WI - Milwaukie Derailment Knocks Out Area Power

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Milwaukie Derailment Knocks Out Area Power

Five freight cars carrying mostly scrap metal plunge down a bank Saturday night; no one was injured

Monday, July 10, 2000

By Aimee Phan of The Oregonian staff

MILWAUKIE -- A 33-car train carrying mostly scrap metal derailed near a Milwaukie neighborhood Saturday, sending five freight cars plunging down a 50-foot bank and knocking out the surrounding area's power.

The train owned by Portland and Western Railroad derailed at 10:45 p.m. Saturday between Southeast 18th Avenue and Wren Street and Southeast 22nd Avenue and Sparrow Street, said Grant Brough, public information officer for the Clackamas County Fire District No. 1 Fire Prevention Office.

John Smeltzer, the train's engineer, told fire officials the train was beginning its run when a sudden loss of air pressure at 20 mph locked up the brakes, forcing the engine to an emergency stop. The derailed cars knocked out one of Portland General Electric's main distribution lines, leaving 400 residents powerless until approximately 1:45 a.m. Sunday.

Brough said fire officials arrived on the scene after receiving a 9-1-1 call. No one was injured, and no homes were damaged.

This is the second Portland and Western Railroad train derailment in the metro area in four months. In March, an 11-car Portland and Western Railroad train hit a stationary Union Pacific car in Beaverton. There were no injuries.

Bob Meblo, the railroad's president, said the March accident was due to human error and not related to Saturday's derailment. Railroad officials are still investigating the cause of Saturday's derailment. Meblo said it was probably due to either mechanical failure or a broken rail. Meblo said they hope to repair the railroad line by Tuesday.

"The main thing is to get the railroad reopened to get traffic moving," Meblo said.

The derailment did startle area residents. Ed Morterud had a front-and-center view of the derailment from his house.

"We heard this loud screeching noise and saw a set of sparks," Morterud said, "and then there was this big dust cloud."

In the early morning, curious residents walked along the tracks to get a peek at the five-car tumble. While many were relieved that no one was hurt, some expressed worry over the safety of the old train tracks.

"When I moved in, I was concerned about the railroad because I have three kids," said Leela Farrell, who lives two blocks away from the derailment. "It's only our second week and this happens. Hopefully, it doesn't happen too often."

You can reach Aimee Phan at 503-294-5950 or by e-mail at aimeephan@news.oregonian.com


-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), July 10, 2000

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