Energy. Environment. Economy.

Train carrying crude oil derails on Philadelphia bridge

A CSX unit train delivers a load of crude oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota to the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in South Philadelphia.


A CSX unit train delivers a load of crude oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota to the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in South Philadelphia.

Train cars carrying crude oil and sand derailed on a Philadelphia bridge early this morning, leaving the cars intact but leaning over the Schuylkill River.

The Coast Guard and the rail company CSX said the cars derailed on the Schuylkill Arsenal Bridge at around 12:30 a.m. and there was no evidence that they spilled any of their cargo.

The 101-car train was traveling from Chicago to Philadelphia when seven of the cars derailed, CSX said. Six of those cars were carrying crude oil and one was carrying sand. CSX said in a statement that the company is working “to clear the derailment in a way that is safe and environmentally responsible.”

The Coast Guard sent a team of pollution responders to the scene and another small crew in a boat is enforcing a safety zone in the river south of the bridge.

Video from NBC10 shows the cars tilting over the water while crews spread booms in the river below. The cause of the derailment is under investigation.

As StateImpact PA has reported, domestic oil production in the Midwest has helped revive Philadelphia-area refineries and led to a surge in rail traffic as tankers carry the crude across the country. That activity has also raised safety concerns, especially after an oil train derailment last year in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killed 47 people and destroyed much of the town center.

Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering holding a hearing on oil-by-rail safety in March.


  • Iris Marie Bloom

    The oil was almost certainly from the Bakken Shale, and it is now widely known that the trains are not fit to carry such an explosive substance, higher in volatile organic chemicals and in deadly hydrogen sulfide than other oils. The infrastructure is not safe, as has been made obvious by the Casselton fireball and evacuation on December 30th 2013, the Alabama disaster before that, and the Lac Megantic disaster which destroyed the town center and killed 47 people. These “oil bomb” trains must stop immediately; lives could be lost if we wait for a hearing in March.

  • paulroden

    There also is a trestle that cuts right through the Drexel University campus, behind the 30th Street SEPTA Commuter and Amtrak Rail station. The tracks and the trestle are not in good shape and haven’t seen this volume of freight or oil tank cars in years. I have seen these hundred oil tank car trains endlessly rolling by when down in this area many times. The deliveries are constant. In the past, crude oil came into the refineries in South Philadelphia and Marcus Hook via ocean tanker or pipelines. Finished products of oil, fuel oil, jet fuel, gasoline, diesel fuel etc, were distributed by pipeline, truck, barge, tanker and rail. This Bakken Shale oil extracted via fracking and shipped by rail across the US is a disaster waiting to happen. There is no contingency plan for a fire and a explosion in an urban area. They still haven re-railed two of the rail cars including one with crude oil which is still precariously hanging over the edge of one track, one hundred year old rail line bridge. There are overhead power lines connected to an electrical power plant next to the bridge embankment. It is an overhead truss bridge with steel girders and over the Schuylkill river. The bridge also crosses over the Schuylkill Expressway, I-76, a major artery of Philadelphia. So it is going to be hard to get a crane or cranes into to re-rail the two remaining cars on the bridge, from a barge in the Schuylkill River or from the Schuylkill Expressway. Luckily no one was hurt or killed, yet and no oil appears to be leaking. This is our last warning.

  • Jerry Lee Miller

    So have the tracks been cleared? If not, will the 2 daily mile long trains loaded explosive Bakken crude snake through Philly on other tracks? Or are these trains that were enroute just parked somewhere?

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »