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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Huge crane puts derailed locomotive back on track in downtown Nashua

It took less than two hours for Pan Am Railways to hoist a 100-ton locomotive in the air and put it back on the tracks Wednesday, one day after ice buildup on the rails left the train stranded and blocking a portion of Main Street.

A half-dozen Pan Am employees spent the morning and lunchtime working on the project after a 44-foot-long mobile crane arrived from Pan Am’s Billerica, Mass., headquarters to lift the locomotive, which slid off the tracks next to the Peddler’s Daughter restaurant on Main Street on Tuesday afternoon. ...

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It took less than two hours for Pan Am Railways to hoist a 100-ton locomotive in the air and put it back on the tracks Wednesday, one day after ice buildup on the rails left the train stranded and blocking a portion of Main Street.

A half-dozen Pan Am employees spent the morning and lunchtime working on the project after a 44-foot-long mobile crane arrived from Pan Am’s Billerica, Mass., headquarters to lift the locomotive, which slid off the tracks next to the Peddler’s Daughter restaurant on Main Street on Tuesday afternoon.

The accident snarled downtown traffic for a while because the locomotive was blocking a northbound lane of Main Street. Officials pushed it out of the way with a bulldozer.

On Wednesday, people walked past the stopped train and snapped cellphone photos as the crane raised and lowered the massive locomotive, while Pan Am employees shoveled out snow, adjusted settings and tried to get it moving again. The blue locomotive was connected to a yellow locomotive, which did not appear to have left the tracks.

Nobody was hurt in the very low-speed derailment, which happened when the two locomotives were being moved along the line that cuts through Nashua east to west, known as the Hillsborough Branch.

The locomotives were not pulling any cars, and no obvious property damage occurred. No fuel spilled.

New Hampshire railroad safety inspector John Robinson said the train apparently was derailed by ice built up along the rails.

“The ice builds up along the flangeway, which keeps the wheel tracking … to the point where the wheels steer off the rail,” he said. “It’s not completely unknown.”

The flangeway is a groove that allows the lips, or flange, of the wheels to fit alongside the rail and keep the wheels in place. Ice in the flangeway can lift the wheel up above the rail to the point where it can slip sideways.

Robinson said no formal investigation had been, or is likely to be, launched into this minor accident.

The Kershaw RC-130 crane owned by Pan Am Railways can travel by road or by rail.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).