A derailed grain train in western Blaine County has shut down the busiest rail line in Montana, with the company operating the train saying the derailment is likely to shut down traffic — including Amtrak — through at least midnight tonight.
At the site this morning, the ditch along the tracks was filled with deep thick mud that a BNSF Railway official said was causing some difficulty, but added that the BNSF workers were used to it and getting the job done.
About a half-dozen cars had rolled and ripped up the tracks near the front end of the train. Another single car further up on the train remained on the tracks but appeared crunched by the pressure during the derailment, and grain had leaked out onto the tracks.
BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said the derailment occurred about 5 a. m. as a 106-car grain train originating from Breckenridge, Minn., pulled out of the Lohman Siding about 12 miles east of Havre, with 14 cars derailing.
Most of the 14 cars had spilled their load of grain, and several ended in a pile with some on their side, some twisted, he said.
Equipment from Havre including bulldozers, Caterpillar tractors and front-end loaders were on site within an hour, Melonas said, adding that 40 BNSF personnel were onsite working on the derailment.
No environmental hazards occurred as a result of the derailment, and no BNSF personnel were injured, he said.
The train was moving at about 10 mph when the derailment occurred, and officials are onsite investigating, but the cause had not been determined as of this morning, Melonas said.
The track can see as many as 40 trains in a day, he said. BNSF is positioning trains along the Hi-Line in anticipation of the tracks re-opening, which could happen by midnight, he said.
BNSF officials are looking at the possibility of re-routing trains to the southern Montana Rail Link line from the Hi-Line tracks which transport local, national and international freight on a connection between the Great Lakes and Pacific Northwest, Melonas said.