BARRE — A collision between a commercial truck and a railway locomotive on Hill Street in the Granite City on Tuesday afternoon closed off nearby streets shortly before schools let out.
No one was hurt in the accident at the rail crossing on Hill Street, although there was damage to two locomotives traveling in tandem and to the front end and suspension of the truck. The truck also ruptured the fuel tank on the rear locomotive, raising concerns about the potential for an explosion and fire.
Police and emergency services responded at about 2 p.m. after the collision. The two Vermont Railway locomotives were traveling back to the granite quarries to pick up more rail cars carrying stone. The truck, owned by Burrell Roofing Inc., of Williamstown, was traveling down Hill Street toward South Main Street when it slammed into the rear locomotive.
Cheyenne Baker, of Orange, was visiting her boyfriend’s aunt on nearby Perry Street and helped redirect traffic off Hill Street after the accident.
“I was there with my kid and we heard tires screeching ... and we came outside,” Baker said. “The train was coming across, like it normally does ... and (the truck) hit the second engine,” Baker said. “The train was going towards the granite mill.
“I’ve heard the CV joint of the truck is completely gone and right now, they’re dealing with a gas leak,” she added.
Timothy Adair, who lives on Hill Street, just yards from the railroad crossing, said he was sleeping at the time and was awakened by the accident.
"I heard the train slam on its brakes and I heard the crash,” Adair said. “The train was trying to cross the street and that truck, right there, T-boned it and the train is leaking diesel fuel.”
Barre Deputy Fire Chief Joe Aldsworth was directing recovery efforts after the accident.
“We got a call for a truck versus railroad engine accident,” Aldsworth said. “We got here, and we found the Burrell truck wedged like it is now and it punctured the tank which had 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel in it, which is actively leaking.
“At this point, we’ve lost between 100 and 150 gallons,” Aldsworth continued. “We have dikes (to contain the spill), put down Speedy Dry (fuel absorbent) and the crew was able to plug the hole (in the fuel tank) temporarily.
“We’ve called Absolute Spill Response, which is here in Barre, and they’re here to help clean it up. They’re going to pump out the tank, just enough to get it below a couple of hundred gallons left. They’re going to move the engines down to the railyard so they can have Vermont Railway (look at the damage).
“We called HazMat, and Vermont Emergency Management has been notified but they will not be coming — we’re going to be handling this in-house,” Aldsworth added.
Aldsworth said a “media blast” was sent out to notify the public and media of the accident and the railroad company was notified to disable the signal crossing at Ayer Street — which was activated by the approaching train — so that traffic could travel through the crossing.
“We’re very fortunate there were no injuries or fatalities and we’re just working to mitigate it now,” Aldsworth said. “It’s probably going to be shut down for two hours, I bet.
“The (Department of Vehicles) is coming to investigate the accident because it is a commercial vehicle involved and they will make the determination (about the accident),” he added.
Aldsworth said both locomotives were damaged, with a ruptured fuel tank on the engine struck by the truck and airlines severed on the front engine.
A spokesperson at Burrell Roofing said he did not have any information about the accident and could not comment.