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Bethlehem News

Derailment site back on track less than 24 hours later

Christine Sexton
Norfolk Southern rail cars ready to roll just a day after 4-5 empty cars derailed in the same spot under the Hill to Hill Bridge in Bethlehem Friday, July 5, 2024.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Less than 24 hours after several cars derailed on the tracks below the Hill to Hill Bridge on Friday, things look back to normal.

Black Norfolk Southern cars were lined up and idling before 10 a.m. Saturday at the site where four or five cars on a 125-car train left their tracks while on a bridge crossing the Lehigh River about 2:41 p.m., according to the Bethlehem Fire Department.

The derailment marked the second in the area this year.

Upon arrival, crews found 4-5 rail cars derailed and Norfolk Southern personnel on scene. Two to three derailed rail cars were located on the bridge over the Lehigh River and two cars were located off the tracks at the end of the bridge, according to a release by the city's office of the fire marshall.

All derailed cars were reported to be empty, and it appeared the river was not affected.

The train consisted of 125 rail cars. Two cars of the 125 car train contained hazardous materials but were not operating near the derailed cars. No hazardous material cars were derailed or damaged and there were no leaks or spills, the release said. No injuries were reported. No roads or crossings were involved or blocked.

Two years ago, nearby residents Joe and Kathy Hart said they heard nothing unusual but walked down to "rubberneck" at the scene when they read about it online.

Joe Hart said they did the same thing when empty automobile carriers derailed in the exact same spot on Sept. 28, 2022.

"My ancestors were railroaders. Derailments happen but the industry generally has a good safety record."
Joe Hart

Joe Hart
This September 2022 photo shows a crane returning rail cars to the tracks after a derailment in the same area below the Hill to Hill Bridge in Bethlehem.

"Honestly, we don't give it much thought," he said of living near the railroad. "My ancestors were railroaders. Derailments happen but the industry generally has a good safety record." 

Norfolk Southern's media relations team on Friday confirmed the details of the crash but did not provide additional comment.

In an email at 2:27 pm Saturday, Heather Garcia, media spokesperson for Norfolk Southern, said "the cause of this incident is under investigation but our teams were out inspecting the track yesterday."

Friday afternoon's derailment is the second incident this year where a Norfolk Southern train has left their rails in or around the Christmas City.

In March, a three-train crash near Steel City in Lower Saucon Township sent two locomotives and six train cars into the river.