Had the train derailment happened during a weekday or early evening, the consequences could have been far worse.
The Roanoke Times reported on December 14 that five car carriers derailed within feet of tourist attractions in the heart of the Virginia city. The cars were bound for an automotive distribution center in Petersburg after originating in Melvindale, Michigan. The carriers, with obvious heft, contained a collection of 47 new Ford and Chevrolet vehicles.
Many of the vehicles were damaged after several of the carriers tore open on impact.
The train wreck also happened within feet of the Taubman Museum of Art, a $66 million facility that houses a number of priceless artifacts. Officials checked both the collection and the building following the train accident and pronounced everything was in order.
Critics have long blasted rail companies for having rail systems pass through populated areas. Vibrations from cars passing along rails close to buildings have been known to crack foundations, and various individuals have been injured or killed over the years when signals have failed to warn motorists of an oncoming train.
However, proponents of rail will defend the industry, saying that rail lines installed on the outskirts of a community more than a hundred years ago are now in populated areas by default, due to urban sprawl.
READ MORE TRAIN CRASH LEGAL NEWS
Previous Roanoke train wrecks include a January 1989 derailment that saw seven coal cars derail behind the Virginia Museum of Transportation. In December 1990, two grain cars spilled their loads beneath the Fifth Street bridge during a switching operation. No one was hurt in either incident.
In an unrelated derailment, five cars carrying coal tipped December 17 after a train derailment at West Fargo. Officials reported no chemical spill in the train crash, and no coal was lost.