Stuck train Pewee

Train cars block the Mt. Mercy intersection in Pewee Valley. 

The obstruction can last up to three hours.

A centipede of uninterrupted train cars stopped on the tracks parallel to 146 in Pewee Valley, the industrial caravan sometimes known to block all intersections from Mount Mercy several miles back to Wooldridge.

Pewee Valley Mayor Bob Rogers and other local officials link the problem to CSX changing trains or loading cars at the nearby Ford plant.

Yet from CSX to Ford, to every rung of local and state government, Rogers said he’s exhausted most resources in pursuit of a solution, even a stopgap.

In the meantime, he said no defined contingency for first responders exists, namely the all-volunteer Pewee Valley fire Department, besides looping up through Crestwood and around via Hwy. 22 should emergency situations emerge.

“It’s a moral issue,” said Rogers, who shared his frustrations alongside city councilor Jim Allison after the Nov. 2 regular-called meeting. “[What if] somebody has a heart attack, or there’s a fire, an accident, somebody’s injured? You’re talking minutes and minutes can be lives in this case if there’s an emergency.”

The conditioned response for those situations, Rogers said, is to call the railroad, not dispatch.

“Dispatch says it’s a federal issue,” Rogers said. “They don’t have the authority. There is no call to dispatch.”

In turn, he said CSX typically fails to notify dispatch of the blockages.

“The railroad doesn’t call dispatch to say we’re going to block all these crossings for an hour, so we have to call,’ he said.

Allison then reflected back 35 years when L&N ran the trains before CSX.

During that period, he said L&N enacted certain precautions with immobile trains.

“They took care of crossings at that point in time,” he said. “If they were there going to be there for extended period of time and they knew how long it was going to take, they would basically break the trains as they came through and drop the cars off.”

Rogers said he wants to have a conversation with the CSX official who determines the train length and logistics.

“I want to know who’s making the trains up and why he can’t shorten them,” he said. “I don’t want Jacksonville, I don’t want a toll free number, I don’t want their attorneys,” he said. “I want the guy who sits there and decides how many cars go here, looking down on [maps] where the crossings area and makes the decisions to block all [of them].”

Rogers said his next order of business will involve further discussion with Ford. He characterized correspondences with Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul as unproductive.

“I called Rand Paul’s office and they [said] we need a case worker for all this,” Rogers said. “I said I’m not going through all that again. Writing all this up, all that up. I got a letter from Mitch McConnell but it didn’t change anything.”

Allison, too, spent the last several months attempting to develop a solution with Kentucky State Representative Jason Nemes.

Despite an initial conversation about the hours-long train blockages, Allison said he’s yet to hear a response since.

“He was going to look into it,” Allison said. “He said he’s had some discussions with CSX and Ford, but nothing’s really come of it. Beyond that I don’t know where he is [with it]. I have messaged him several times over the past couple months and haven’t even got a response back.”

Those frustrations tie into a recent funding announcement from Governor Andy Beshear—a total of $2.2 million to improve railroad crossings in 11 Kentucky counties, ten of them in Paducah and Louisville.

“Railroads are an essential part of Kentucky’s transportation system, reaching every corner of the commonwealth,” Beshear said in the press release. “The projects being accomplished with the help of these grants will result in greater safety for the millions of vehicles that cross railroad tracks and more efficient operation of the crossings themselves.”

Those projects include upgrading crossing signals and lights, new pavement on approaches to crossings, replacement of approaches and, in some cases, full crossing replacements, according to a press release from the Governor’s office.

Four companies submitted the selected grant applications: Paducah and Louisville Railway; RJ Corman Railroad Group; Kentucky Railway Museum; and Norfolk Southern. A Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) selection committee screened the applications, which then were approved by KYTC Secretary Jim Gray.

Oldham County and CSX were not included but as of press time the reason for that was unclear.