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Clean Up at Springfield, MA

SPRINGFIELD, MA - A freight train carrying 10,000 tons of grain derailed about a half-mile east of the Lyman Street Amtrak station yesterday, spilling out mounds of grain that piled up in the snow and partly buried broken train parts.

While there were no injuries in the crash, and no hazardous materials were released, one car slammed into Cara Distributors. The 6:45 p.m. derailment destroyed the company's cooling storage area and promised to disrupt commuter rail service until at least one of the two tracks can be cleared.

The derailment of 14 of the 82 cars on the eastbound train did not involve any of the train's three engines, according to a spokeswoman for CSX Corp., the Jacksonville, Fla., company that owns both the train and the tracks. Grain spilled from 12 of the 14 cars that derailed, she said.

Using flashlights and floodlights, crews assessed the damage to the crumpled 100-ton hoppers, some of which lay sideways in the snow.

"It's a general mess. It's a general pile-up," Bernie N. McCall, assistant region chief and mechanical officer for CSX, said at the scene last night.

The cause of the crash was still under investigation, and while McCall said he could not offer an estimate of the monetary damage, he said it would be "pretty significant."

Wrecking equipment and about 30 crew members were being brought in from New York last night, he said. "The first priority &emdash; we'll try to get one track operating," McCall said He estimated that it would take the crew until late tonight to push the wreckage off to one side and clear one of the tracks.

Amtrak plans to bus rail commuters between Boston and Springfield until that can be done, said Amtrak Operations Manager John Homan.

"We have roughly four trains leaving and (four trains) coming to Springfield" each weekday, he said. There were only two trains scheduled for that route yesterday, he added.

There were two crew members aboard the freight train, which was transporting 10,000 tons of grain between Chicago, IL and Selkirk, NY, said CSX spokeswoman Jennifer B. Fry.

Fisher Crane Corp., a Syracuse, NY, contractor, has been called in to remove the overturned cars and their cargo, Fry said.

Police were summoned to the 194 Lyman St. address of Preferred Foods Distributors, which is next door to Cara Distributors, to investigate a possible break-in just before 6 p.m., said Springfield Police Officer John Carolan. But there were no signs of forced entry, he said. "About 45 minutes later, we came back with the owner to do a walk-through," he said. "That's when we found a train in the freezer."

According to Fire Department spokesman Dennis Leger, the building has been condemned due to structural damage.

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All Photo's taken by Armand & Jason Piquette

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