Monday, June 06, 2011

Rail thieves strike twice in New England

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Metal theft has occurred in recent days in Portsmouth, R.I., and in Taunton, Mass., involving two railroad rights-of-way in New England.

Last Wednesday, June 1, a CSX engine, en route to a food service distributor located within the Myles Standish Industrial Park in Taunton, ran aground due to the removal of two eight-foot sections of rail. No one was injured. One piece of the dismembered rail was still on site.

The incident occurred on right-of-way owned by the Taunton Development Corp., but CSX police reportedly were assisting local officials in investigating the incident.

In Portsmouth, two sections of rail, one about 20 feet long and the other six feet in length, appear to have been cut by torch and removed from the Newport Secondary Line, according to Everett Stuart of the Rhode Island Association of Railroad Passengers, who was interviewed by local media concerning the event. The track involved is owned by Rhode Island’s Department of Transportation, and sees very little service of any kind.

Observers suspect both acts occurred on or around the Memorial Day holiday weekend, and they attribute both thefts in part to the lure of selling scrap metal as a fiscal option in hard economic times. “I think it’s a sign of the times,” said Taunton Development Corp. Director Dick Schafer. “People are desperate, and theft of metal is big right now.”

Jon Enos, owner of Enos Metals in Taunton, estimated that a scrap yard might pay between $240 and $300 a ton for scrap steel, though his business does not involve steel purchases. RI-ARP’s Stuart similarly estimated scrap value at roughly $250 a ton.

All nearby scrap metal shops have been informed of both incidents, officials said.