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Train carrying gasoline derails

A gasoline fire on the scene of a major Vermont Railway train derailment was extinguished Oct. 21, although fuel might still be leaking from one of the tanker cars that went off the tracks, according to Barbara Farr, Vermont Emergency Management director. Several railcars, most loaded with gasoline, derailed in downtown Middlebury. The accident occurred near Water Street around 2 p.m. The cause of the accident is under investigation. Ten cars flipped over in a chain reaction according to an eyewitness downtown. Most of the cars were filled with gasoline. Some were filled with road salt. A Vermont State Haz Mat (hazardous material) crew arrived on the scene and sprayed chemical foam on the gasoline fire. Booms were deployed to prevent a major gas spill in Otter Creek. State officials have not determined if there was environmental damage to the creek. While no injuries were reported, schools, residences and businesses were evacuated as a precaution. Middlebury Middle School was set up as a makeshift evacuation center. Most roads in and out of Middlebury were closed during the day. As a result, drivers found themselves detoured or waiting in a traffic jam. Students from three nearby schools were affected by the accident. They were evacuated from Middlebury Union High School to the middle school, located on Creek Road, during the incident. Students from the Mary Hogan Elementary School were also transported to Salisbury Elementary School as a precaution. Vermont Railway, a part of the Vermont Rail System, is owned by the Wulfson family. It occupies nearly all of the defunct Rutland Railroad Corp. The railroading family also owns and operates the Green Mountain Railroad, the New York & Ogdensburg Railroad, and the Washington County (Vt.) Railway. The Vermont Railway was the first public-private partnership in the nation. Tight financial controls and aggressive marketing for attracting customers has made the Vermont Railway a success. Despite Mondays accident, the railway has maintained a good safety record although track improvements have been slow. Ironically, the public-relations plans of a group of state legislators were derailed Oct. 22, one day following the Middlebury accident. The group planned to examine the rail line between Rutland and Middlebury. The junket also scheduled a stop at the old Middlebury Depot on Seymour Street. The Red Cross is setting up an emergency shelter for those displaced by the train derailment in Middlebury. The shelter will be located at the American Legion on Boardman Street in Middlebury.

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