FREIGHT TRAIN DERAILS IN FRIDLEY: Bridge damaged at Locke Lake

Crews containing spilled fuel, grain; cleanup underway.

A freight train derailed at a washed-out roadbed in Fridley, MN, Saturday morning, injuring two railroad workers, damaging a bridge and spilling corn and diesel fuel into Rice Creek at Locke Lake. Northstar passenger trains have been cancelled until Tuesday and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) freight trains were held or diverted until Monday night while crews make repairs. See also:
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UPDATE (4:45 p.m., Saturday): Metro Transit and BNSF released this statement just now:

Northstar commuter rail service between Big Lake and Minneapolis was cancelled today and is expected to remain out-of-service until Tuesday morning, July 19. Track is impassable due to a freight train derailment near Fridley Station which occurred around 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 16.

The cancellation will impact all regularly scheduled Northstar trips on Sunday, July 17 and Monday, July 18 in addition to Twins service to three games on those days.

Due to the freight train derailment and resulting damage, all rail traffic in the corridor has been suspended. BNSF Railway is working to restore service.

Until full service on the railway is restored, the Fridley Northstar station will not be serviceable and will close. Northstar trains will not serve Fridley Station until further notice.

Regularly scheduled express bus service will continue to serve Park and Ride lots at Anoka Station, Coon Rapids-Riverdale Station and Fridley Station.

Updates will be available at metrotransit.org or by calling 612-373-3333.

UPDATE (2 p.m., Saturday): BNSF railroad crews have several tasks at the site of Saturday's train derailment in Fridley: inspecting the damaged bridge, clearing the derailed train cars, and repairing the bridge, tracks and washed-out embankment.

BNSF spokesperson Amy McBeth said the railroad will have to scrap 16 of the 17 derailed freight cars. The railroad's preference is to "re-rail" derailed train cars but she said she doesn't yet know how crews will clear the derailed train cars from the site.

The apparent sequence of events, according to McBeth, is that heavy rains likely caused a washout of the embankment supporting the railroad tracks near the bridge. That washout made the train derail as it traveled west to North Dakota (actually north, on that stretch of track). As the train derailed, it damaged the bridge over Rice Creek and Locke Lake in Fridley.

The high waters did not themselves did not do direct damage or cause a washout of the bridge, she said.

Fridley Police Capt. Brian Weierke said the two injured BNSF crew members were in the engine that did not leave the tracks, he said. (A second engine did derail along with the 17 freight cars.)

Weierke said the derailment happened at 7:13 a.m. Saturday.

Crews already had contained spilled diesel fuel from the engines as of late Saturday morning, he said, with contracted environmental services including Bay West and West Central.

"BNSF should be out here pretty soon, this afternoon," Weierke said. "And they're saying it'll be approximately three days of clean-up. ... I assume they'll be working pretty long hours," Weierke said of the BNSF crews set to arrive Saturday afternoon. "They're losing money when this (train traffic) isn't moving."

BNSF is investigating the derailment, Weierke said.

Fridley police are asking for no recreational play in Rice Creek west of University Avenue NE (State Hwy. 47).

UPDATE (1 p.m., Saturday): BNSF spokesperson Amy McBeth issued this statement:

About 7am today a train hauling corn derailed 17 cars and 2 locomotives in Fridley.

Indications are that a washout occurred as a result of heavy rains in the area and likely caused the derailment. The washout was west of our railroad bridge, which was damaged as a result of the derailment.

Crews are responding and will be working to clear the cars and locomotives and make track and bridge repairs.

The two crew members sustained minor injuries and were transported to a local hospital.

The train had 110 loads of corn and 3 locomotives. It was a west bound train headed to North Dakota.

Both main tracks there are out of service.

UPDATE (Noon, Saturday):The engineer and conductor of a BNSF railroad freight train that derailed in Fridley Saturday morning were rushed to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to Fridley police. No further updates on their condition at this time except that their injuries remain non-life-threatening.

One locomotive and 17 freight cars derailed at the collapsed BNSF trestle bridge crossing of Rice Creek, on the east side of Locke Lake, east of East River Road and north of Mississippi Street NE. A second engine did not leave the tracks.

BNSF crews are expected to arrive Saturday afternoon to continue cleaning up the derailment and making repairs.

A "small amount" of diesel fuel spilled from the train into Rice Creek, Locke Lake and the Mississippi River should be cleared up within three days, according to police.

Northstar Commuter rail service is cancelled at least through Saturday and possibly longer, according to Metro Transit spokesman John Siqveland. That includes the special service to the Saturday evening Minnesota Twins game.

The Northstar trains share tracks with BNSF freight trains and carry hundreds of passengers every day across the bridge that collapsed. Daily weekday ridership averaged 2,400 people in May (including Twins trains), Siqveland said, and 1,250 on Saturdays. Each Northstar train car has a capacity of 140. The special Twins trains are five-car trains.

According to a Star Tribune tweet, "BNSF says it will take at least a couple days to clear train that derailed in Fridley. 16 of 17 derailed cars will be scrapped due to damage." When Fridley Patch reaches a BNSF spokesperson, we'll update this post with more detail on that.

Original story (11 a.m., Saturday): The Burlington Northern Santa Fe trestle bridge over Rice Creek at Locke Lake collapsed Saturday morning, derailing a BNSF freight train and sending fuel and grain into Locke Lake.

Fridley fire and police were on the scene along with crews from surrounding cities trying to contain the contaminants as Rice Creek flows to the Mississippi River about six blocks west.

Reports from the scene and local media had one or two engines off the tracks along with 10 rail cars. The derailment of the northbound train was visible from across Locke Lake. Neighbors gathering at the scene said it happened about 7 a.m. Saturday.

The derailment caused two injuries, according to an Anoka County official cited by WCCO-AM.

That number could have been higher had the derailment and bridge collapse occurred 24 hours earlier. Northstar trains carrying passengers have limited service on weekends but are busy on weekday mornings, crossing that bridge as many as 12 times per day.

Northstar Commuter Rail service is cancelled for Saturday, a Metro Transit spokesman said, including special service to the Minnesota Twins baseball game in Minneapolis Saturday night.

More updates to this post as we get more information and photos. Please add your photos or YouTube videos to this post by registering as a Fridley Patch user, logging on, then returning to this post. Or contact us at chris.steller@patch.com or 763-218-8319.

Dave McCoy July 16, 2011 at 11:03 PM
Some pretty good pictures there. And, yes, well-covered.
Patrick Leong July 17, 2011 at 01:55 AM
I live 4 houses away on the lake and took a low altitude aerial photo of this wreck, which can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/enhancedvirtualtechnology#!/enhancedvirtualtechnology?closeTheater=1
Donna Schmitt July 18, 2011 at 12:35 PM
Your pictures are fantastic. They are some of the best pictures that I've seen. Great job!
Chris Steller July 18, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Thanks to freelancers Emily Bina and Carrie Weston for their great pictures on Saturday. Patrick, your stuff is fantastic ... looking forward to that 360-degree immersion!
Patrick Leong September 10, 2011 at 06:50 PM
Here's an aerial 360 degree view of the train wreck: http://www.experience-evt.com/showcase/train_wreck/


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