A fully loaded eastbound coal train rounded the bend and descended into town. The first ten cars rumbled past the girls before something went tragically wrong. A string of hoppers derailed, tipping over and burying the pair instantly.
The CSX eastbound train had originated in Grafton, WV and was comprised of 80 fully loaded hoppers pulled by two locomotives. Total weight was estimated at 9,000 tons.
The first 21 cars of the train derailed in the heart of downtown at the historic bridge over Main Street. The girls were in a restricted area accessible by climbing a low fence.
All reports confirm that the train was traveling at the 25 MPH speed limit entering town.
The cost in property damage and clean-up was estimated at $1.9 million, but the emotional loss for the close-knit community can never be determined. (Photo by John Teichmoeller)
As a regular visitor to this town my entire life, the tragedy felt weirdly personal, even from 200 miles away. I have stood in that general area many times with my grandfather and just a year earlier with my then-17 year old daughter as part of a college tour to Washington DC. How do those most affected by this, cope with their loss and grasp the random nature of such a bizarrely fateful event?
As modelers, it points to a strange reality that when we depict a prototype and a period, we may be dabbling in a story whose innocence will be stolen forever at a later date. It's going to be challenging to depict the Ellicott City bridge at Main Street circa 1960. I will know something about its future that I would prefer not to know. It sure wasn't something I signed up for modeling the Old Main Line.
BONUS: RHETORICAL QUESTION OF THE DAY...
Have you hugged your child today... and reminded them of the inherent dangers around railroad tracks?