Officials: 12-car train derailment in Butler County could have been disastrous

Derailed train cars still litter the site in Wayne Twp. where a train derailment early Tuesday morning shutdown U.S. 127. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Derailed train cars still litter the site in Wayne Twp. where a train derailment early Tuesday morning shutdown U.S. 127. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

A 40-car train traveling from Cincinnati to Fort Wayne, Ind. was traveling at a low speed early Tuesday when 12 cars jumped the tracks and toppled into fields, shutting down part of U.S. 127 in Wayne Twp.

But railroad officials and Butler County emergency responders agree the incident could have been much worse, even disastrous.

Derailed train cars still litter the site in Wayne Twp. where a train derailment early Tuesday morning shutdown U.S. 127. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Derailed train cars still litter the site in Wayne Twp. where a train derailment early Tuesday morning shutdown U.S. 127. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The middle portion of a Norfolk Southern train derailed about 4:15 a.m., closing the busy crossing in Wayne Twp. near Seven Mile and leading to nine cars on their sides in the open fields. Three cars remained upright, but off the tracks.

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“I will never say we are fortunate with a derailment. We are always working to avoid that, and when it does happen it is an unfortunate event that we want to rectify as quickly as possible. Obviously it is a better environment in a wide-open space,” said Jeff DeGraff, Norfolk Southern spokesman.

Many of the derailed cars were empty grain carriers, and some were carrying scrap automobile parts.

Butler County Emergency Management Director Matt Haverkos said there were tankers on the train with hazardous materials, but they did not derail.

“There are waterways and high voltage powerlines in that area,” Haverkoes said. “The train managed to snake around all of it.”

By about 6 p.m. Tuesday, the tracks on U.S. 127 had been repaired, wrecked cars were removed and the road was reopened. There were no injuries or hazardous material leaks.

Derailed train cars still litter the site in Wayne Twp. where a train derailment early Tuesday morning shutdown U.S. 127. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Derailed train cars still litter the site in Wayne Twp. where a train derailment early Tuesday morning shutdown U.S. 127. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

DeGraff said the crossing is unique because the railroad does not have many on U.S. highways that get a large amount of vehicle traffic.

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“There is a higher level of vehicle traffic that goes through there, so we certainly keep an eye on the condition of the rails and do maintenance as needed. We also want to make sure that as our train volume fluctuates the tracks can handle the volume,” he said.

The speed limit there is 25 mph, according to DeGraff. At the time of the derailment, it was traveling 18 mph. The track speed for trains on the mainline is 60 mph.

DeGraff noted the speed limit varies from location and is set by the Federal Railway Administration.

The cause of the derailment is under investigation, and cleanup could take several more days, DeGraff said Friday. Some of the cars damaged will be scrapped, and others will be lifted back on the tracks and taken away.

With plenty of crossings in the county, Butler County has seen its share of derailments.

In October 2019, a collision between two trains in Hamilton near the southern Fairfield border caused three train cars to derail and left two crew members with minor injuries. The derailed cars were carrying pulpwood and two loads of butane. There were no leaks or fires.

In December 2014, a train derailment shut down a railroad crossing in New Miami for about two hours at the intersection of Augspurger Avenue just off U.S. 127. The rail cars did not turn over, and there were no hazardous materials involved.

A derailment blocked numerous Hamilton crossings in July 2013 when a CSX train overturned. There was no cargo was spilled and no injuries.

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