When it says “Inspired by true facts” at the beginning of a movie, we are warned that there may be little relationship between what we see on screen and what really happened. But in the case of next week’s “Unstoppable,” the runaway train movie starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, the real story is uncomfortably close to the heart-thumping adrenaline rush we see in the movie. While the characters and their situations and relationships are fictional, some of the most unbelievable moments in the movie are those that really did happen.
It happened in 2001, near Toledo, Ohio. (The movie is set in Pennsylvania.) A runaway SD-40-2 locomotive with 22 loaded and 25 empty cars amounting to a total of 2898 gross trailing tons ran for 66 miles carrying cargo that included molten phenol acid, a highly flammable and toxic substance. According to the official report on the CSX runaway train incident, as in the movie, the engineer got out of the cab to adjust a switch and was not able to get back on the train because it accelerated. And a very brave railroad engineer did jump on the moving train to go inside the cab and hit the brake. It was not going as fast as the movie-heroic rescue on screen, but it was plenty real-life-heroic for all who were involved.
Thankfully, in real life, no one was injured in the incident.