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'Train to Christmas Town' derails in the Gorge – second time this month

The "Train to Christmas Town," presented by Mt. Hood Railroad, is an hour-long journey meant to fill riders with Christmas cheer. (SBG photo)

The Hood River County Sheriff’s Office said there was a “minor derailment” on the Mt. Hood Railroad Thursday evening during the "Train to Christmas Town" show in the Columbia River Gorge.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is investigating. Officials said there are no reports of any injuries.

This is the second time the train has derailed this month and year.

The first derailment occurred on Dec. 1. No one was injured in that incident, which is also under investigation by the FRA.

FRA reports say the Mt. Hood Railroad had a total of eight accidents/incidents from 2008-2016, six of them with injuries. The agency also says the railroad was issued seven violations in 2016 along with $10,700 in fines.

Shelley Snow, an Oregon Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said the Mt. Hood Railroad is not required to install PTC, positive train control, a crash-prevention technology, as other heavy rail passenger trains are required to do by Dec. 31, 2018.

"Here’s some insight on the Mt Hood Railroad: the law doesn’t mandate PTC on tourist trains," Snow said via email. "One of the reasons why is because they do things on an irregular basis, unlike Class 1 railroads, which are where the law is targeted. For example, the Mt. Hood service is irregular and only goes 10–15 mph."

The Mt. Hood Railroad's general manager did not immediately respond to multiple emails and a voicemail requesting comment.

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