Posts share 2017 footage out of context after Ohio derailment

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After a February 2023 train derailment near East Palestine, Ohio, social media users claimed a video showed a dilapidated railroad in the US state. This is misleading; the footage was taken in 2017 in another part of the state, and the line has since been rehabilitated.

"This is what railways look like in Ohio while we send $40 billion to Ukraine," says a February 16, 2023 tweet sharing the clip, which accumulated nearly nine million views.

The same video circulated on Facebook and Instagram amid heightened scrutiny of rail safety after the February 3 train derailment, which resulted in a days-long fire and the release of hazardous chemicals, prompting an outcry from politicians.

Screenshot of a tweet taken February 27, 2023

Following the accident, the White House said it was managing some $4 billion in grants to improve rail safety in the US. The National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report that an overheated wheel bearing may have contributed to the derailment, but that its investigation is ongoing.

The video shared online is real, but it does not show a current railbed -- and it was taken in a part of Ohio unrelated to the incident in East Palestine.

A reverse image search indicates the clip was originally published on YouTube in March 2017.

"PREX 1603 leading PREX 3054 blasts down the former Wabash Railroad's 5th District!" user Scott Taipale said in the caption. "Lol actually I condensed 6 minutes of the train crawling down the track!"

Taipale added that the railroad pictured in the video "was most recently the Maumee and Western Railroad (MAW) before being purchased by Pioneer RailCorp." Patriot Rail acquired Pioneer in September 2022.

The track is operated out of Defiance, Ohio -- 200 miles from East Palestine.

The same clip circulated elsewhere online in 2017, including in articles from outlets such as the Daily Mail. Some described the section, which spans from Woodburn, Indiana to Liberty Center, Ohio, as among the worst in the US.

But the rail line was later rehabilitated, thanks in part to grants from the state and federal governments. Patriot Rail described the lengthy rehabilitation in an August 2022 YouTube video.

AFP has debunked other claims about the East Palestine accident here, here and here.