On June 26, a Norfolk-Southern train blocked at least one railroad crossing for a 5-hour period. StaceyPageOnline.com and Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer have been working to get responses from the rail company on why such long blockages occur and why it happens so frequently.
Today, Thallemer says he finally received an explanation about that June 26 incident and adds, “I hope it gives you insight into the congestion issues that will probably only get worse.”
On June 26, according to the NS source who reported to Thallemer, the events that took place on June 26, which resulted in the blocking of at least the Levi Lee Road crossing, began when a train southbound from Elkhart was to meet a northbound train in the vicinity of Leesburg.
“The northbound train went north of Claypool at 12:15 p.m. Unfortunately, this train was forced to hold on the north end of Warsaw because it would not fit in the siding at Leesburg. Instead, (that northbound train) had to wait for the southbound train to occupy the siding so the two could pass,” explains the NS source. “Due to a strong storm’s interference with track occupancy lights, the southbound train had to operate at a restricted speed from Elkhart. Thus, its original 90-minute run ended up taking 5 hours. A long delay by CSX at Milford Junction, a point at which CSX and NS meet, also added to the time the northbound train spent stopped.”
While Norfolk-Southern’s spokesperson says the trainmaster reported only that the Levi Lee Road crossing was blocked that day, citizens of Warsaw were reporting the CR 350 North crossing was also blocked much, if not all, of the 5 hours.
“Because of the position of the train over the Tippecanoe River, the crew was unable to break the train and open the crossing up,” the NF source tells the mayor. “The NS bridge over the river does not have a walkway so the train crew was not able to have access to the entire train … NS is continuing to refine its operations through Warsaw to minimize any impacts on the community.”
Thallemer says he has made the offer to Norfolk-Southern that, if the trainmasters are aware that long blockages will result in future situations, they can call the Kosciusko County Central Dispatch Center and the city will assist them with rides to the blocked crossings so the train can be split and blockages cleared.
Adds Thallemer, “I was also informed that federal legislation preempts local restrictions on train blockage, so there isn’t anything we can do from an enforcement standpoint.”