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Plainfield Police Respond to Unattended Train

Train left unattended after one crew's shift ended; a new crew was en route to Plainfield, police said.

A Canadian National train was parked on the tracks near downtown Plainfield for hours on Tuesday. Credit: Jim Racich
A Canadian National train was parked on the tracks near downtown Plainfield for hours on Tuesday. Credit: Jim Racich
Editor's note: Updated at 9:40 p.m. May 6 to include comments from CN.

A Canadian National train sat unattended on the tracks near downtown Plainfield for at least six hours Tuesday morning — but the railroad company didn't violate any laws by leaving it there, police said.


Plainfield village trustee Jim Racich said he spotted the half-mile-long train on the tracks near Village Hall on Lockport Street as he left for his morning workout at around 5:30 a.m. He estimated there were more than 100 cars and about 60 tankers on the train.

The train was still there when Racich left the gym, he said, and still hadn't budged by 11:30 a.m.

Racich, who has frequently expressed concerns about the dangers posed by trains parked near heavily populated areas, said he contacted police, who determined that the train was unmanned.

"I'm really just disgusted," said Racich, who said the parked trains represent a potential "chemical bomb" that could cause serious safety hazards downtown. He said he fears someone could climb aboard an unattended train and set it in motion, cause a fire, or worse.

"It's no joke," he said Tuesday.

Racich said police talked with a rep from Canadian National, who said the railroad is within its rights to leave the train — which Racich said had its engines running — on the tracks.

Plainfield Police Chief and PEMA Director John Konopek said federal regulations allow CN to leave its trains unmanned.

He said the company told officials that the train was parked after one crew's shift ended, and another crew was on its way. By law, crew members — similar to truck drivers — have restrictions placed upon how many consecutive hours they may work.

"The time limit was up before the train reached its destination," Konopek said. "They were transitioning from one crew to another," he added, saying that as of about 11:30, he was told the relief crew was en route to the train.

Even if it's legal, "You don't want [a train] parked by the downtown in a populated area," Konopek said.

He said the village continues to work with CN on the issue, as well as the issue of trains occasionally stopping on the tracks, blocking traffic in Plainfield.

"It's still a work in progress," Konopek said of the village's talks with CN. "To be honest, we don't have a lot of leverage as far as what we can do as a municipality, due to the way federal regulations are written."

Canadian National spokesman Patrick Waldron defended the rail line in an email to Patch.

"The train you are talking about is a train parked on what’s called the Illinois River Line, a branch line that comes off the primary EJ&E railroad near Lincoln Highway. This segment of spur track runs south into Grundy County. CN trains can and do stop on the Illinois River Line in Plainfield as they await clearance to proceed onto the main line track near Lincoln Highway," Waldron wrote. "While we always work to keep train traffic flowing fluidly across the railroad, on branch lines like the 'river line' some trains must wait for an opportunity to proceed on to the main route. There is nothing unsafe or improper about the trains stopping on the river line clear of the grade crossings. The trains stopped on this section of track are part of normal railroad practice and operate in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, including regulations for securing unattended rail equipment."
brian May 08, 2014 at 01:26 PM
A relief crew should NEVER be "in route". Period. CN knows exactly when the current crew is done and knows where the train will be at that time. The relief crew should be the only people waiting for anything. Not the residents choking on diesel fumes waiting for a relief crew.
Vicky Polito May 08, 2014 at 05:34 PM
By no means is public safety on only one entity. If there are things the village can do to further our security and well being, of course they should. I believe that nearly everyone if not definitely everyone in village leadership and administration WANTS to keep everyone as safe as can be and takes that mission seriously. You mention the evac and emergency access and I'll toss in that this is why I've been one of many in and around Plainfield pushing for a hospital here. I agree that there are many things that can be done to keep citizens safe and having trains with chemicals on them staffed 24/7 is just one. I'm not even saying that the trains can't ever stop or that rail traffic isn't a necessity to our lives. I just mean that it can be done better than it seems it's being done right now, today.
frank May 10, 2014 at 11:18 AM
Seems like the people should give a a "toot".

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