First container removed from South Side train derailment
It took contractors about seven hours Monday morning to remove the first container from atop a derailed freight train near Station Square on Pittsburgh’s South Side.
Workers used chains and straps to attach the container to a crane capable of lifting 450 tons and slowly set it down on the side of East Carson Street at Station Square.
East Carson and the Smithfield Street Bridge remains closed as does Port Authority light rail service between Downtown and the South Hills Junction stop.
“This is going to be a slow and meticulous operation,” Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said. “You’re always afraid of the load shifting one way or another. I’m hoping it will speed up, but we’re not going to rush them.”
Norfolk Southern is handling the cleanup.
Several of the cars that derailed Sunday above the Port Authority Transit Station along East Carson Street are hanging precariously over Port Authority T ramp known as the Panhandle Flyover that parallels Arlington Avenue. Each car consisting of three segments was carrying six containers filled with consumer products such as Listerine mouthwash and household appliances.
Workers were preparing to truck the container that was removed away on a flatbed trailer.
Hissrich said Norfolk Southern would attempt to pull one of the cars back onto its rails. The railroad pulled several of the cars that landed on their sides along the track back away from the others, Hissrich said.
Norfolk Southern said it would take about 72 hours to clear the wreckage. Hissrich said work remains on that timeline.
Port Authority made its rail service free Monday to expedite boarding and disembarking of passengers as a result of the disruption.
PAT had earlier announced it had stopped its rail service at the South Hills Junction because of the safety concerns surrounding the removal of the seven rail cars.
Riders heading inbound can board shuttle buses from South Hills Junction to Steel Plaza Station. Rail cars are serving Downtown Pittsburgh from First Avenue Station to Allegheny Station on the North Shore, said Adam Brandolph, a PAT spokesman.
Riders heading outbound can catch shuttle buses from Steel Plaza to South Hills Junction, where Blue and Red line light rail vehicles will take them to the end of those respective rail lines.
All inbound rail vehicles will serve South Hills Junction, use the tracks that run through the city’s Allentown neighborhood, cross the Monongahela River and serve all Downtown light rail stations.
Norfolk Southern said it could be Wednesday before the seven cars of the 57-car train can be removed from the tracks, said Jonathan Glass, a Norfolk Southern spokesman. Contractors using heavy construction cranes will clear the derailed cars and containers, Glass said. No hazardous materials were involved in the crash, Glass said.
Pittsburgh police have asked the public to avoid the area where the railroad crews are working to retail the freight cars.
No one was injured when the freight train derailed at 1:13 p.m. and some cars tumbled off the tracks and down a hillside, several feet from light-rail riders waiting on the platform at the Station Square T station.
Port Authority CEO Katherine Kellerman said the train derailed after an inbound train had just cleared the station.
As soon as she heard the crash, a Port Authority of Allegheny County fare collector Princess Ferguson ran out of her booth and ushered riders on both sides of the platform to safety, Kellerman said.
“We owe her a debt,” Kellerman said. “She kept everyone calm and directed them to a better place to wait.”
Efforts to reach Ferguson on Monday have been unsuccessful.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252 or [email protected] Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.