A Target 5 Investigation found easy access to several Mid-South rail yards - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Posted by: George Metaxas, 11/15/04, 5:54 p.m.

A Target 5 Investigation found easy access to several Mid-South rail yards

Despite millions of dollars spent on security, a Target 5 Investigation found easy access to several Mid-South rail yards. We got a behind the scenes tour of a rail yard and several others in Memphis. Yards full of freight, and cars that carry dangerous chemicals. They're tours security experts say we never should have had. Every year millions of tons of freight moves through the Mid-South, a good portion by rail. So much, you'd think the railroad companies operating in Memphis wouldn't just leave some of it like we found it, out in the open, accessible to anyone. The Association of American Railroads says since September 11th, the industry has spent tens of millions of dollars beefing up security at its facilities and along the country's 140-thousand mile railway network. And reportedly, taking extra steps when transporting hazardous materials like anhydrous ammonia and chlorine. We wanted to have a look for ourselves. Our first stop, the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe rail yard. In the front there are checkpoints, warning signs, and a big control tower with people presumably keeping an eye on who and what is coming and going. Security spotted us taking pictures, asked who we were then drove off. So did we. But around back we found absolutely no security at all. We found a road that leads right into the train yard. No guard, no fence, nothing, just complete access to the train cars and what's inside. The track along that road leads in, too. Once in the yard, we seemingly had free reign of the place--access to the cars, even tanker cars, some used to carry hazardous chemicals, a large cargo crane and the diesel locomotives. We wandered around for an hour without anyone stopping to question us. Butch Pennington, Local Emergency Planning said, "There's some risk there." Risk of vandalism, tampering and theft. We found maybe the biggest risk at the Canadian National rail yard. We found no security at all. Just off the side of the road we found these tankers that warn of corrosive chemicals. One is used to carry sulfuric acid. We walked right up to dozens of other unattended cars with and without danger warnings. And when the conductor of the locomotive noticed us, he waved. Pennington said, "He should have radioed the yard master." He might have, but if he did, we were able to stick around another hour without anyone stopping us. No hint of security until we left and set up on a public bridge over looking the rail yard to get a few more pictures. A railroad cop pulled up, checked our IDs then left. Same story at the Norfolk and Southern yard. A railroad cop checked our IDs again outside that yard, but only after we had spent more than an hour wandering around inside the yard taking pictures of their trains.

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