Repairs are underway following Monday morning's derailment of the southbound Amtrak Vermonter in Northfield, Vermont.
Crews have brought in specialized rigging equipment to hoist imperiled rail cars back into place, and other work is starting to repair the damaged rail bed, Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, and Amtrak officials said Tuesday.
The Vermonter struck several boulders that had fallen from a ledge in a "freak act of nature," Shumlin said. Shumlin said passengers on the train told him it seemed the train was being operated safely and at appropriate speeds, though federal inspectors from the National Transportation Safety Board are in Vermont looking into what led up to the collision with the rocks.
Shumlin's office also said work is underway to remove several hundred gallons of spilled diesel fuel from a waterway near the crash site. A pumper recovered 400 gallons of fuel, and another 900 gallons was unaccounted for as of midday Tuesday, Shumlin's office said. Some of that may have been caught up in baffles in the fuel tank, and the spilled fuel is unlikely to pose a threat to Northfield's water supply, the governor's office said.
An necn news crew witnessed three of the derailed passenger cars, which presumably were in the rear and least damaged in Monday's crash, brought near the train station in Montpelier late Tuesday afternoon for storage.
The locomotive and front passenger car suffered more extensive damage and landed farther off the track.
The rail corridor is not open to passenger travel because of the derailment. Instead, Vermont Amtrak passengers are now being bused to and from Springfield, Massachusetts, Amtrak officials explained.
Shumlin said all seven of the 102 passengers and crew members aboard the train that needed hospitalization have been released, and are recovering at home.
"It has had the best possible outcome that it can," Shumlin said, expressing gratitude no one lost their life in the collision and subsequent derailment.
"Everybody has problems with rocks, whether it's on the highway or whether it's on railroads," said Joe Boardman, the President and CEO of Amtrak, referring to the type of rockslide that preceded Monday's emergency.
Boardman stood by Amtrak's safety record in the northeast, when questioned by a reporter at a press conference Tuesday morning.
Boardman and Shumlin said it is possible NTSB officials may recommend steps to take to maintain rock ledges near railroad tracks. The federal investigation and preparation of a report could take weeks, Boardman noted.
Boardman and Shumlin said they hope to get the Amtrak Vermonter up and running in "a matter of days, not weeks."
Shumlin said barring any "big surprises" in the rail repair project, he would like to see the Vermonter operating again sometime this weekend. Shumlin noted the Vermonter is a particularly beautiful trip this time of year, with passengers able to enjoy the splendor of Vermont's world-famous fall foliage.
While the repair work continues, leaf-peepers and others who expected to travel through Vermont by rail told necn they understood the need to change their mode of transportation to buses.
"Thank goodness nobody got killed," said Dick Strauch, a traveler from Colorado who was part of an organized tour of the northeast that planned to travel by rail from Vermont to Connecticut Tuesday.
"It could've been way worse," said Gary Mazzurco, a traveler from California who was also on that tour. "I think that's the important thing."