(Howe, Texas – June 20, 2014)
Denise Hamner was on her way home from work when she stopped at about 3:50 P.M., CDT, at the FM Road 902 railroad grade crossing of a portion of Union Pacific rails now leased and operated by the Genesee & Wyoming short and regional railroad conglomerate Dallas Garland Northeastern Railroad to allow a DGN train of about three dozen cars pass by in Howe, TX.
Hamner, who lives only a few blocks from the crossing, told KTEN-TV, NBC Channel 10 in Sherman, TX “I’m just sitting there waiting for the train to cross and it was kind of like one of those movies.” As the train crossed the signalized crossing, equipped with bells and flashing lights but no crossing gates, several cars began to derail almost in front of her.
“It was just shaking really weird and then the first car kind of caught a piece of the track, and it just kind of escalated from there,” she described, as the seventh through the 11th cars from the end of the train derailed, four of them turning on their sides and a fifth leaning at a dangerous angle. The motorist could easily have been killed in the derailment, but, miraculously, escaped unscathed. The derailed cars were loaded with rock aggregate used in the making of concrete for construction projects.
Both residents and Howe Police authorities reported that railroad workers had been replacing wooden crossties only a few weeks ago along the route where the derailment occurred.
The Richardson, TX-headquartered railroad is one of 112 domestic and foreign railroads owned and operated by the Genesee & Wyoming, and, according to Federal Railroad Administration reports, operates four trains daily across the FM 902 crossing at maximum allowable speeds of 25 mph.
Meanwhile, Denise Hamner considered herself and her fellow Howe residents to be fortunate. “I’m just glad it wasn’t anything caustic or flammable. It could have been a lot worse!”