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4 of 5 derailed Mass. freight train cars removed, CSX says

WCVB Boston 3/25/2023
ayer derailed railcars being lifted up © WCVB ayer derailed railcars being lifted up

Crews worked Friday to upright several cars of a freight train that derailed on Thursday in Ayer, Massachusetts.

The incident left five railcars toppled over, others with their wheels ripped off, and even more left leaning along about a 100-yard stretch of track.

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The derailment occurred in the area of Sculley Road. Fire officials said the train was parked, not in motion, at the time that the cars toppled over.

Fire officials said the five railroad cars that derailed did not contain hazardous materials. The Massachusetts Department of Emergency Management said it was informed about the derailment and told the derailed cars were carrying trash and recycling materials.

As of 9:30 a.m. Friday, four of the five cars that derailed were recovered and removed from the area, according to CSX.

"There were no releases to the environment. Recovery efforts will continue until the area is fully cleared and restored. CSX appreciates the swift, professional response of local first responders," CSX said in a statement.

Federal Railroad Administration personnel were at the scene alongside the railroad, gathering preliminary information about the incident.

The MBTA said Friday that some trains may be operating behind schedule between Ayer and North Station as crews work to re-rail the freight train.

On Thursday, crews placed absorption barriers along a small creek that runs under the tracks at the site of the derailment.

Ever since a freight train derailed in Ohio last month and forced the evacuation of a town, people in Ayer have been keeping a closer eye on these tracks.

John Ford, who lives about a hundred feet from the derailment site, says the tracks appeared to be tilting to one side.

"It was enough for me to wonder why they're driving these big trains along that track," Ford said. "It looked like they just needed to be serviced."

Video below: Sky5 sees toppled cars, damaged tracks in Ayer

"We are working with officials from the railroad, Ayer Police Department and Ayer Department of Public Works to mitigate this incident," fire officials wrote in a statement.

Members of the public were asked to avoid the area.

Sky5 saw the toppled cars were behind Norfolk Southern engines but the company subsequently said they were not operating the train.

An FRA spokesperson confirmed NewsCenter 5 that the train was operated by Pan Am Railways, which is owned by CSX Transportation, and that Norfolk Southern Railway was not involved in the incident other than the fact that a Pan Am employee was operating a Norfolk Southern locomotive due to an operating agreement that is in place on the line near the terminal.

A previous statement provided by CSX explained:

"Just before noon (Thursday), a freight train operated by Springfield Terminals derailed five rail cars carrying ten intermodal containers holding solid waste on the Pan Am Southern rail line in Ayer, MA. There were no reported injuries to the crew, no hazardous materials involved, no leaks or spills of any freight and no impacts to the environment. CSX personnel are responding as the incident occurred on a line jointly owned with Norfolk Southern. We are working closely with local first responders to assess the situation and develop a recovery plan. The cause of the incident is under investigation."

Norfolk Southern is the same rail company involved in recent high-profile derailments, including the massive chemical spill in East Palestine, Ohio.

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