As a percentage of total rail movements, those involving derailments are low. If you’re running a train, there is a very small chance a derailment may occur, but crews don’t expect to have the ground, ballast, and track literally fall out from under their train. Nevertheless, that is almost what happened in late October on the line of the Massachusetts Coastal Railroad, a privately-owned shortline in eastern Mass. and on Cape Cod.
Thanks to the notification of a nearby resident, the railroad learned something on the line was wrong. As a precautionary measure, Mass Coastal stopped an empty trash train about five miles from the site of a sinkhole that took out 300 feet of track and the surrounding terrain.
According to the Cape Cod Times, Chris Podgurski, the president and COO of the railroad said “It could have been bad; it could have been real bad. We are very fortunate that whoever called, called. It is in a location that if they had come along and not seen it in time it could have been a catastrophe.”
The failure of the railroad’s embankment, which is next to a body of water where cranberries are harvested was, of course, the reason for the sinkhole, but a cause for the embankment failure is not yet known.
The track will be replaced and the embankment will be rebuilt by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and service is expected to resume around November 20.