A lowboy trailer hauling part of a wind turbine tower damaged a section of railroad track at a Keokuk Street crossing Thursday afternoon.
A witness on Keokuk reported that the trailer hit the railroad track as it was crossing and kept on driving.
“It (the lowboy) definitely pulled (the railroad track) up,” said Scott McKee, a railroad track inspector with the Union Pacific Railroad. “It grabbed the rail and caught it.”
A Union Pacific freight train, which approached the crossing shortly after the incident, was able to make its way along the affected track, but only moving at around 3 mph as McKee walked alongside it, occasionally kneeling down and checking to see if the damaged rail would recede into the rail bed on its own.
“This is not what I wanted to see, boys,” McKee said to Jackson and another crewmember after the freight train made it past the affected section and the rail had not receded.
McKee noted that a section crew and backhoe were on the way to the scene and that the affected rail section and planks would need to be pulled up in order to see the full extent of the damage.
“We don’t know if the track is just canted (leaning to one side or another) or if it’s bent,” McKee said. He added that he would not be able to make a decision on whether the section of track would have to be replaced until after it was pulled up and he could get a better look at it.
With the section crew and backhoe arriving shortly after 4:30 p.m., Union Pacific began assessing the extent of the damage.
“They took out the concrete panels that form the railroad crossing surface and cleaned it out,” which reduced enough pressure on the pulled-up rail to where it settled back in (to the rail bed), said city engineer Mark Mathon. “The crossing is now open, and we will not need to close the crossing or replace the rail section.”
The railroad crossing was blocked to traffic from about 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. while crewmen cleaned out debris that was left under the damaged rail when it was rolled up by the trailer.
“We were fortunate in that we didn’t have to hold any trains,” said McKee. “We waited for them to get by before we began working on repairing the track. It could have been a lot worse. We got lucky this time.”
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