Thirty-six Hours

Hulcher Company workers survey the damage at the derailment just south of Farmersville, Texas Saturday morning. Image courtesy of Michael O’Keefe with First Response Photography.

Rain fell steadily from Shreveport, Louisiana to Dallas Friday night and Saturday morning. There are reports of up to eight inches falling within a twenty-four hour period between Friday and Saturday.

The Kansas City Southern Railroad reduced the speed limit from fifty-nine miles per hour to twenty-five from Texas Junction to Wylie, Texas as a result of the saturated soil in Hopkins, Hunt and Collin Counties.

The Shreveport to Dallas train left Shreveport late due to waiting for traffic from New Orleans and Kansas City to arrive for Dallas and Fort Worth. The westbound train was three hours late leaving Louisiana. Engine 4764 was leading. Heavy rain buffeted the train along the entire 150-miles to Greenville. It was approximately 10:30 PM when the train roared across the Horse Branch of the Sabine trestle then approached Greenville at Bois D’arc street at the Jailhouse Crossing. The engineer pulled the horn cord for Bois D’arc, St. John, Wesley, King and finally Texas and Wellington Streets. All was well as the train picked up speed and sped under the US 380 overpass at West Greenville. It was twenty-five miles per hour running to Floyd. The crew noticed high water in Caddo Creek just west of FM 903. Finally, the engineer reduced speed to ten miles per hour for the sharp curve in Farmersville. Water was pooling at Main Street. They were just minutes from disaster.

The first priority to restore rail traffic between Dallas and Shreveport. Image by Michael O’Keefe with First Response Photography.

The train approached an area where water always stood near the intersection of Collin County Road 605 and 558. The bridge was secure but a drainage ditch approximately 500 feet west of the bridge was compromised. The crew reported the “roadbed felt like soup and the track suddenly turned into a limp piece of spaghetti” as two engines left the track and headed into a hackberry grove at 11:31 PM. Eleven flatcars loaded with steel plate piled up behind the locomotives. The Yardmaster in Wylie was made aware that “the Shreveport train was on the ground.” The Hulcher Company of Saginaw, Texas, was notified some forty minutes later. Heavy-duty trucks loaded with side boom Caterpillar crawler tractors were dispatched, and they arrived at the scene just before sunrise Saturday morning. The first order was clearing the track of debris and putting in panel track. It was a choreographed operation all day Saturday and Sunday. Over twelve trains were delayed, but rail traffic opened up this afternoon just thirty-six hours after the incident.

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