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Broken rail cause of train wreck

A broken rail was the cause of a train derailment Oct. 22. The result was a train wreck and a 26,000-gallon gasoline tanker-car spill and fire. The accident forced the evacuation of Middlebury's downtown, although some business owners, wishing to remain anonymous, told the Eagle local emergency crews overreacted to the accident. One official said it was highly unlikely that there would be a long-term environmental impact after gasoline from the wreck spilled into the Otter Creek. David Wulfson, president of the Vermont Rail System, said at a news conference last week that a rail inspector had performed a visual inspection of the Middlebury tracks a few minutes before the derailment happened. Nothing unusual was noted by the inspector at the time. Wulfson also said that the trains speed should not be considered as a factor in the accident. The train was going only 10 mph, he said. However, a broken rail is enough to cause a derailment at even low speeds. State plans to increase rail transportation in the Rutland-Middlebury-Burlington corridor in the coming years will have to include beefed-up inspections and rail and railbed maintenance. Up to 500 residents and visitors were evacuated after 2 p.m. Oct. 22. Thirty streets, in a radius around the downtown accident site, were jammed with intrastate and local traffic immediately following the wreck. Route 7 is the only major corridor through this part of the state. News reports noted that 110 firefighters from around the region helped during the incident. A Pennsylvania firm that specializes in derailed trains arrived on the wreck scene Oct. 23 and returned the cars to the track. The derailed cars were finally cleared from the rails Oct. 24.

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