Man Sues Chehalis-Centralia Railroad Over 'Permanent, Progressive’ Injuries Sustained in 2019 Collision

Chehalis-Centralia Railroad and Museum: Pacific County Man Says He Requires Ongoing Medical Care Costs


A Raymond man is suing the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad and Museum, claiming that a 2019 collision with a dinner train tour left him with serious injuries “alleged to be permanent, progressive and disabling in nature,” according to court documents.

The lawsuit was filed last Friday in Lewis County Superior Court. The plaintiff, John Hodel, of Pacific County, who was 69 at the time of the accident, is seeking an unspecified amount that includes medical costs.

Mary Kay Nelson, vice president of the museum’s board of directors, said she and other board members couldn’t comment on the lawsuit as they’re still waiting to hear back from an insurance provider.

She said the railroad and museum would provide more information when it becomes available.

The incident occured on Oct. 27, 2019, near the 300 block of Spooner Road in rural Chehalis.

The dinner train was allegedly traveling backward toward the Milburn siding track when it collided with the plaintiff’s vehicle shortly after sunset, around 6:34 p.m.

According to court documents, Hodel alleges the train had no headlights on its rear cart during the collision and that they had been moved the week prior. He ultimately failed to see the train, then the two collided and he was transported to a hospital.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office at the time said “some kind of mechanical issue” likely played a role in the crash, and Hodel claims in his suit that the train experienced a failure on a brake line prior to the accident and was temporarily stranded for about 90 minutes before the accident.

Hodel is claiming the collision and his injuries were directly caused by the “tortious conduct” of the museum and its staff.

“As a direct and proximate result of the said collision, plaintiff was caused to be severely injured,” read Hordel’s initial complaint for damages. “Although medical attention and supportive remedies have been resorted to, said injuries, together with pain, discomfort and limitation of movement prevail and will continue to prevail for an indefinite time into the future for plaintiff.”

Hodel alleges he will continue to incur medical expenses in the future, but didn’t specify in his initial filings how much in medical expenses he’s incurred so far.

According to previous reporting in The Chronicle, there were no lights or crossing guard that came down at the time of the incident. There is signage at the location.

The conductor of the train told a Lewis County chief deputy at the time that he saw the car coming and sounded the horn, but the driver did not respond. He attempted to stop the train but was unsuccessful.

Hodel was reportedly alert and conscious when deputies were called to the scene, but photos show the front of his vehicle was lodged underneath the passenger cart.

A local transit authority assisted in busing train passengers back to their vehicles.

In late 2019, the Port of Chehalis and railroad museum agreed to a purchase agreement on the 10-mile long Curtis rail line. The port had been considering sale of the line since at least 2017 due to liability concerns associated with the line and its 34 private and public crossings.

The Chehalis-Centralia Railroad and Museum, through use of the line, entertained approximately 12,000 people annually, according to a 2019 press release from the Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce. The museum and its tours, prior to the pandemic, had significant economic impact and brought in more than $925,000 annually to the Lewis County community.