Engineers and others were trying to determine how much damage was done to Union Station a day after a rail car careening through the city Tuesday evening damaged a display steam engine and the tower that supports the station’s pedestrian bridge near the tracks.
A rail car somehow got away from where it should have been and went down Schuyler Street before hitting the old locomotive, said Melanie Boyer, a spokeswoman for the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway.
The rail car, which was carrying plastic pellets, was traveling on the New York, Susquehanna and Western’s line, which connects to a CSX line.
When the runaway train car hit the antique locomotive, the stationary train display crashed into Union Station near a pedestrian bridge that is part of the building, the Utica Observer-Dispatch reported. A large section of a station wall appeared to have been broken off.
No one was in the part of the building that got hit and no direct injuries from the crash were reported.
Harry Lenz couldn’t believe it when he heard a runaway rail car had made its way through the city early Tuesday evening and slammed into a 102-year-old, 80 ton steam engine on display at Union Station.
“When I saw this happen on the (news) on Tuesday, I was stunned and dumbfounded because this has been a labor of love for a lot of the rail historians here in Utica,” said Lenz, who is president of the Utica & Mohawk Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, which owns the locomotive. “I’ve spent countless hours working on it and trying to restore it. It’s a big attraction to anyone that’s involved with railroad history.”
Lenz said it isn’t known how badly the engine is damaged because part of it is still in the tower that supports the station’s pedestrian bridge near the tracks. It is, however, “significantly damaged just from a casual perusal of the locomotive,” he said.
“A railroad locomotive that’s 100 years old is unique,” he said. “You don’t find part for it so we have to take parts and renew them, refurbish them and replace them on the locomotive. Lots of money’s been put into it and lots of man-hours and it’s a shame to say that some of the people that were very active have passed on in the last 15 years that were very involved with the steam locomotive.”
Built in 1913, the engine was purchased by the society’s local chapter in 1999 and put on display at Union Station shortly later, Lenz said.
Officials are investigating whether a parked rail car was tampered with when it was set in motion and careened through the city before causing structural damage at Utica’s Union Station.
“It appears the brake lever was released by someone, we’re not sure who, manually,” Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said Tuesday evening. “It appears this was not something that just happened on its own.”
The New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway car – which was carrying plastic pellets – was parked near the Burrstone Road bridge off the North-South Arterial.
Picente said once released, the train car’s momentum caused it to drive down the tracks, hit a car at the Schuyler Street intersection, and ultimately bump a display steam engine into Union Station.
Utica emergency units and engineers will be investigating Wednesday who caused the accident – and how the damage to Union Station will affect its structural integrity.
“That’s my main concern right now,” Picente said about an hour after the incident. “There’s so much structural damage, we’re concerned the tunnel area could fall down.”
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