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Mess remains at South Side train derailment site

Bob Bauder
| Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, 1:09 p.m.
A crews attempt to free a container near the T station on the South Side, Monday, August 6, 2018, where a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed around 1 p.m. Sunday and landed on Port Authorityճ tracks near Station Square.
A crews attempt to free a container near the T station on the South Side, Monday, August 6, 2018, where a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed around 1 p.m. Sunday and landed on Port Authorityճ tracks near Station Square.

The train that derailed in Pittsburgh on Sunday clogged freight routes along the Norfolk Southern system between the East Coast and Chicago, a railroad official said Tuesday.

Norfolk Southern spokesman Rudy Husband said the railroad plans to have the track back open with temporary rails sometime Wednesday morning.

“It is having a significant impact on our entire 22-state network,” he said. “We’re hoping to have everything removed sometime early this evening. Then we have about 1,000 feet of track to replace, which should take another 10 hours.”

Trains are backing up in Chicago and northern New Jersey, Husband said.

The storage containers held household products, including Listerine mouthwash, Pampers baby diapers, Snyder of Berlin pretzels, dog and cat food, home appliances and laundry detergent.

The air smelled like Listerine from bottles that have broken during the cleanup. The area immediately below the derailment resembled a landfill with packages and litter from the storage containers blanketing the hillside.

“It’s a real mess,” said Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich.

Cleanup work on Pittsburgh’s South Side screeched to a halt Tuesday afternoon as crews searched for ways to remove the last of seven railroad cars and 42 storage containers remaining on a hillside above a Port Authority of Allegheny County light rail station near Station Square.

Workers removed the final two rail cars from the hill overnight, after a long struggle to remove one with a large crane, according to Tribune-Review news partner WPXI.

Debris cleanup continued early Wednesday morning.

The train traveling from New Jersey to Chicago derailed Sunday afternoon, sending cars and storage containers tumbling onto PAT’s light rail tracks. No one was injured in the derailment. A contractor for Norfolk Southern required 12 stitches to close a gash in his arm that happened as he worked to clear debris.

Husband said the cause of the derailment remains under investigation. Federal Railroad Administration representatives have been at the scene.

PAT officials have yet to assess damages, and it’s unknown how long it will take to reopen the Station Square depot after debris is removed. City officials said the Smithfield Street Bridge and Carson Street would remain closed for at least another day.

Hissrich said heavy equipment has damaged Carson Street, but he could not estimate the extent.

Light rail riders have experienced temporary delays between Downtown and the South Hills during sporadic closures because of the cleanup.

City and Norfolk Southern work crews have set up headquarters in a parking lot along East Carson Street across from the damaged rail lines. Dozens of trucks and pieces of heavy equipment moved through the area as work progressed.

PAT suspended light rail service for about an hour Tuesday morning between Downtown and the South Hills junction station as crews removed one of the freight cars from the hillside above the Station Square stop. The agency had shuttle buses running between South Hills Junction and Downtown.

Read more local news happening in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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