Catherine W. Idzerda" />

Train derailment snarls Janesville traffic

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Thursday, June 17, 2010
— Railroad officials were investigating Wednesday what caused a train derailment that blocked three city streets for three hours.

At about 12:15 p.m., three cars jumped the tracks near the Five Points intersection in downtown Janesville.

“We had a 130-car train coming into Janesville from Milton,” said Ken Lucht, Wisconsin & Southern Railroad community development manager. “Three flatbeds left the rails but remained upright.”

There were no injuries, and the cars were empty.

Three streets were blocked for about three hours while workers put the cars back onto the rails and cleared the tracks. City workers then had to clear barricades and reset traffic lights, Janesville Police Sgt. Chad Pearson said.

Until the tracks were cleared, Memorial Drive was closed between Kwik Trip, 254 E. Memorial Drive, and the Memorial Bridge. North Jackson Street near Centerway and Court Street near Five Points also were closed.

Although the train was not blocking Court Street, the crossing arms remained down with lights flashing and warning signals ringing.

For a short time, railroad workers held up one of the crossing arms so southbound traffic on Centerway could turn right onto Court Street. Janesville police put a stop to that, parking their sports utility vehicle, lights flashing, in the right-turn lane.

Memorial Drive and Jackson Street are two of the primary streets used to get to Mercy Hospital from Janesville’s northeast side, but no emergency vehicles had to detour during the road closures, Pearson said.

For a while, the state Department of Transportation website was reporting that Highway 51 was closed because of the derailment. Both Janesville police and the Rock County 911 Communication Center said it was not closed.

Union Pacific Railroad, which owns the tracks that run through Janesville, called the state’s commissioner of railroads to report the accident.

“They told us that there were three empty flatbeds followed by loaded cars that were going down an incline,” said Beth Piliouras, agency liaison for the commissioner of railroads. “The three cars were pushed off the tracks.”

Lucht acknowledged that the placement of “loads versus empties” can cause derailment.

“At this time, nothing is leading us to believe that it played any role in the derailment,” Lucht said.

The railroad will look at a variety of possible causes, including vandalism or items on the track.

Last updated: 2:03 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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