Train derails near downtown Bryan
By HOLLY HUFFMAN
Eagle Staff Writer
Two tanker cars designed to carry a potentially explosive gas derailed Monday as a Union Pacific train traveled through downtown Bryan, firefighters said.
Bryan Fire Department Chief Mike Donoho said neither train car, each marked as empty, appeared to be damaged or leaking.
However, the chief said, the tankers likely contained up to 10 percent of the original load of liquefied petroleum gas as residue inside the car.
“If it escapes, it is flammable,” Donoho said Monday afternoon, describing the worst-case scenario. “We could have [had] a large fireball.”
The wheels on two of the train’s cars fell off just before 6 p.m. Monday as the train was headed through Bryan near the intersection of Groesbeck and Main streets, Donoho said.
The chief said a Brazos County constable who was driving alongside the train noticed two of the cars were being dragged along the track, so he raced ahead to alert the engineer. The cars came off the track when the engineer stopped the train, Donoho said.
“Had they gone around that curve [behind old Bryan Market Place] dragging those cars, we probably would have had a much more severe incident,” Donoho said. “We were lucky we got that train stopped where it was.”
It was unclear Monday why the wheels fell off the cars, officials said. Donoho said Union Pacific officials, who could not be reached for comment Monday evening, were expected to investigate the cause.
Firefighters and police officers worked Monday to rope off a one-block radius around the derailment, but no one was evacuated. Donoho said the fire department would have evacuated residents in a three-block area if any gas had escaped.
The emergency responders remained on scene until about 9 p.m., when crews from Union Pacific’s hazardous materials and safety department took over, Donoho said. The train crews late Monday were awaiting the arrival of additional people and heavy equipment to lift the cars and replace the wheels.
Donoho said Union Pacific crews were told they could call the fire department and request assistance once they began putting the cars back on the track.
Main Street remained blocked late Monday from 29th Street to Tabor Road so the railroad could use the street to bring in equipment, the chief said.
Fourteen-year-old Eddie Dever was watering plants outside his grandmother’s home — just yards away from the accident site — when the derailment took place. But the teen said he didn’t hear any noises and wasn’t even aware a derailment had occurred until a police officer approached him and told him what had happened.
His grandmother, 61-year-old Betty Shalow, said she didn’t hear anything either while inside her home at the intersection of 32nd and Tabor streets. Shalow said when she first moved into her home in 1996, she was a little scared of potential derailments, but her fears since have subsided.
“I figured I’d hear it,” she said, explaining that she thought noise would warn her of a potential derailment. “But I didn’t hear that.”
Shalow and her grandson said Monday’s wreck was nothing like the last train derailment near Groesbeck and Main streets. It was unclear late Monday when that incident happened. She said it was so loud it woke them up in the middle of the night.
“I thought it was coming into the house,” she said.
• Holly Huffman’s e-mail address is email@example.com.