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Historic Railway Disasters
18 Jun 98

Chicago Commuter Train Crash - 3 Dead

John Bredin
18 June 1998 Early this morning, a Chicago, South Shore, and South Bend Railroad commuter train, two cars carrying about 20 people to their ultimate destination of Chicago, struck the second trailer of a double-trailer truck near the entrance to a steel mill near Portage, Indiana. The train was traveling at about 75 miles per hour just before the accident, although the train crew had pulled the emergency brake upon sighting the truck on the tracks. Three persons on the train died when a steel coil on the trailer flew through the front of the train and crushed them.

Apparently, the accident occurred because the truck was standing on the tracks waiting for a freight train on a parallel rail line to pass. The driver is under arrest, at last report.

The morning rush-hour commuter service of the South Shore was suspended. Some news reports have stated that the train pushed the trailer for some distance and knocked over several poles. As the South Shore is an electric railway, this may be a contributing factor to the suspension of service, but the reports have been vague on that point. Metra, the Chicago metropolitan commuter rail system, was honoring South Shore tickets, but passengers would have to get to the nearest South Shore station in Illinois to be bused to a Metra line, and that station is most of the way to Chicago as relative to the rest of the South Shore line. There is no word yet as to whether service will be restored in time for the evening rush-hour commute.

Trains on the South Shore line regularly reach speeds of 75 mph. The South Shore serves mainly as a daily commuter line into Chicago and the farthest stations on the line are nearly 90 miles from the city.



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