UPDATED: 50 coal train cars derail in Pillager, Minn.
By Jessie Perrine
Forum News Service
PILLAGER, Minn. — Coal and crushed metal littered the BNSF Railway train tracks near Pillager in central Minnesota as crews worked Monday to clear the scene of a massive train derailment.
About 45 train cars carrying coal left the tracks at about 11:15 p.m. Sunday west of Pillager, about 18 miles west of Brainerd in Cass County.
No one was hurt and there were no hazardous materials or threat to public safety, according to the Cass County Sheriff’s Department.
The 122-car train was eastbound from Montana to Wisconsin, carrying three crew members.
The cars that didn’t derail were moved so crews could clear the disheveled scene.
Crews using excavators and front-end loaders will work day and night removing extensive piles of coal and large pieces of train cars from the tracks, rail officials said.
Amy McBeth, BNSF Railway spokeswoman, said the company hopes to have the scene cleared by Wednesday morning.
“They’ll work as safely and as quickly as they can,” she said.
Workers set up Monday for the initial cleanup. Sounds of screeching metal could be heard on the side street as machines lifted, removed pieces of train cars Monday.
Some cars were smashed together, making it hard to tell where one car ended and another began.
Once the coal and other cars are removed, crews will repair the main and side tracks, which were damaged during the derailment.
No other property was damaged, McBeth said. The speed of the train when it derailed was not immediately available.
The Cass County Sheriff’s Office and BNSF Railway officials will investigate and submit a report to the Federal Railroad Administration.
“BNSF conducts a full investigation so that we can learn from what happened and work to prevent it from happening again. We will evaluate all aspects of the incident, including conditions on the ground, the track and mechanical equipment,” McBeth said.
According to the Staples World newspaper, the derailment occurred on the same railway line as a 1984 train collision that killed three railroad workers. In the 1984 crash, two coal trains collided head-on near Motley.