Bomb on Madison County railroad track was made from propane tank

News-DemocratJanuary 21, 2014 


— An live explosive device was found on railroad tracks near Illinois 140 Monday, but officials believe it would not have been strong enough to derail a train.

Norfolk Southern Railroad employees called the Madison County Sheriff's Department about 11:30 a.m. Monday to look at a device made from a small propane tank and left on the train tracks near Quercus Grove Road in rural Madison County.

The sheriff's department then called in the Illinois Secretary of State Police's bomb disposal unit, which determined that the device was functional. The two-man bomb squad team used a counter charge to render the device safe. "That concluded the bomb squad's role in this process," said spokesman Henry Haupt.

The device was then turned over to the Norfolk Southern Railroad Police for investigation, Haupt said. Norfolk Southern spokesman Robin Chapman said the device probably would not have done a lot of damage.

"It was a 1.2-pound propane tank, the kind you attach to a portable grill, and it had a couple of flares taped to it," Chapman said. "Apparently whoever had placed it there had attempted to light it by igniting the flares, but was unable to do so."

Chapman said he did not believe the device was strong enough to damage the track or derail a train. "There is no evidence to suggest this was a serious attempt at sabotage," he said.

The railroad track is solely a freight line at that point; no passenger trains use that track, Chapman said, but he would not say whether hazardous materials are carried on the track.

"For security purposes, we do not publicly disclose the routes we use to transport hazardous materials," he said. "We do share that information with emergency response agencies for their planning and preparation purposes."

Madison County Sheriff Robert Hertz said that the railroad police, which are sworn law enforcement with investigative powers, would continue with the investigation, though federal involvement has not been ruled out. "We feel comfortable based on what they've said that they will continue their investigation," Hertz said.

Officials at the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said they had been notified of the incident and were in communication with Norfolk Southern.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at or 239-2507.

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