Vandal tries to derail train in Tallulah|[11/30/05]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 30, 2005

TALLULAH – Madison Parish authorities are investigating what may have been an attempt to cause a disaster by derailing a Kansas City Southern Railway train in the middle of town.

&#8220We received a complaint at 3 a.m. Monday that someone placed a steel farming disk on the railroad tracks at Madison Street downtown,” said Chief Deputy Sammie Byrd of the Madison Sheriff’s Department. &#8220The eastbound train came through, hit the disk and knocked it off the track. I can’t imagine how bad it would have been had that train derailed.”

Byrd discounted any notion the act was an accident, saying a forklift was used to place the farm disk on the tracks.

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&#8220A shop next to the railroad track was broken into, and the person took a forklift, picked up the disk and put it on the track before putting the forklift back in the shop,” Byrd said.

He called the attempt to derail the train &#8220an act of domestic terrorism.”

&#8220We have notified the railroad detectives and the FBI,” Byrd said. &#8220I can’t think of any reason to do this, other than to derail the train. When we find out who did it, we’ll get our answer.”

Farmers pull disk assemblies behind tractors to till soil. Arrays come in various sizes, but they’re heavy because weight is what makes them work.

Kansas City Southern Railway operates on the main east-west line that carries more than 25,000 cars monthly over the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, about 20 miles east of Tallulah. Freight includes non-hazardous raw materials such as timber, lumber, grains and rock, but there are also chemical cars loaded with toxic liquids and gasses.

Walking along the Madison Street crossing in a residential area near the center of town, Tallulah Police Chief Earl Pinkney pointed out scraped areas of the tracks.

&#8220It could have done a lot more damage,” Pinkney said. &#8220I don’t know what idiot would do something like that.”

Portions of the farm disk remained embedded in rail ties, and Pinkney said that part of the track may have to be replaced.

The crossing was the site of a fatal accident involving a Kansas City Southern train this year, Pinkney said. Two other accidents involving trains this year have also been reported in Tallulah, despite work by Kansas City Southern Railway nine months ago to make railroad crossings safer.

&#8220KCS put gates at all major crossings in town, and the crossing at Walnut Street was closed,” Tallulah City Clerk Gerald Odom said.

Byrd asked those with information on the Madison Street crossing case to call the Madison Parish Sheriff’s Department at 318-574-1831 or the Tallulah Police Department at 318-574-3230.