Train derails, destroys warehouse

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 12, 2001

Greg Evans, owner of Mississippi Lumber Company, shows the damage a Kansas City Southern freight train caused to one of his warehouses on Mulberry Street after it jumped the track Saturday evening.(The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

[02/12/01] Mississippi Lumber Company owner Greg Evans spent this morning on the phone telling customers their orders for doors and windows would not be filled today because a derailed train crashed into one of his company’s warehouses, destroying it and its contents.

But what frustrates Evans the most is that he was not notified by Kansas City Southern about the wreck at 1900 Mulberry St., until nearly 12 hours after the train left the tracks around 7 p.m. Saturday.

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“They told me they had a little problem’ down here and that a train had hit a warehouse,” Evans said. “The first thing I asked was why wasn’t I called.”

By the time he was notified Sunday morning, the empty flat-cars that had jumped the tracks after coming out of the tunnel under Washington Street had been moved, but the signs of the damage were still there.

The 4,000-square-foot warehouse holds special-order doors and windows along with lumber and other products. Evans said he could not say how much merchandise was lost in the building when it collapsed, but that some of the windows and doors can cost more than $600 each.

Other indications of the damage still visible this morning included splintered timbers, deep gouges along the tracks and mud splattered across the road.

“It almost looks like a tornado hit the place,” Evans said. “They obviously had men out here all night on my property without permission.”

Separately, a train blocked the crossing at Pittman Road in Kings most of the day Sunday.

A KCS spokesman could not be reached this morning.

Problems with the trains are not new to residents and business owners in the downtown area. Evans said it was the third train derailment in the past six months along the stretch of tracks that runs past Vicksburg’s Garden District.

Owners of the several antebellum bed and breakfast inns in the area have been pushing for years to have the tracks moved away from downtown areas of the city. They say noise from larger locomotives and horns has become unbearable and is damaging their historic homes.

“That’s the worst I’ve ever seen,” said George Mayer, owner of Annabelle at 501 Speed St. “I tell you what we need to do. The county needs to get moving with the railroad authority.”

Mayer is the owner of one of the five historic homes in the Garden District and has been asking the city and county to come together on a plan to move tracks that have been a part of Vicksburg since 1836 from downtown. The process of rerouting the railroad involves Vicksburg and Warren County governing bodies, and the two boards have not agreed on a plan.

The process involves appointing a five-member railroad authority that would map out a route, acquire property by purchase or eminent domain if necessary, oversee construction and then lease the route to the railroad until costs had been recouped.

“I think the railroad and the city need to take a serious look at this,” Evans said.

Amtrak announced last week that a new passenger route from Meridian to Dallas through Vicksburg would open as soon as infrastructure improvements are made to tracks. The company is identifying where improvements will be made and has not named any locations yet.

No one was hurt in Saturday’s derailment. “What would have happened if it had happened during inventory?” Evans asked. “We had five men in there during inventory.”