A loaded boxcar broke free from the main rail line in Dayton late Tuesday and made a momentous, high-speed trek through the dark of night before it was stopped near Prescott, officials said.
No one was hurt and no major damage was reported in the bizarre incident. Other specifics were also -- including what exactly happened and how -- were not clear this morning.
Even the distance the train car traveled from Columbia County into Walla Walla County was not clear since the track runs separate from the roads, said Walla Walla County Sheriff's Capt. Bill White.
Columbia County dispatch received a call around 11:45 p.m. Tuesday from a citizen who reported a westbound boxcar on the loose. By the time authorities caught up with it, the boxcar had already reportedly crossed the county line into Waitsburg.
Walla Walla County sheriff's officials were called for assistance at 11:47 p.m., White said. But with speeds estimated as high as 55 mph, there was little to be done to stop it. Officials used the roar of the train to guide them as they worked to clear the intersections and make way for its passage.
"They could hear it rumbling down the tracks so they could get ahead of it," White said.
The timing of the incident was fortuitous given the relatively light traffic at that time of night, he said. Many of the railway crossings as the train rolled through Dayton, Waitsburg and Prescott have no lights, bells or other warning system.
Most amazing, officials marveled this morning, was that the boxcar crossed Highway 124. That crossing took place just west of the intersection with Bolles Road.
Once behind Prescott High School, the vehicle slowed down and begin to roll east. A firefighter with Walla Walla County Fire District 7 hopped the boxcar and applied the brake to bring the rig to a halt.
The Times of Waitsburg reported that a representative from Blue Mountain Railroad Company was expected in Dayton this morning. An attempt to reach that company was not successful this morning.
Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8321.