Train stopped on tracks keep Blue Ridge neighbors from getting home

Published: Oct. 31, 2019 at 6:12 PM EDT
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People in one Botetourt County neighborhood are fed up after stuck trains have left them stranded for hours at a time. Wednesday night, people who live off of Davis Road in Blue Ridge had to wait four and a half hours for a Norfolk Southern train to move off of the only entrance and exit to their neighborhood.

"Well, I have a lot of homework," said 12-year-old Chase Chrimes. "So I'm kinda worried about that."

Chrimes' school bus was just outside his neighborhood Wednesday early evening when he saw the train stopped at the intersection of Davis Road and Webster Road.

According to the school district, the bus driver called transportation officials who advised him to finish the rest of the route, and then united the rest of the students with their parents.

Chrimes said his dad was also stuck in the traffic.

"We knew we were gonna be here for a pretty long time," he said. "But we didn't know how long we were gonna be."

Neighbors report the train got stuck around 4 p.m. and wasn't moved until around 8:30 p.m.

"It's a dead-end road," said neighbor Danny Broughman. "It ends in a subdivision. And there's no other way in here."

Broughman said it was the third time it's happened this week.

"It's part of living near a train track," he said, "but I'll say probably some didn't know, and moved here, that they couldn't get out."

Broughman said he and many neighbors tried contacting Norfolk Southern. We did, too. WDBJ7 received a response around 5:30 p.m. Thursday. It read:

"A rail car on a Norfolk Southern train operating through Blue Ridge, Virginia, yesterday afternoon, Oct. 30, experienced a minor mechanical issue that required the train to stop. The Webster Road railroad crossing was temporarily blocked by the train while the train crew completed an inspection and worked with NS mechanical personnel who responded to make a repair.

Two Norfolk Southern trains experienced minor mechanical issues in the same location last week, which also resulted in temporary blockages.

We apologize for any inconveniences caused to the community."

But the emailed response did not respond to WDBJ7's questions regarding potential action if there was an emergency in which public safety officials like police, firefighters or medics had trouble getting into or out of the neighborhood.

A Botetourt County deputy spent several hours Wednesday night at the intersection directing traffic in the blind curve while it rained and the night grew dark. A spokesperson for the department confirmed to WDBJ7 they were dispatched to the intersection for the same kind of incident three times in the last year.

When we asked about safety concerns on behalf of the residents, the department told us via email:

"Their concerns are the same as the Sheriff’s Offices. Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of the railroad. When these type of events happen continued communications with the Railroad to better the situation and work with them to put options in place to correct the situation as soon as possible. Unfortunately, yesterday’s event was due to a mechanical breakdown and could not move cars from the crossing. Had the Train been stopped for other reason in an emergency we would ask them to break the train to get emergency equipment into the residents living in the area.

I assure you that if someone on the other side of the train would need help we would make every effort to get to them and get them the help they need."

We also reached out to a representative with Botetourt County who told us that in events where there is planned track maintenance, the county has and will continue to stage necessary safety units on both sides of the track. Like deputies, medics and firefighters are at the mercy of unplanned events. But they too, a spokesperson said, would use every available resource to get to someone in need.

Broughman said he would like for the community to have better communication and answers from the railroad.

"I would like to see a way that we can at least try to have some kind of dialogue with the railroad," Broughman said, "whether any other way of getting in or out, or who we need to contact."

WDBJ7 also reached out to Botetourt County Board of Supervisors member Billy Martin, Sr. Martin said he'd not yet been made aware of the issue, but told WDBJ7 he planned to reach out to Norfolk Southern for more information.

Officials with the sheriff's office also wanted to let residents know they can submit a complaint to the Division of Utility and Railroad Safety

Copyright 2019 WDBJ7. All rights reserved.

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