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Orange County Incidents and Accidents Orange January 2003

Incidents and Accidents...2003...Orange, CA

Janary 7, 2003

Story and Photographs Copyright 2005 by Richard Elgenson, RailNews Network



In early January 2003, Southern California experienced some fierce Santa Ana winds.  The morning after one of these wind events, I found myself traversing my way through the City of Orange towards eastern Anaheim.  I had crossed the Surfline tracks on Walnut Street and going past Batavia Street, I noticed serious wind damage to a utility line going up Batavia.  The first glimpse of a snapped off pole with the wires holding the top 20 feet suspended in midair was eerie.  Looking up the four lane Batavia Street was a sight to behold.  About 25 utility poles were snapped off and in the street.  Our work vehicle was parked and we took a walk up Batavia Street to the east-west grade crossing with the Surfline to find out what had happened since I had heard nothing on the news.  While walking, I noticed a Los Angeles bound Metrolink train cross Batavia. 


This stretch of Batavia Street towards the north becomes increasingly more industrial with car repair facilities and other businesses.  Whatever had bought down this line of utility poles did it spectacularly.  At the highway-rail grade crossing of Batavia Street and the Surfline, the answer to the cause started to show itself.  It became increasingly clear that a train had something to do with this disaster.  There was no derailment as it happened.  After the downed power lines were cut, rail traffic resumed with a slow order.




The story was very simple.  Sometime early in the morning, the Santa Ana wind had downed some wires from this line of utility poles.  A northbound Metrolink train passed the Olive Subdivision junction, made its 90 degere turn towards the Anaheim (Angel Stadium) Station.  The first crossing after this curve is Batavia Street, where the train hit the downed lines which then ripped down about 12 poles on each side of the crossing.  The crossing warning devices were mostly destroyed as a result. One car waiting for the train was flipped over. 


Two southbound trains moved though.  First an Amtrak Surfliner  followed by the Union Pacific Costa Mesa local freight.  The boxcars likely contain newsprint for the end of the line user, a newspaper plant in Costa Mesa.  The other local Orange County newspaper recieves its newsprint via truck, even though it is 1/4 mile from the Surfline in Santa Ana.

Page 2, City of Orange Incident

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