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Freight Train Derails On Southwest Side, Knocks Down Power Lines

Ernie Pentek stands in his back yard on the Southwest Side after a CSX freight train derailed, and several cars tumbled into his yard. (Credit: Steve Miller, WBBM)

Ernie Pentek stands in his back yard on the Southwest Side after a CSX freight train derailed, and several cars tumbled into his yard. (Credit: Steve Miller, WBBM)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A freight train derailment on the Southwest Side left several rail cars tossed about early Sunday.

CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports a CSX freight train slammed into the rear of another train near 83rd and Rockwell streets in the Wrightwood neighborhood around 2 a.m., sending at least eight cars off the tracks, and temporarily knocking out power to 2,500 customers.

The wreck left several nearby residents on edge, as some of the derailed cars ended up in the back yard of a home along the railroad tracks.
It’s often said that a tornado sounds like a freight train coming through, but Sunday morning, it was a freight train that sounded like an approaching storm.

“Being awakened out of a dead sleep, I heard a big crash, thinking it was lightning,” witness Ernie Pentek said. “My one son was awakened. He said, ‘Dad, I think Isaac is here.”

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Some of the derailed cars ended up in Pentek’s back yard, after smashing through his fence, and damaging part of his garage and a trailer that sat next to the garage.
Pentek said some large trees in his yard probably saved his garage from being a total loss.

The derailed cars toppled a utility pole, taking down several power lines.

Neighbor Paul Beoh said when he heard the noise of the derailment and the explosion of a power transformer, his first thought was, “I hope this train don’t come into my house.

It didn’t, but the wreckage of the train derailment looked like something from a disaster movie, with freight cars piled up like a Lionel Train set.

Complicating cleanup efforts was the fact the tracks sit on an embankment, with live power lines overhead. Crews have been removing tress to gain access to the derailed cars.

ComEd crews restored power to the 2,500 customers who were left in the dark after power lines were taken out in the wreck.

The job now is to re-open the rails.

CSX spokesman Tom Livingston said, “We put about 25 trains per day on this line at this point.” Some of those trains haul up to 100 cars.

The derailment left some neighbors reevaluating living with near a freight line.

“Except for the noise that the trains make, I feel kind of safe living so near to the tracks, but now, after this, I’m kind of concerned,” Beoh said.

As bad as it looked, no one was injured in the mishap. CSX estimated it could take a couple of days to re-open the affected tracks. The line handles only freight traffic, so no Amtrak or commuter trains will be affected.