An insufficient number of railway crew members were working on too many cars before the February derailment that just missed a mobile home community in Glenville, according to information submitted to federal regulators.
Nobody was injured in the 7:30 p.m. derailment near Wyatts Drive on Feb. 7, which led firefighters to evacuate several residents from the neighborhood until the contents of the trains could be determined.
It turned out some cars were carrying chicken feed and soybeans and some were empty, Pan Am officials have said, which was good news for the town of Glenville because the site sits near the town’s wellheads.
According to an accident detail report submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration, 11 out of 73 cars derailed because workers hooked too many cars to the train. The train was parked on an incline, and the number of brakes that had been set could hold only 44 cars on this hill. The train started rolling on its own once 73 were hooked up.
Freight cars each have a hand brake that can be applied by a train crew member. The brake is typically a wheel roughly two feet in diameter connected to another wheel, which engages a chain and tightens brake shoes against the wheels of the car.
Each brake requires one person to operate it.
There were only three handbrakes being employed, each with one worker. With 44 cars connected, the workers were able to hold the trains in place, but then more cars were added, according to the report.
“Due to insufficient hand brakes, the cars started to move, resulting in a derailment,” the company reported to the FRA.
The derailed freight cars, which were supposed to be heading to Massachusetts, sustained $334,788 in damage. The tracks sustained $768 in damage, according to the report.
Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Mike England in an email Wednesday said the agency has not yet determined an official cause of the derailment.
An investigation remains under way, but England said it could be finalized this summer.
Representatives from Pan Am Railways familiar with the derailment were not available for comment late Wednesday.