By Christopher Reynolds
Canadian Pacific Kansas City railway crews faced a hefty cleanup after a freight train derailed in rural Maine on Saturday, setting several cars ablaze.
The train hit a track washout in a wooded area near Moosehead Lake in northwestern Maine, some 220 kilometres southeast of Quebec City, CPKC said in a release.
The railroad operator said three crew members were taken to a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries Saturday and released the same day.
Locomotives and four derailed lumber cars went up in flames, with crews using booms – absorbent, tube-like barriers – to contain spilled diesel fuel, said CPKC spokeswoman C. Doniele Carlson.
Cars carrying drums of ethanol and another hazardous material also went off the rails but did not catch fire, she said. State officials said there is no threat to public safety.
The rail line is the same one where the fatal Lac-Megantic disaster unfolded about 90 kilometres further west in 2013. Canadian Pacific did not own the track at the time.
At around 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, the CPKC train skidded off the tracks due to a washout caused by a clogged culvert under the rail line “because of winter debris, ice and mud,” said Jim Britt, spokesman for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
A roughly three-kilometre access road must be carved out of an old logging road to support the salvage, cleanup and rail repair operation, he said in a phone interview.
“They’re still receiving equipment, and there’s a two-mile road that has to be put in. It’s quite an undertaking,” he said Sunday afternoon.
Rail consultant Greg Gormick said the derailment “could have been a lot worse,” noting the incident happened near a large lake.
Canadian Pacific pledged to invest up to $90 million over three years to bring the U.S. portion of the Central Maine & Quebec Railway up to Federal Railroad Administration standards after completing its purchase of the railroad in January 2020.
“There’s a large backlog of deferred maintenance,” Gormick said.
The derailment happened one day after CP Rail chief executive Keith Creel drove home a platinum spike at a ceremony in Kansas City, Mo., to celebrate the company’s purchase of the Kanas City Southern railway.
The combined company creates the only railway stretching from Canada through to the U.S. and Mexico and marks the continent’s first major rail merger in more than two decades after a U.S. regulator approved the US$31-billion deal last month.
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