NASHUA – Pan AM Railways and Department of Transportation officials are currently trying to determine if a rail trestle, which was damaged in a train derailment by the Bridge St. rail crossing Thursday night, is structurally sound.
Officials are also trying to re-rail the 10 cars with the hope that that the scene will be cleared and a determination on the trestle made by the end of the day.
"There is quite a bit of damage to the trestle," Cynthia Scarano, executive vice-president for Pan AM Railways said, adding, "there is damage to the railway ties. Bridge inspectors are checking out the trestle to make sure the bridge hasn't been compromised, but we don't believe it has been."
Complicating official's ability to inspect the trestle and remove the cars is the weather.
"Our main problem is the bad conditions due to the snow, it is making it difficult on us," Justin Kates of the Nashua office of emergency said.
Pan AM Railways, which owns the tracks and but not the rail cars or cargo, was shipping coal when Scarano said an unknown problem caused the derailment.
Scarano said that rail officials on site have already re-railed three cars, and hope to have all 10 back on the line and away from the scene by the end of the day.
Kates said he did an inspection of the trestle earlier Friday morning and found it to be in good shape. "It was built strong, some work will have to be done though to repair the wood plank, but the steal structure of the bridge was not affected."
He added there is no concern of coal spilling out as the cars are re-railed as every car remains upright, making the process easier.
"If the coal did spill it wouldn't (be difficult) to clean up, it is solid and can be scooped up. It would be more of a concern if it was a hazardous material, and thankfully, it was a huge relief for us that the cargo was not going to be an issue if it spilled. Makes it easy in comparison to cleaning gas or a liquid hazardous material," Kates said.
However, to prevent that from happening, Kates said Pan AM officials are using specialized equipment to get the cars back on the tracks safely.
Even if the structure of the trestle is sound Scarano said work would have to be done to replace damaged track. However, she explained the process wouldn't take long, as the company has pre-fabricated panels that, "just slip in."
With the cause of the derailment currently unknown, the Boston and Maine Railroad Police are investigating the cause of the crash. The railroad police are a private police department operating under the Boston and Maine Railroad, which is a subsidiary of Pan Am Railways.
With no one hurt, no hazardous cargo, and every derailed car remaining upright, Scarano said, "If it had to happen this is the best way it could."