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Tuned to Sound Track of Rails, Listener Averts Certain Disaster

February 14, 1988|Associated Press

NEOGA, Ill. — A train aficionado who went investigating when he didn't like the sound of a passing freight has been given a $1,000 reward by Illinois Central Gulf, which said his discovery of a track break may have prevented a serious accident.

David Stilabower, 46, a former railroad track worker and now a truck driver, said he watches and listens to trains whenever he can.

"The Illinois Central main tracks run right by my house--maybe 200 feet from the property line," Stilabower said last week. "The big Amtrak train from Chicago to New Orleans goes right by every night."

On Jan. 30, an Illinois Central freight loaded with potash went by en route to Southern Illinois.

"Just didn't sound right to me," he said. "There was this big, 'Chunk!' like one of the cars had just busted a wheel, and I know what a busted wheel can do to ribbon rail, so I went out to the tracks and had a look.

"There was a break in one of the rails all right--spread open about an inch, I'd say--so I got on the phone and called the yard office. They radioed the freight train south of here and halted it. It was a busted wheel, all right--and they cut off southbound traffic till they could get a track crew out here to fix the rail."

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