Damages from train derailment in Ellendale top $1M

Published 10:24 am Tuesday, February 7, 2017

By Jeffrey Jackson

Owatonna People’s Press

Damages to the train and the tracks from November’s derailment of a Union Pacific train in Ellendale total nearly $1.4 million, according to a report made public on Wednesday.

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The report, filed by the railroad with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on Dec. 30, details Union Pacific’s own internal investigation into the Nov. 11 early morning derailment in which 22 cars slipped from the tracks just south of Ellendale. The conclusion drawn by the railroad is that a rail defect caused the train derailment.

The final determination of the cause, however, will not be announced until the FRA finishes its own independent investigation and issues its own report. That report is expected to be available in early March.

The Union Pacific report says that damages from the derailment totaled $1,392,885, the majority of which — $1,378,253 — was damage to the railroad’s equipment. The remaining damage — $14,632 — was to the tracks, according to the report.

The train derailed in the early morning hours on Nov. 11 about a half mile south of Ellendale in southern Steele County.

Twenty-two of the southbound train’s 146 cars, including two cars containing propane, slipped from the tracks. In all, the train had eight cars carrying hazardous materials, the remaining six of which remained on the tracks during the incident.

Union Pacific’s internal investigation excluded train handling as the cause of the derailment, the reports says. The report also ruled out mechanical failure on the part of the train.

“All mechanical components were retrieved and no wheels were condemnable, no wheels or cars indicated abnormal patterns of wear, and there were no indications of broken mechanical components on any cars,” the report says.

Union Pacific concluded that the fault lay not in its cars but in the rails.

“By the catastrophic nature of the derailment pile and the recovery of mechanical components and recreation in the simulator, it was determined that this derailment was caused by a rail defect,” the report concludes.

No deaths or injuries were reported in association with the derailment. However, after officials learned that the two cars were leaking highly flammable materials, they ordered a one-mile evacuation around the derailment site, sending many Ellendale citizens to the local United Methodist Church until the hot zone was reduced to 400 feet shortly after noon that day. Union Pacific’s reports puts the number of people evacuated at 700.