CSX Service Resumes on Harpers Ferry Bridge After Fire

Written by Jennifer McLawhorn, Managing Editor
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“CSX locomotives exiting the West Portal of the Harpers Ferry Tunnel from Sandy Hook, Maryland to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Part of the historic B & O Railroad Potomac River Crossing.”
Courtesy of Zeete via Wikimedia Commons

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. – A trestle bridge over the Potomac River connecting Maryland to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia will be ready for freight and passenger trains to operate after a fire broke out on Monday, June 24th.

CSX crews worked to repair the damage. Bryan Tucker, a spokesperson for CSX told The Herald-Mail that “CSX teams inspected the bridge and confirmed its structural integrity. CSX teams worked safely and expeditiously through the night to replace damaged ties and rail. . . One of the two rail lines on the bridge reopened to train traffic at 3:30 a.m. . . . We expect the other to be restored by 11:30 a.m.”

Thankfully, no injuries were reported, and no trains were on the bridge at the time of the fire. The cause is still under investigation. Washington County Emergency Services Director, R. David Hays, said, “when railroad ties get older, they can dry out and become susceptible to fire from sparks from crossing trains,” but it is not known at the time of reporting if that is the cause. After authorities were notified of the fire, firefighters worked to control the flames by 5:30 p.m. Because this was the one bridge of the two that did not have a walkway, “firefighters had to cross the railroad ties, with a handrail along one side, to get to the fire.” 

Due to the heat, it was reported that thermal imaging from a drone showed buckling in both tracks with at least 15-20 damaged ties. Hays said the fire reached above 1,600 degrees. The Washington County Division of Emergency Services stated, “Due to the high temperatures and extensive fire damage, additional units from Washington County, Jefferson County, and Frederick County were called in, along with water tankers from all three counties due to limited water supply access.”

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