A dozen activists trying to stop a coal supply train near Worcester were forced off the tracks when the train did not stop on Monday evening.
No one was injured or arrested.
The activists – some of whom were affiliated with groups like the Climate Disobedience Center, 350 New Hampshire Action and 350 Mass Action – said in a press release that the action was part of their campaign to shut down the Merrimack plant in Bow, NH. , one of New England’s last coal-fired power stations.
About 25 people gathered in the woods near the tracks at West Boylston at around 8:00 p.m., and at about 9:35 p.m. “scouts” stationed further south on the tracks called to report that the train was heading for the group. moving at about 10 miles per hour. hour.
Vermont-based activist Jacob Powsner called the railroad’s emergency dispatch agent to let him know there were people on the tracks, reading the following statement to the dispatcher: ” It’s an emergency. There are protesters on the Worcester main line track near milepost seven. I repeat you have to stop the train on the Worcester main line, there are protesters on the track at milepost seven. “
During a similar protest on December 8, activists called the dispatcher and the train stopped before reaching them. In this case, however, Powsner says the man who responded told him he couldn’t stop the train, although Powsner says it’s not clear whether the man wouldn’t or could not stop the train.
Shortly after the 9:30 p.m. calls, activists willing to risk arrest climbed onto the tracks, flashlights and headlamps pointed at the oncoming train. About a minute later, the first sounds of the train horn are heard from where they are standing.
Lila Kohrman-Glaser, an organizer of 350 New Hampshire Action, said she felt “anxious” standing on the tracks. “But I feel a lot more anxious about the climate crisis and the fact that coal is still being used in New Hampshire. And if I have to stand in front of a train and be a little anxious, that sounds like a really fair compromise. . “
At 9.45 p.m., the train’s lights were visible in the distance, as were the flashing red and blue lights of law enforcement vehicles. West Boylston Police Sgt. Anthony Papandrea confirmed that three officers in three cars responded to a call about an “irrelevant” vehicle.
Shortly before 9:50 p.m., the train appeared, honking its horn as the demonstrators approached. Those standing on the track began to wonder aloud if the train was going to stop.
Activists stationed about a mile and a half away tried to warn the driver with flags, but the train gave no indication of slowing down.
With the train about 50 feet away, the group derailed.
“If we were stuck on the tracks, they wouldn’t have had time to slow down the moment they saw us,” said one of the protesters. “They went through two groups of flaggers.”
A spokesperson for the Federal Railroad Administration said that at the time of publication, no one had filed an incident report.
Pan Am Railways, which operates this section of track, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We didn’t expect the train to stop in front of us. It can’t stop that quickly. The point is, it still had time to stop before the protest site,” he said. said Wen Stephenson, one of the protest organizers. parked as a scout along the tracks.
After exiting the tracks, some activists ran alongside and in front of the train, continuing their efforts to stop it. But the vehicle continued to move forward, the horn sounding. It took about seven minutes for the train to pass.
Tim DeChristopher, a Rhode Island-based climate activist, said more actions are planned.
“We have to do away with coal,” he said. “And since our leaders have not acted, we are doing what needs to be done.”