunswick Rail Station sustained a large crack in the wall in the incident.
Crews from Brunswick, Brunswick Ambulance and Jefferson stood by until 84 Lumber workers cleared the site.
“I think things went very well,” Shook said. “We definitely dodged one this time…”