Alaska Railroad track repairs continue after Cantwell derailment
Track damage from the single-car derailment this week of a freight train near Cantwell will likely delay service north of Anchorage until this weekend.
On Thursday night, the railroad said service was likely to resume late Friday or early Saturday.
"Several thousand railroad ties were damaged by the derailed railcar’s truck – the apparatus underneath a railcar that holds the axles and wheels," railroad officials wrote. "The truck dropped onto the ties while the train was in motion. The cause of the derailment is still under investigation but the investigation is focusing on a wheel bearing that failed on the derailed car."
According to a railroad statement, the 3:14 a.m. Tuesday derailment occurred at rail Mile 316.8 about 3 miles south of Cantwell, as a five-locomotive train hauling 71 cars was headed north from Anchorage to Fairbanks.
“The car is a DOT-111 tank car carrying approximately 23,000 gallons of turbine engine fuel,” railroad officials wrote. “There were no injuries. No leaks from the tank car have been reported.”
Railroad spokesman Tim Sullivan said Tuesday afternoon that ties along the railroad between Mile 314 and Mile 316.8, including some on a bridge, had been damaged by the derailed car as the train’s crew halted the heavily laden train.
“Once they noticed there was a problem they slowed it down, but it took quite a a ways to get it stopped,” Sullivan said.
The railroad often sees minor, low-speed derailments involving rolling stock on icy rails at its yards, Sullivan said, but he couldn’t immediately recall the last time the railroad had seen a significant derailment in transit.
Although part of the train ahead of the derailed car was separated and completed its trip to Fairbanks, about 35 cars remain at the scene as crews work to clear the scene. The work may affect future scheduling of Aurora Winter Train passenger service between Anchorage and Fairbanks.
“The cars will need to be removed before repair work can be made to the bridge and before heavy equipment can be brought in to repair and re-rail the derailed car,” railroad officials wrote.
Railroad officials have notified state and federal agencies including the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the Federal Railroad Administration, the National Railroad and Maintenance Association, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
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