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Righting that train

Last modified: 2/12/2011 12:00:00 AM
Larry Ayer stood at the end of Commercial Street yesterday as workers secured the mangled train engine he used to conduct back onto the tracks it fell off when it derailed Wednesday morning. Ayer wasn't the one conducting the train when the accident happened, but he wanted to be around to help when the company's only engine was hoisted up from the snow-covered hill it slid down.

The crew members hired to get the job done made good time, he said. They arrived from New York about 11 a.m. and got to work hooking the train to four bulldozers with cables. The cables crossed the tracks, and the bulldozers drove in the opposite direction, pulling the engine up with them. It all happened in under 90 minutes, Ayer said.

"Once they got here and got everything hooked up, they really went to town," Ayer said.

The derailment sent one of two people on board to the hospital; 100 gallons of diesel fuel were dumped at the crash site.

By yesterday afternoon half a dozen New England Southern Railroad employees and six or so state workers from the Departments of Transportation and Environmental Services remained, shoveling snow off the tracks, placing absorbent pads on the slope the engine slid down to prevent any more fuel from leaking out and examining the inside of the train.

"It looks okay from this angle," Ayer said. "But on the other side, that's when you can really see the damage."

From the other side of the tracks, the bent railing and dented metal showed where the side of the train crashed into the slope, and an exposed patch of dirt marked where the engine slid down it, stripping the snow away as it tumbled. The bare land ended just a few feet away from a stand of young evergreen tress at Brochu Nurseries.

The track directly south of where it crosses the snow-covered Merrimack River was splintered where the engine derailed after hitting a patch of packed snow. A preliminary investigation by the Federal Railroad Administration suggested that snowmobiles crossing the tracks may have been responsible for the snow packing.

The uprighting "went better than we expected," said Karl Dearness, the son of Peter Dearness, who owns the New England Southern Railroad and leases the track from the state. Peter's father was riding in the train when the accident happened, and was admitted to Concord Hospital with head and leg injuries.

Dearness said that between the bulldozer crew, state workers and employees of the railroad company, about 20 men were at the site throughout the day to get the train upright and back on the tracks.

(Tara Ballenger can be reached at 369-3306 or tballenger@cmonitor.com.)


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