2005 derailment last local train accident
Updated: September 3, 2012 12:32PM
RIVER FOREST — The last derailment of a train passing through River Forest occurred in November 2005.
The rail cars actually derailed just a few feet south of the River Forest/Forest Park border at Madison Street, closing the thoroughfare to vehicle traffic for 10 hours.
The border also divides track owned by Canadian National (in River Forest) and CSX Corp. (in Forest Park).
The accident left dozens of feet of track south of Madison visibly twisted and torn up. Crews worked through the night to remove the derailed cars, and four cranes were brought in to place the derailed cars back on the tracks.
About 1,000 feet of damaged track needed to be replaced, according to Canadian National Railroad, but no one was injured, and no evacuation was required.
Two of the six cars that left the tracks contained liquid propane, but neither double-hulled containers ruptured.
River Forest Fire Chief Jim Eggert said a breach in either propane tank would have required evacuating residences and businesses within a half a mile of the site.
Seven MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alert System) Division 11 fire departments —approximately 50 firefighters — responded to the scene along with 25 police officers.
Units from other departments that specialize in hazardous materials remained on the scene until incident commanders made sure no propane had leaked.
Eggert the absolute first priority in such an incident is to stop rail traffic in both directions.
“First and foremost you shut down the tracks,” said Eggert. “You throw red flares a hundred feet down the track each way. The top thing is keeping people safe.”
The derailment could have been much worse. The Canadian National tracks run through River Forest for approximately a mile and a half on a steep embankment roughly 150 feet behind and to the west of Park Avenue, from Chicago Avenue to the north to just past Washington Boulevard to the south.
Just after Washington Boulevard, the tracks gradually return to grade level. Had the derailment happened four blocks to the north of the actual site, the rail cars could have rolled down a steep embankment behind the River Forest Village Hall, which houses the West Suburban Consolidated Dispatch Center and the River Forest fire and police departments.