CORNERSVILLE - Hundreds of new Kia cars were being crushed Tuesday, and the work could be continuing today where an auto train derailed last month.
Tennessee Valley Recycling of Pulaski got the contract for crushing the cars, while a Cornersville business was hired to remove and recycle the railroad's rubble left after 16 auto train cars left the CSX tracks near Underpass Road northeast of town.
Since the Oct. 10 derailment, all of the Kias were removed from the wrecked train cars and lined up in the field. A few undamaged cars were parked on the far side of a barbed wire fence.
Tuesday morning each car was documented with photographs and the VIN numbers were ground off. All fluids were drained, batteries were removed, and tires were slashed before cars were put in the crusher. They were crushed one at a time, in stacks of three, into a rectangular solid only a little larger than one whole car. Each stack was wrapped with plastic netting, to keep any loose parts from falling on the road during transit, and placed on a flatbed truck.
The flat-beds will deliver them to TVR's Pulaski facility, where plastic and rubber will be separated from the metal, and then they will be "sent through the mill" to emerge as softball-size chunks of metal, ready to be melted down and made into new cars, according to one worker at the scene.
Harmon Scrap Metal, Ostella Road, co-owned by Cam and Kay Harmon, moved a shear crane to the site and planned to start cutting the steel cars into pieces Tuesday, the recycling business' office manager, Beth Apple, said Monday.
"The job may take up to a couple of weeks," Apple said. "We finished another project and now we're moving on to this one."
At the railroad's Jacksonville, Fla., headquarters, CSX Communications Director Carla Groleau reconfirmed the general overview of the derailment as reported by Marshall County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett and Bob Hopkins, the county's Emergency Management Agency director.
"The train originated in Montgomery, Ala., and was headed to Nashville," Groleau said. "The 58-car train derailed 16 of its rail cars at about 4:50 a.m., Oct 10. CSX responded quickly with re-railing equipment, materials and personnel, who worked through the night to re-open the line the next morning."
Ironically, the derailment was generally during the same timeframe as a truck incident on Interstate 65 when the tanker leaked and closed both directions of I-65 for a several hours and the northbound lanes for nearly 12 hours.
"There were no injuries" as a result of the derailment, Groleau said. "As far as I know, the cause has not been determined yet. It can take several weeks for a cause to be determined."
Workers at the site Tuesday said they'd heard the derailment was caused by a split rail. A 200-foot stretch of new track was visible beyond the wrecked train cars.
Trains carrying automobiles are referred to as auto trains, Groleau said. Liggett said he was advised there were 230 Kia-brand vehicles on the auto train. Hopkins said a number of the South Korean-made vehicles were not damaged as a result of the derailment. There were only 13 cars undamaged, but some of the ones being crushed had only minor dents.
"Insurance has already paid for them," said one worker, who didn't want to give his name. "They have to be destroyed."
"It was all on private property," Hopkins said, noting there was no injury and no fuel spill, two issues of concern to the emergency management office. Care was being taken at the scene to keep fuel and other fluids from spilling onto what was a cow pasture, but now looks like a junk yard.
Removing the train cars is "absolutely" a bigger job than removing the Kias, Apple said.
Work was to start by 7 a.m. on Tuesday, she said, describing a shear crane as a large crane on tracks like a bulldozer with pincers like a lobster claw. The blades are the cutters.
"It will cut them up into pieces," she said of what's to be left of the train cars.
Marshall Tribune staff writers Karen Hall and Clint Confehr collaborated on this story.