41 of 62 Cars Derailed
These freight cars were not intended to be three abreast, but that is practically how they ended up as a result of the train wreck late Thursday afternoon on the Grand Trunk main line between Port Huron and Chicago, through Imlay City.
The following is reprinted through the kind permission of C. Clair Gross, Editor and Publisher of The Imlay City Times, Imlay City, Michigan.
The article was sent to us by G. W. Topham, 3492 McKeen Lake R. D., Columbiaville, Michigan. The accident took place on April 2,1970, in the afternoon.
Imlay City was the scene of a spectacular Grand Trunk freight train wreck about 4:45 Thursday afternoon. The mishap occurred just east of the Blacks Corners Road crossing at the viaduct which carries the main line over the P. O. & N. tracks.
One of the derailed freight cars went down the embankment and crashed into the Gibbard Bros. Elevator garage and storage building at the rear of the Gibbard property. The building was badly damaged.
No one was injured in the wreck, and no one was in the Gibbard buildings at the time of the mishap.
Work crews for the Grand Trunk started in late Thursday - try to get the mess cleaned up so that trains could run again, but it was late Saturday night before the direct line from Chicago to Port Huron through Imlay City could be used. Before that, the trains were all rerouted through Detroit
The 62-car freight train was headed east, from Battle Creek to Port Huron, and was loaded with soft drinks, cereal, clay, glass, plastic and lumber. Forty-one of the cars were derailed and many of them were piled one on top of the other some three high and several were broken open.
Fortunately, 23 of the derailed cars were empty at the time of the accident. The freight was pulled by three Diesel engines.
Cause of the accident was not definitely stated, but a railroad official said it may have been caused by a broken coupler. The engineer said the train was traveling 50 miles an hour. Four trainmen were on board. About a half mile of track was damaged.
Railroad men worked around the clock to get the line reopened so that traffic could be resumed. Huge cranes remove derailed and damaged cars and new track was laid as an area was cleared.
A graveyard of massive, bent box cars was formed in the vacant property south of the railroad right-of-way and north of the Vlasic plant.
Other cars were pushed over the north bank of the right-of-way to get them out of the way so the new track could be laid.
A pile of other freight cars was on the P. O. & N. tracks, under the viaduct, where they landed when the accident occurred. Workmen were leaving them there while efforts were concentrated on getting the main line open.
The roadbed is wide because until a few years ago it had a double track. This gave workmen room in which to lay new track without having to do a lot of preparatory work.
However, the new track had to be laid on a slight curve, and traffic over it Sunday was proceeding at a snail's pace. But the main line was open, and that was the important thing.
News of the wreck, with its accompanying television, radio and newspaper publicity, brought hundreds of sightseers to Imlay City over the weekend.