PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Police have charged a man with risking a catastrophe by putting objects on the train tracks in Homestead.

Just before noon Thursday, a CSX freight train passed through Homestead right behind the Waterfront shopping complex, like many trains do many times a day.

But a train heading along the same stretch of tracks on Wednesday hit a few obstacles.

Part of the debris trail is still visible. Pieces of concrete and pieces of rail all placed on the tracks. Police say when the train hit it, it sounded like an explosion.

“It hit something pretty big,” said Homestead Police Chief Jeff DeSimone, “and… the rail authorities, they did relay that what he was putting on the tracks, in the right place, it could have derailed a train.”

(Photo Credit: KDKA Photojournalist Ian Smith)

(Photo Credit: KDKA Photojournalist Ian Smith)

Police arrested 63-year-old Bernard Marshalek of Squirrel Hill and charged him with 18 different counts, including risking catastrophe and interference with railroad transportation.

The criminal complaint says he admitted to several attempts, and CSX told local police they’d been investigating similar incidents since June 1.

A passerby happened to see him, which led to an altercation.

“The civilian saw the actor putting these objects on the tracks and interacted,” said the chief, “tried to detain him, and luckily, the police officer was coming by and that’s how this all unraveled.”

It comes at a time when the safety of rail travel gets a closer look in light of the 60 to 70 tanker cars that carry volatile material through the region every day, and recent accidents with potentially deadly consequences.

“Your guess is as good as ours, what does pass through, so I’ll leave it to your imagination,” said the chief.

Investigators are still trying to figure out motive.

District Judge Eugene Ricciardi set bond at $100,000 straight, and the judge also ordered an evaluation at the behavior clinic.

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