Repairs lead to blaze on Bradford train trestle

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Train trestle catches fire near Bradford

By Logan Watson

Maintenance work on a railroad north of Milan set off a blaze that engulfed one half of a trestle bridge over Vick Road Tuesday afternoon.
According to Gibson County Fire Chief Bryan Cathey, workers with the West Tennessee Railroad line were using a cutting torch to replace cross ties on top of the bridge, producing sparks that slowly grew into a roaring inferno.
“We got the call about 20 minutes after they railroad crew had left,” said Chief Cathey, “but it was just rolling when we got there.” Chief Cathey said that sparks from the repairs had worked their way into the trestles and were fanned by the wind blowing through the crossbars.
Several departments responded to the call, drenching the flames and smothering any other embers with a foam that soaked into the wood.
“Between the creosote in the wood and the old timbers, the sparks had just enough oxygen and fuel to start an intense fire,” the Chief said. “It got so hot that the tracks were warped into S-shapes.”
Chief Cathey stated that the timbers in the trestle were likely between 40 and 50 years old, and that West Tennessee Railroad had sent out structural engineers to examine the bridge. The line was closed after the blaze was extinguished to prevent any accidents.
Mark Jobe, train master with West Tennessee Railroad stated that the inspectors found only moderate damage to the bridge.
“It looked a lot worse that it was,” said Jobe. “We got lucky. We had some good firefighters that got the fire put out before it caused too much damage.” Jobe said that steel and structural inspectors found only four legs (the pylons that support the bridge), four concrete caps, two sections of rail and a few ties on top of the bridge that needed to be replaced. Jobe said that the bridge would be back in service before the end of the week.

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DAMAGED TRACKS – The intense heat generated by the fire warped the tracks running over the bridge into S-shapes. The rail line was closed following the blaze until structural engineers could determine the extent of the damage to the trestle. Photo courtesy of the Gibson County Fire Department.

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