One of the rules of hauling over dimensional cargo is if you cannot clear a railroad track completely, do not cross it at all. That’s the reason there are painted markers on the ground to let drivers know what the safe distance from the train’s path is.
At around noon, Tuesday, Dec. 20, a truck pulling a 130+ feet long concrete bridge beam attempted to pass through a traffic light at University Drive and Apison Pike in Ooltewah, Tennessee when the light changed before the driver could make the turn. As the driver waited for the light to change, with the massive concrete beam over the tracks, the crossing arms activated and went down.
A Norfolk Southern train, consisting of three engines and a great many cars, was headed right for the obstruction over the track. What happened next was something right out of an action movie, and no CGI was needed.
The impact of the incident sent the engines off the rail and caused the steel reinforced beam to wrap around them. Approximately nine to 10 cars followed, causing a series of concussive booms to shake the windows around town.
As you would expect in an incident like this, every local fire department, law enforcement agency, and news crew are on the scene covering the aftermath. The Tennessee Department of Transportation says the roads near the crash scene will be closed for a long time, and drivers are urged to avoid the area.
Two NS employees were injured in the derailment. The driver of the truck was not hurt in the incident.
Diesel fuel and lube oil leaked from two of the locomotives, according to the Chattanooga Fire Department. There were no other hazardous materials involved.