Railroad car derails in Barton

Above, a workman guides the operator of a crane as he sets a derailed railroad car onto a new set of wheels. The car went off the rails in Barton Friday evening because of a faulty bearing. Just setting it back on the tracks was not an option, so a special crane was brought in from Maine to help with repairs. By Tuesday afternoon, the damaged car had been taken to Orleans and the railroad was back in business. Photo by Joseph Gresser

Above, a workman guides the operator of a crane as he sets a derailed railroad car onto a new set of wheels. The car went off the rails in Barton Friday evening because of a faulty bearing. Just setting it back on the tracks was not an option, so a special crane was brought in from Maine to help with repairs. By Tuesday afternoon, the damaged car had been taken to Orleans and the railroad was back in business. Photo by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle April 23, 2014 

by Joseph Gresser

BARTON — Faulty bearings caused a railroad car loaded with pulp logs to leave the tracks as it crossed May Farm Road here on Friday evening. The northbound train that it was attached to continued on for about 100 yards until the coupling came undone and the brake line separated, said Selden Houghton, assistant vice-president of Vermont Rail System, who was on hand Monday and Tuesday to oversee repairs.

Modern roller bearings very rarely fail, Mr. Houghton said. They are not like the ones used on old time trains, which required frequent oiling, he said.

A pair of wheels waits for a machine big enough to lift the derailed log car.  That was the situation at the end of a long day’s work Monday.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

A pair of wheels waits for a machine big enough to lift the derailed log car. That was the situation at the end of a long day’s work Monday. Photo by Joseph Gresser

No one in the company had ever seen a problem like the one that caused the derailment, Mr. Houghton said. One end of the problem axle was squared off with its bearings in place, while the other showed nothing but a melted stub.

Mr. Houghton said no one was hurt and safety systems operated as designed. When the line separated, he said, the brakes held the car in place, although with its wheels off the track the car wasn’t going anywhere.

The last three cars of the train were decoupled, although only one was off the rails. After securing them, the unaffected part of the train continued north to Orleans.

A pair of Vermont Rail System workers check out the derailed car full of pulp logs.  Before any repairs could be considered the logs had to be taken off the car, a job that took much of Sunday and Monday.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

A pair of Vermont Rail System workers check out the derailed car full of pulp logs. Before any repairs could be considered the logs had to be taken off the car, a job that took much of Sunday and Monday. Photo by Joseph Gresser

Over Easter weekend little work was done to repair the damaged car or clear the tracks. That wasn’t much of a hardship, Mr. Houghton noted, as no trains were scheduled to run during that time anyway.

Monday morning, though, crews were hard at work. An inspection showed that a pair of wheels on one car needed to be replaced before it was pulled back to St. Johnsbury.

Meanwhile, a log truck, specially fitted to run on railroad tracks, unloaded the derailed car, so it could be lifted back onto the tracks. Another crew replaced ties that were damaged by the train wheels rolling across them like a pizza cutter.

Ties to replace those damaged by the derailment are loaded onto a log truck specially adapted to run on rails.  Behind the truck the cars that were on the south end of the northbound train that went off the rails Friday wait for the trip back to St. Johnsbury.  The derailment occurred where Vermont Rail System tracks cross May Farm Road in Barton.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Ties to replace those damaged by the derailment are loaded onto a log truck specially adapted to run on rails. Behind the truck the cars that were on the south end of the northbound train that went off the rails Friday wait for the trip back to St. Johnsbury. The derailment occurred where Vermont Rail System tracks cross May Farm Road in Barton. Photo by Joseph Gresser

The tracks also needed to be reset to the proper width. Mr. Houghton said the wheels of the derailed car dislodged them as they vibrated down the line over the gravel and wooden ties.

A new pair of wheels sat by the side of the tracks as the crew waited for equipment that could lift the car and allow them to swap out the damaged ones. Mr. Houghton said an excavator was brought into position, but it proved unequal to the car’s weight.

Tuesday morning, while waiting for a special crane to travel down from Maine, Vermont Railways brought in a piece of equipment used to set track. With its help, the crew quickly spiked the rails to the new ties.

A comparison of the damaged set of wheels (left) with their replacements shows how the end of the axle melted down when the bearings failed.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

A comparison of the damaged set of wheels (left) with their replacements shows how the end of the axle melted down when the bearings failed. Photo by Joseph Gresser

Meanwhile, Richard LaClair piled up a mound of earth next to the derailed car. When the crane arrived from Maine it lifted the car and allowed the excavator to remove the damaged wheels.

In an ironic side note, a sign on the side of the crane identified its owner as Pan Am Railways, complete with the logo of the now defunct international airline. Mr. Houghton confirmed that the railways are what’s left of the company that Director Stanley Kubrick once envisioned running commercial flights to the moon.

A burly crane does what a large excavator failed to accomplish and lifts the derailed car off the tracks so it can be repaired.

A burly crane does what a large excavator failed to accomplish and lifts the derailed car off the tracks so it can be repaired.

The crane gently set the car on its new wheels, and when they were fixed, lifted it and set it back on the tracks. By late Tuesday afternoon the car had been taken to Orleans where more permanent repairs were to be made.

Mr. Houghton said the damage to the tracks and ties is a minor expense, and won’t amount to the deductible on the company’s insurance policy. The repairs to the car will be paid by the company that owns it, he says.

contact Joseph Gresser at joseph@bartonchronicle.com

A small backhoe pushes damaged ties out from under their rails Monday afternoon.  As the heavy wheels rolled over the ties they cut into them deeply.  The out-of-place wheels also knocked tracks out of alignment.  Crews worked to repair the road bed as other workers tried to set the derailed car to rights.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

A small backhoe pushes damaged ties out from under their rails Monday afternoon. As the heavy wheels rolled over the ties they cut into them deeply. The out-of-place wheels also knocked tracks out of alignment. Crews worked to repair the road bed as other workers tried to set the derailed car to rights. Photo by Joseph Gresser

A view of the undercarriage of the damaged car shows how far off the rails it went.  Damage to the ties and rails can also be seen.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

A view of the undercarriage of the damaged car shows how far off the rails it went. Damage to the ties and rails can also be seen. Photo by Joseph Gresser

A log truck unloads ties to make repairs.  Photo courtesy of Terese Churchill and Tom Bishop

A log truck unloads ties to make repairs. Photo courtesy of Terese Churchill and Tom Bishop

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