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Tried to Catch It but Couldn't : Engineer Left Runaway Train to Buy Candy Bar, Officer Says

November 17, 1987|Associated Press

GARDNER, Mass. — A runaway train that careened out of control for 30 miles until it was deliberately crashed into a row of boxcars slipped away from its engineer when he left it to buy a candy bar, a police officer said today.

Donald Silk, the engineer, hailed Gardner police officer Robert Babineau after he realized that his train had vanished, and the two raced through three towns at breakneck speed Monday, trying to catch the train at crossings.

But the six locomotives were always a step ahead, Babineau said.

"He thought that if the train was rolling slow enough, he could get on, . . . " Babineau said. He said the engineer told him he did not know how the idling train had slipped into gear.

Babineau said he was sent to the freight yard behind the Family Pharmacy in Gardner at 10 a.m. Monday to answer the frantic call of the engineer, whose train was missing. "He went into the pharmacy to get a candy bar and when he came out, he looked up and it was gone."

"It was the most harrowing 45 minutes of my life," said Colin Pease, a spokesman for the railroad, which frantically threw switches to divert the train into a hastily assembled retaining wall of 45 cars.

No injuries were reported and damage was minimal, said Pease, a vice president for Guilford Transportation Co., headquartered in Billerica.

The train reached speeds of 55 m.p.h. as it raced through at least nine railroad crossings in rural western Massachusetts and past a startled picket line of striking rail workers in Deerfield.

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