On April 30, 2014, a CSX train with about 100 tank cars loaded with crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields was lumbering through Lynchburg on its way to a shipping facility in Yorktown.
The slow-moving train derailed near the busy downtown area and 17 cars left the track. Several exploded into bright, red-orange fireballs.
It took CSX officials about two hours to show up at the city’s command post overseeing firefighting and recover, according to recent testimony by Fire Battalion Chief Robert E. Lipscomb to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the wreck.
Even though the rail line is owned by CSX, rival Norfolk Southern came to the command post to help after only 45 minutes.
CSX had discovered a flaw in the rail track in Lynchburg the day before the wreck, but it had been repaired when the incident happened.
CSX has agreed to pay the state $361,000 for the incident.
The testimony raises questions about what would happen if a similar oil train wrecked in downtown Richmond. CSX has said that from four to six oil trains a week pass along elevated rail tracks that hug the northern shore of the James River.
Trains carrying oil from Bakken often go through Richmond on the same route that passes through Lynchburg. A similar derailment would be stunning and possibly deadly.