EVANSTON -– A faulty section of rail line is blamed for a three-car train derailment last week for the Hoosier Southern Railroad. No one was injured in the Nov. 14 mishap. However, the damaged track has brought much of the rail traffic that runs from east of Evanston toward Lincoln City to a standstill.
That is problematic since Hoosier Southern Rail – which maintains 22 miles of line between Tell City and Lincoln City – ships supplies used by many local manufacturers. Those raw products arrive into the Lincoln City interchange and are either delivered to the companies or continue on to the Tell City River Port and held in storage.
As of Monday, the line was still inoperable. At that time, there were about two dozen loaded cars awaiting transport into Perry County from Lincoln City and another dozen empty cars at the port that needed to transfer out. But the impact to local business is expected to be minimal as the Thanksgiving holiday made for a short work week and some companies were already on break.
Adding to the worry for tourism leaders, passenger cars that will be used for the upcoming Polar Bear Express Christmas-themed tours were en route and have been held up in transit. Given that repairs are made and the cars arrive in time, those tours are expected to go on as planned. As the rides were not expected to extend beyond Troy, executives from the Indiana Transportation Museum, which operates the Polar Bear Express, reportedly gave their approval.
There was hope from port officials that trains could back up and running by noon Tuesday.
Their assessment of the situation indicates that the area where the accident occurred is continually wet. As a result, the saturated ground became soft, and that created a multifold problem, wherein older ties had prematurely rotted, the track widened and the spikes pulled from the ties. Initially, the locomotive with eight cars in tow made it across the bad section of track. But the rail became unstable, and pushed away from the tie, causing a trio of cars to sink into the mud.
“Once he felt it drop, he hit the emergency stop,” Port chief executive Alvin Evans said of the train master operating the locomotive. Evans added that the faulty ties should have a life expectancy of 25 years, and though they are nearing two decades old, the conditions in which they set contributed to the issue.
Given the expected delays of transports and the manpower and equipment needed to make repairs, port authority board president Bill Goffinet said the corrective undertaking is “going to be very expensive.”
Though, the actual costs won’t be available until next month’s board meeting, at the earliest.
In a less than ideal location along a series of embankments, the port called in the assistance of Huntingburg-based Cooper Rail Service to expedite the restoration of services for Hoosier Southern. Taking on what they initially believed to be a simple job, Evans said, “they said they’d be done in three hours, then they hit the mud.” By day five of the event, the port was still trying to shore up the unstable terrain. That included plans to install some temporary drainage measures. However, more extensive excavation will need to me done in the future once the area has had time to dry out.