It turned out to be anything but a routine Sunday afternoon for Princess Ferguson.
Seated at her post at the Station Square “T” station, she said she heard “a real loud noise. I mean, I couldn’t explain this noise at all.”
Seconds later, she saw the unthinkable—“I saw the trains coming over the hillside.”
Yes, train cars from a freight train which chug-a-lugs on a hill above the T station’s tracks had tumbled onto the T’s tracks. Thankfully, no one was injured, and no Port Authority trains were passing through the exact area near the Station Square station at the time of the Aug. 5 incident.
“I grabbed my phone, and I ran out the booth, and I saw my passengers on the platform, ran up there and told them to get off, let’s go, let’s go, hurry, get off,” Ferguson said at a press conference a few days after the event.
Ferguson, along with a number of Port Authority of Allegheny County employees who were instrumental in responding to the train derailment, were honored and given county proclamations by county Executive Rich Fitzgerald and County Councilmember Denise Ranalli-Russell, Sept. 25.
“The only thing I was thinking about was the people. I gotta take care of my passengers,” Ferguson said. “And then after everything settled down, that’s when I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I could have just lost my life or been in the hospital.’”
Ferguson has worked at the Port Authority for 14 years, and at the Station Square fare booth for three years.
Ferguson revealed at the press conference in August that she and other employees always had thoughts of a freight train derailing onto what’s essentially “street level” below. “We always thought about that, and it just happened to be me, at that time,” she said.
Engineers from the Port Authority worked feverishly to clear the debris—and train cars—from the Station Square station, a process that took weeks. But it was finished in a faster time frame than originally expected. One could head to the scene of the derailment now and find no indications that anything ever went wrong.
But for Ferguson, 42, of Pitcairn, that image of the Norfolk Southern Railway train coming down the hill is something that she’ll always remember.
Ferguson said that one of the passengers who were on the platform thanked her for saving his life.
Ferguson credited someone else: “God was with us that day.”
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