Train derails in Fridley; Northstar service halted

8:27 PM, Jul 17, 2011   |    comments
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FRIDLEY, Minn.  --  A Burlington Northern Santa Fe train carrying corn derailed in Fridley just after 7 a.m. Saturday morning spilling corn and diesel fuel into Rice Creek.

Officials say a wash out is to blame.  Heavy rains overnight, and perhaps this week, caused the earth underneath the tracks west of the Rice Creek trestle to erode away causing two locomotives and 17 cars of the 110 car train to derail.   BNSF spokesperson Amy McBeth said a third locomotive did not derail. 

Some neighbors near the tracks said they got more than 5 inches of rain in their rain gauges overnight and even more in the day or two before. 

Neighbor Joyce Dahlberg said, "All night long you could hear it.  It was just tons of rain."

And because of the overnight storms some didn't realize the sounds they heard were coming from the derailment.

Neighbor David Paulson said, "It sounded like thunder.  It kind of scared me.  It was louder than some thunder we had last night."

After the locomotives derailed over the washout, McBeth said the additional cars derailed causing damage to the bridge they were on.

Neighbor Dr. Chris Carlson said his wife heard the derailment so he went to check it out and was one of the first on the scene.  He said, "I could see two people alongside the track.  I wanted to make sure they were O.K." 

He said the two men, a conductor and an engineer, had climbed out of an engine on its side.  He said one of the men, "Said he was fine.  The other complained of some pain."

Captain Brian Weierke of the Fridley Police Department said, "Crew members were transported with non life-threatening injuries to the hospital." 

The tracks carry 50 trains a day, including the Northstar Commuter Rail so Twins fans expecting to take the train to the Twins game Saturday night were out of luck.  Metro Transit officials said Northstar between Big Lake and Minneapolis will not be operating until Tuesday morning.  

Neighbors said luckily it wasn't a passenger train that derailed.  Carlson said, "It could have been so much worse."

There is still a huge mess to clean up.

Along with the train cars and the spilled corn, McBeth said about 500 gallons of diesel fuel spilled from the locomotives into Rice Creek which flows into the Mississippi.  So the Fridley Fire Department quickly had booms set up to contain that fuel.

Looking at the train cars crumpled up next to each other neighbor Anna Anderson said, "It's terrible.  It's going to take forever to get that fixed."

But McBeth said the clean up would likely take a couple days.

Capt. Weierke said residents are being urged to stay off of Rice Creek until the mess is cleaned up.

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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