Safety first on the tracks
Published 4:04 pm Wednesday, February 25, 2004
For the second time in as many months, coal has spilled from rail cars and spread over our area, first obscuring our scenic beauty in Canoe, and Tuesday, it spread through the center of downtown Atmore.
This second incident Tuesday was not a massive train derailment, and, as it turned out, not an expensive ordeal.
But the cleanup work to clear the coal from rail crossings in town closed Main Street, Trammell Street and other crossings in town for most of the day.
Police were able to redirect traffic around to open crossings, but a full block of downtown Atmore was closed to vehicular traffic for several hours.
Thankfully, no one was hurt in the incident and no cars were seriously damaged from the coal that spread from the tracks and bounced onto nearby city streets.
But the effects were more serious that a few dirty brooms and the smell of a large barbeque grill wafting through the town.
Those businesses in downtown Atmore were affected with a reduction in vehicular traffic, more difficulty for their customers to get to the stores, and reduced visibility from detoured cars.
Our law enforcement officials were forced from their normal patrols to direct traffic. While it is part of their duty as safety officials, our law officers shouldn't be forced into action as human traffic signals every time an uncovered train rolls through town.
We are concerned at the apparent lack of quality controls and lack of concern for the safety of those who live and work near the tracks. Easily preventable accidents such as this seem to be happening more and more often.
Given that it was only coal that spilled in downtown Atmore, we were very lucky, but next time it might be something more serious.
There's a hodgepodge of private companies involved with our rail system, from CSX, who is responsible for maintaining the tracks, to the various companies the haul people and cargo on them.
That makes it hard to pin down an overall responsibility for the safety of those who live and work near the tracks, but we must make sure those responsible for operating safely, do so.
The tracks once helped Atmore. One careless mistake by one of these companies could hurt us deeply.