Railroad work stops drivers in their tracks

Contracted crews for Norfolk Southern use a front-end loader to removed debris at the railroad crossing on Shenandoah Farms Road. The crossing was closed for several hours on Wednesday. Kevin Green/Daily

FRONT ROYAL — For several hours on Wednesday, the residents of Mary Shady Lane in Front Royal were stuck with nowhere to go.

Maintenance work by Norfolk Southern Railway on a railroad crossing caused hours of delays for the residents of Mary Shady Lane and Shenandoah Shores Road.  The railroad crossing on Shenandoah Shores Road north of Happy Creek Road was closed around 6:30 a.m. and reopened around 5 p.m. Wednesday.  Some cars, and a train, were let through during temporary reopenings during the day.

Susan Terpay, director of public relations for Norfolk Southern, noted via email that the company was “performing track maintenance” in the Front Royal area Wednesday.

Terpay stated, “We apologize for the inconvenience caused to the local residents and we are looking into the cause [for the delays].”

The delays meant that residents, such as Kyle Fox, were not sure if they were going to get to their destinations on time.

Fox said that he had to take his wife Kim to the doctor in Mathias, West Virginia, for a 12:20 p.m. appointment.

However, due to the delay on Wednesday, Fox had to reschedule the appointment for later in the day.

“We’re debating on whether or not we can make it,” Fox said. “So, if we have to reschedule it, it’ll take a couple of more months to get in there.”

Fox has lived in the Mary Shady Lane subdivision for three years, and said that he has never seen anything like this.

“Last time I remember [Norfolk Southern] working on [the railroad] was about three years ago, shortly after I moved in,” Fox said, noting that crews closed the crossing at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

Resident Debbie McFarland has also lived in this subdivision for three years, and said she has never seen anything like this.

McFarland was going to run some errands and buy a card for her grandchildren — the funeral for their mother was at 6 p.m. that day.

“I don’t think it’s fair that I was not informed of the hours of closing this road so that I could have made an alternative plan,” McFarland said.

The delays also inconvenienced May Ann Ferrill and her sister, Elizabeth Patterson, who were visiting their parents for the week from Florida and Madison, Virginia, respectively.

Patterson said, “Our concern is that our parents are elderly, and if anything happens to any of these people back here, what are they going to do if it’s an emergency?”

Patterson said that they arrived back from a day trip to King’s Dominion in Doswell at 1 a.m. Wednesday.  Ferrill said they saw a sign and that was the first notice they had seen regarding Wednesday’s roadwork and closure.

Fox said that a message board about Norfolk Southern’s work was placed along the dirt road last Friday for a road closing scheduled for Sunday.

“They did their work on Sunday, just like they should have,” Fox said. “And then [the sign] said July 28 … and nobody showed up to work.”

Fox added, “This morning, they showed up and the sign read exactly what it says now, and the road was shut down without notice.”

In an email message, Front Royal Town Manager Steve Burke said, “The Town has been issuing notices via email, our website, and Facebook page since last week alerting the public to this work.”

Burke noted that the town had been informed of the Shenandoah Shores work, and that an unforeseen track splicing was required for that project. He said Norfolk Southern “indicated that they would open the crossing at 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.”

Burke said that Norfolk Southern crews experienced “hydraulic issues with some of their equipment.”

Burke said that Norfolk Southern told him that Mary Shady Lane would be closed today for one hour, but said he was not given a time for this closure.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com