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Engine derailment in Bulls Gap

Workers with the R. J. Corman Derailment Services, from Kentucky, lift a Norfolk Southern engine back on the tracks in the old downtown area of Bulls Gap.
Published: 4:49 PM, 02/19/2012 Last updated: 5:22 PM, 02/23/2012

By Bill Grubb
News Editor

BULLS GAP - The future home of the Bulls Gap Railroad Museum, located in the former Gilley's Hotel, almost had some unwelcome visitors Sunday - two Norfolk Southern engines and two empty coal cars.
    Although the accident is still under investigation, a railroad switch may be the cause of a 12:30 p.m. derailment that sent two engines and two empty coal cars partially of the tracks in the old downtown area of Bulls Gap.
    The derailment, which created a sound described as a large rumble that many mistook for thunder, took place as the train was beginning to leave the main track and travel on a section known as the "Y" that bisects the old downtown area and travels directly in front of the former Gilley's Hotel, a landmark that was donated to the Bulls Gap Railroad Museum several years ago.
    Fortunately, the engines veered away from the building but caused emergency personnel to close the adjacent section of South Main Street and detour traffic.
    All rail traffic on the busy main rail line, which runs from Bristol to Knoxville, also came to screeching halt until the empty coal cars, which were headed through the rail yard and to Virginia, could be removed by engines brought in from Greeneville.
    An even longer delay was caused by the fact that the R. J. Corman Derailment Services had to bring their equipment to the site from Georgia, with the tractor-trailers arriving at approximately 7:45 p.m.
    Like an oversized model train, the first large engine was slowly lifted back onto the track and left on its own power.  At approximately 1:45 a.m., slightly more than13 hours after the incident began, the second engine and two empty coal cars finally left downtown Bulls Gap.
    The Bulls Gap Community Center was opened by city officials to provide the workers that filled downtown with a place to get warm and stay dry on the cold wet day.  Volunteers with the Railroad Museum provided coffer, hot chocolate, donuts and cookies.
    While there were no injuries in the incident, the area was without water after workers severed two water lines, leaving much of Bulls Gap without water for hours and sending some water to the lower level of the old hotel.

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