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Train derails: Lawrenceville roads closed; no injuries reported

LAWRENCEVILLE - A train derailed on its way to Atlanta early Saturday, closing two roads for several hours.

An engine and 15 empty cars used to transport automobiles jumped the tracks about 4 a.m., CSX spokeswoman Meg Scheu said.

The train, which was traveling under Ga. Highway 20, damaged two of the overpass' pylons, the concrete columns that keep the bridge up. The road, also known as Buford Drive, was closed until about 6:30 a.m. while the Department of Transportation inspected the damage, Gwinnett County Fire Department spokesman Thomas Rutledge said.

North Clayton Street remained closed at Born Street all day and into the night while workers removed the bright yellow cars - which zig-zagged under the bridge - and re-laid the track.

Scheu estimated track and signal repairs would be completed early today. She said it would take several days to determine why the train had derailed.

There were no injuries in the wreck, but when an engine flipped on its side, about 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel leaked near the track, Rutledge said. It was contained to the gravel around the area.

"We were very fortunate today," Rutledge said. "There were no cars carrying hazardous materials. There were no evacuations. Our only threat was dealing with diesel fuel, and it was quickly contained."

Scheu said other train traffic was affected by the derailment, and four cars, in addition to the engine, had flipped on their sides. The train had 53 cars and two engines, and the speed limit on that area of track is 35 mph.

Lawrenceville Police Lt. Jeff Smith said the area of track where the accident occurred was the company's main line between South Carolina and Atlanta. The train was coming from Winder.

"It's a huge deal for them," he said. "Every hour it's closed, they're losing money, lots and lots of it. ... The only saving grace is at least it wasn't Monday."

Pedestrians stopped at the Buford Drive overpass to look at the accordion-like accident, and some even ventured onto the tracks at North Clayton street to see the train.

Ray Johnson, who works at Andrews Auto Detailing on the other side of the railroad tracks, said he came to see why the road had been blocked for so long. Luckily, he said, the auto shop is only open for half a day on Saturday, so the business didn't suffer because of the accident.

Lucille and Carolyn Robinson brought 4-year-old Tanner Hudson to see the wreck after his T-ball game because he likes Thomas the Tank Engine so much. They drove from Loganville to see the train up close, Lucille said.

"He heard about it at T-ball this morning and has been crazy ever since," she said, as Tanner clung to her leg. "It's quite a mess. It's a bad place for it to happen."