Train Derailment Part Two: Pittsburgh Edition

On April 9, Pennsylvania experienced yet another train derailment. This time, the derailment was not accompanied by chemical spills and the need for a controlled burn, which is good news considering the derailed train was a lot closer to home this time.

The Norfolk Southern train derailed in the Esplen neighborhood, located in Pittsburgh’s West End, about a 15 minute drive from Carnegie Mellon. The train was empty and five cars long, meaning there were no hazards or injuries after the derailment. Roads surrounding the derailed train including West Carson were shut down for a few hours as Norfolk Southern cleanup crews cleared the cars and cleaned up the site. By the end of the day, trains were back up and running through the tracks by West Carson, without further issues with derailments.

This is the same company responsible for February’s train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, although that train was 50-cars long and transporting hazardous materials, leading to larger concerns about contamination in the surrounding environment and prompting evacuations of nearby towns. Since that derailment, Norfolk Southern has “faced mounting criticism over safety.” In response, last month they released a six-point safety plan to “enhance its current operations.” The East Palestine derailment also led to the introduction of new railway safety legislation.

Despite such backlash, the National Transport Safety Board has indicated that this latest derailment will not be part of the current special investigation of Norfolk Southern’s safety practices, nor will it prompt an additional investigation. At this time, the cause of the train derailment is unknown.

This train derailment is among one of the more common types, with no damages and cleanup taking less than two hours. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, 2022 had at least 1,164 train derailments, averaging around three a day across the country. Most of these don’t make national headlines like the East Palestine derailment did, and the significance of this recent derailment comes from the proximity to that event.