Train service resumes after derailment in Harrisonburg

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — UPDATE (5:38 p.m., May 11):

Photo of derailment at Maryland Avenue, credit: Felicia Sager-Altland

WHSV's Janson Silvers went by the area near the Forbes Center on Thursday, where a train derailed, and while it looks like work is still underway, Norfolk Southern tells us that train service was resumed today.

The primary work left is recovery of the corn that spilled from the five rail cars which derailed – corn that was meant for local poultry plants.

In an email to WHSV, Norfolk Southern said they replaced the 60-foot long steel bridge over Blacks Run that was damaged from the derailment, and they repaired the track.

In their release, Norfolk Southern says the cause of the derailment is still under investigation.

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UPDATE (2:50 p.m., May 9):

Crews with Norfolk Southern continue to respond to Monday's derailment of five trains cars near the Forbes Center in Harrisonburg.

A little after 1 p.m. on Monday, five cars derailed from a train with four locomotives and 71 rail cars traveling west through Harrisonburg, shutting down traffic on Main Street and Maryland Avenue and knocking out power for about 1000 customers for several hours.

While all five cars that derailed have been cleared from the tracks, repairs to the track itself, where many ties were destroyed, will take days.

One of the biggest repairs needed is a 60-foot-long steel bridge, which carried trains over Blacks Run just west of Main Street in Harrisonburg behind Brickhouse Tavern. That bridge was seriously damaged and is being replaced.

In addition, crews are working with environmental contractors to recover as much of the corn that spilled from the derailed cars as possible. Corn spilled on to the ground and in to Blacks Run, where a mass amount of cord could use up oxygen necessary for fish survival.

The Harrisonburg Fire Department set up a temporary dam near Maryland Avenue to help stop the flow of the creek in order to help the process of recovering that corn.

Norfolk Southern expects to have the section of track operational again by late Thursday, which could be crucial to local poultry plants that rely on trains, like the one which derailed, to supply corn feed.

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UPDATE (8:09 p.m., May 8):

A Norfolk Southern spokesperson says crews will work throughout the night to restore rail operations following the derailment.

Susan Terpay says corn from several of the cars spilled onto the ground and into a nearby waterway. Norfolk Southern is working with environmental contractor to gather the corn that spilled from the cars.

On Monday night, crews will begin removing the derailed cars so they can begin repairing the tracks.

At this time crews do not know when the tracks will be back open. The cause of the derailment is still under investigation.

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UPDATE (4:07 p.m., May 8):

Both major roads that were earlier blocked due to a train derailment in Harrisonburg have now re-opened.

City officials now say South Main Street and Maryland Avenue have both been re-opened to the public after hours of closures.

Five rail cars carrying corn derailed from a Norfolk Southern train just west of South Main Street, near the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, a little after 1 p.m. on Monday.

No injuries were reported from the freight train derailment, but the train came to a halt across both Main Street and Maryland Avenue, closing Main Street from Port Republic Road to Grace Street until about 3:15 p.m. Maryland Avenue was re-opened closer to 4 p.m.

The derailment also resulted in nearly a thousand power outages in the Harrisonburg area, when one of the derailed cars took down a tree that was in contact with power lines. The Harrisonburg Electric Commission says 992 customers were affected from the time of the incident until about 4 p.m.

However, while power is restored and roads are now clear, cars may remain on the tracks for some time as Norfolk Southern works to clean up the scene. Cranes will arrive to assist in removing the cars some time Monday evening.

A lot of damage was done to the track itself, as can be seen in video and pictures below, with many ties destroyed.

Norfolk Southern has no estimate on a timeframe for repairs and re-opening of the track. They do say no hazardous materials were involved though.

No cause has been determined for the derailment yet. Investigation by Norfolk Southern, the Virginia Department for Emergency Management, and several other agencies will shed light on that in the coming days.

WHSV will have community reaction from witnesses of the derailment in our News at 5 and 6.

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UPDATE (3:16 p.m., May 8):

Main Street has been reopened in Harrisonburg after rail cars blocked the roadway for about two hours following a train derailment just west of the street.

Crews with Norfolk Southern and the Harrisonburg Fire Department are determining the best ways to move the rail cars blocking each street.

Closures remain in place on Maryland Avenue, Grace Street, and all roads between those two.

More details on the derailment and its impacts can be found below.


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A train derailed near the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts in Harrisonburg, shutting down traffic across multiple roadways and leading to a large-scale emergency response.

This is just behind the Warsaw parking deck at the edge of the downtown area.

Officials with Harrisonburg Police, the Harrisonburg Fire Department, Public Works crews, JMU Police, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and Norfolk Southern are responding to the scene.

Police say that a little after 1 p.m., five Norfolk Southern rail cars carrying corn product derailed off the tracks around a curve west of Main Street, behind Brickhouse Tavern and near a railway bridge over Blacks Run.

It's not believed to be a significant hazard, but the train came to a stop with rail cars blocking roadways from Maryland Avenue all the way to Grace Street in downtown Harrisonburg.

Crews are working to clear individual rail cars in order to open Main Street, but cleanup will take a considerable amount of time, according to police.

The fire department and Norfolk Southern will work together to determine when rail cars can be moved and how best to move them in order to clear each road.

JMU also reported power outages at many buildings on campus and in the area shortly after the derailment, and the university sent alerts out to all students and faculty.

Harrisonburg's Community Activities Center was temporarily closed due to the power outage affecting the whole area. As of 2:55 p.m., they reported their power was back on.

Photos also show damage to a number of trees right around the track.

No injuries are reported in connection with this incident.

This is not the first time a train has derailed in this section of Harrisonburg. Police say there was a train derailment in this same area in the past five years, when a wheel popped off a train.

The public is strongly encouraged to avoid the area, either in walking near the scene or driving anywhere nearby.

Rail cars could be moving as crews work to clear each road, so people are also encouraged to be aware of that.

This is a developing situation. WHSV's Janson Silvers and Jared Kline are at the scene and will provide updates as we learn them. You can tap the their names to follow their Facebook pages for the latest updates.

Facebook Live videos from on-scene can be watched above and photos from the scene can be found below.

Stay with WHSV for updates.