A Brief History
On May 15, 2001, a 47-car freight train in Walbridge, Ohio took off away from the train station sans engineer who had dismounted to set a switch. The train, which included tanker cars carrying hazardous flammable chemicals, traveled an incredible 66 miles before finally being stopped in Kenton, Ohio.
In the face of recent train derailments and disasters, this particular incident could have been much worse. In this case, no crash occurred, and nobody was killed, due to the quick thinking and courage of rail crews. The engineer did suffer minor injuries in his vain attempts to reboard the train as it rolled away.
Achieving as much as 51 mph, the runaway train seemed unstoppable, but a rescue crew in a chase locomotive managed to catch up to the runaway train and attach itself to the rearmost car, bringing the derelict train to a low enough speed for an engineer to run up to the empty locomotive and bring the runaway to a halt.
This harrowing incident became the inspiration for the 2010 thriller film, Unstoppable.
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For more information, please see…
Holbrook, Stewart. The Story of American Railroads: From the Iron Horse to the Diesel Locomotive. Dover Publications, 2016.
Reed, Robert. Train Wrecks: A Pictorial History of Accidents on the Main Line. Schiffer, 1997.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Jason Trew of a CSX EMD SD40-2 locomotive, similar to the locomotive involved in the incident,
You can also watch video versions of this article on YouTube.