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Derailment update: Tracks reopen; investigation begins
Published: December 19th 2008
Source: The Winona Daily News

Workers walk between twisted railcars Thursday as efforts to clear the tracks continues at the site of a train collision near the Interstate 90 exit north of Lock and Dam No. 7 near Dresbach. (Photo by Melissa Carlo/Winona Daily News)

DRESBACH, Minn. — The rail line near Dresbach reopened to train traffic Thursday night, just one day after the section of tracks was the site of a collision between two Canadian Pacific freight trains.

Contractors and Canadian Pacific employees spent the day fixing the stretch of tracks, allowing for normal rail traffic to move through the area. The work also may have increased the environmental impacts of the crash when vibrations from machinery used in the cleanup caused two tankers carrying liquid fertilizer to slide onto the embankment along the Mississippi River, spilling an estimated 31,000 gallons into the river.

Two westbound trains collided at about 5 a.m. Wednesday where the main line is flanked by a siding, a stretch of tracks where one train could pass another. A 15-car train crashed into the midpoint of a 100-car train, said Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand. No one on board was seriously injured.

Canadian Pacific and Federal Railroad Administration officials have launched investigations into the collision, which sent the front locomotive engine of the smaller train into the river. It remained there Thursday. A crane able to haul the engine out of the water may not be on site until Saturday, said Jeff Johnson, Canadian Pacific manager of municipal affairs. The engine is leaking diesel fuel.

Truckloads of heavy equipment started arriving at the site Wednesday night. Working through the night, trucks hauled some damaged cars away, and heavy machinery moved other crumpled cars away from the tracks, a process that finished at 4:30 a.m. Thursday, Johnson said.

Crews and engineers then immediately started the work toward repairing the damaged line, he said. The line was opened at 5:45 p.m., though a 10 mph speed limit through the area will remain indefinitely.

Normal Amtrak service was expected to resume with the opened rail line. The damage forced the company to reroute its trains, and local passengers were taken by bus either to Chicago or the Twin Cities for Amtrak service.

The westbound Interstate 90 exit ramp to Dresbach also reopened Thursday. Work will continue around that portion of railroad tracks, and motorists are urged to slow down and use caution when taking the exit, said Kristine Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

As of Sept. 30, Canadian Pacific had 16 train accidents for the year in the United States, according to Federal Railroad Administration data. Six of those accidents happened in Minnesota. Track and equipment defects were listed as the primary cause in four instances, while the other two involved rail crossings or trespassers. Nationwide, the company’s accident rate was 1.88 per million miles, well below the industry rate of 3.14.

 

 
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