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Published: Wednesday, 9/21/2005

10 freight cars derailed

Workers try to remove a derailed car near Western Avenue and Hawley Street in South Toledo. Workers try to remove a derailed car near Western Avenue and Hawley Street in South Toledo.

Residents in a 2 1/2-block radius around the Hawley Street railroad overpass behind Libbey High School were evacuated early yesterday after 10 cars of a freight train derailed, authorities said.

The derailment occurred just before midnight Monday and, because some of the cars contained hazardous materials and could leak, Toledo police evacuated Whittier Street and Hawley to Klondike Street as a precaution.

Rudy Husband, a spokesman for Norfolk Southern, said the rear 10 cars of the train headed from Bellevue, Ohio, to Elkhart, Ind., derailed at 11:44 p.m. while the train was passing through a junction at Hawley Street in Toledo's south end.

Three of the derailed cars were tank cars, all nearly empty but containing residual amounts of liquefied petroleum gas and sulfuric acid . Nothing leaked from any of the cars, and there was no fire, Mr. Husband said.

The derailment blocked both main tracks of Norfolk Southern's main line from Toledo to Chicago. Trains were still able to pass through the area using yard tracks, but rail traffic, including several Amtrak passenger trains, was delayed while the wreckage was removed and the tracks repaired, Mr. Husband said.

The repair work was still in progress late yesterday afternoon. Mr. Husband said the cause of the derailment remains under investigation.

The accident occurred where track switches allow trains to change from one main track to another or enter side tracks next to Norfolk Southern's Air Line Yard.

The Toledo Fire Department's hazardous materials unit was sent to the scene in case of a rupture.

Neighbors said they were awakened by police about midnight with orders to evacuate. They were allowed to return to their homes after a couple of hours but were told to evacuate again about 3 a.m.

They gathered in the parking lot at Libbey next to the school's football stadium until they were allowed back to their homes about 9 a.m.

J.C. Whittecar, 48, of 1032 Whittier could look up and see some of the derailed cars from his backyard. Mr. Whittecar said he was watching television when the derailment occurred.

"You could hear a gigantic boom," Mr. Whittecar said. "You hear those things all the time when you live so close to these tracks, but this was a really big kaboom."

Roy Maier, 54, of 127 South Hawley said he's lived in the area for 30 years and couldn't remember another derailment.

Mr. Maier said authorities should place barriers in the neighborhood between the tracks and the neighborhood. "You don't want one of those cars to come rolling down this hill and come into our backyard," Mr. Maier said. "It could damage some of these homes."

Steve Dennis, 26, said he and his mother, Masako, 55, were roused from their beds at 1027 Whittier by police about midnight. They sat on a TARTA bus after they were ordered to leave their home again about 3 a.m.

They began walking home after the barricades were taken down. "I think we were the only two people without rides," Mr. Dennis said. "I'm just glad we're able to go back to our homes."

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