COLUMBIA FALLS (AP) - Burlington Northern Santa Fe hopes to reopen its main line across northern Montana today after two slow- moving freight trains collided east of Columbia Falls.
The collision Thursday morning forced Amtrak to bus Empire Builder passengers 250 miles between Whitefish and Havre.
There were no major injuries to the four crew members in the head-on crash, said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas. The cause of the collision in Badrock Canyon was being investigated.
Melonas said three locomotives and four cars from the 68-car westbound train derailed, with two of the cars going down an embankment toward the Flathead River. The cars were carrying bird seed, feed and grain from Minneapolis to Pasco, Wash., but none of the freight reached the river.
The 88-car eastbound train had three of its four locomotives derail, along with one car loaded with various types of freight, Melonas said. That train was traveling from Portland, Ore. to Chicago.
The main line across Montana's Hi-Line normally carries an average of 45 trains per day.
Melonas said BNSF expected to have the line reopened possibly by 3 p.m. today.
About 110 Amtrak passengers left Whitefish by bus just before 10 a.m. Thursday on their way to Havre, said Havre ticket clerk Nancy Peterson. They arrived about 3 p.m., as did the 77 passengers on the westbound Empire Builder.
The Whitefish passengers were be put on the eastbound train and the westbound passengers were taken to Whitefish by bus to get back on the train there.
Peterson said the passenger numbers were light because of the Thanksgiving holiday and travelers shouldn't experience too much of a delay.
The Empire Builder travels from Seattle to Chicago.
Melonas said Amtrak should be running normally today.