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The Montana Rail Link main line in northern Idaho reopened Sunday evening after a Friday morning incident that derailed 52 empty coal cars and a locomotive on the north shore of Lake Pend Oreille.
Snowmelt and last week’s heavy rainfall were to blame for the derailment and plenty of other havoc wreaked on three lines in the Pacific Northwest, including two washout-caused delays of Amtrak passenger service between Whitefish and Spokane.
Spokesman Jim Lewis said the derailment on the MRL line occurred just after 6 a.m. Friday near Kootenai, Idaho, north of Sandpoint, where the tracks were washed out. All 52 cars and the locomotive remained upright.
“No injuries occurred and no hazmat materials were released in the incident,” Lewis said in a statement Monday.
The siding at the washout location was opened at 11 a.m. Saturday allowing rail service to resume through the area, but the mainline wasn’t cleared and ready for trains until the following evening.
Lewis said high water and ground saturation contributed to the washout.
“MRL is monitoring water level conditions across our network as spring run-off events occur,” he said.
Friday’s derailment marked the third consecutive day of railroad disruptions in the area, according to a Railway Age Magazine. None resulted in injuries.
On Wednesday, Union Pacific’s main line to Canada gave way under a grain train a few miles north of U.S. Highway 2 and Moyie Springs, Idaho, on the Kootenay River. Several loaded hoppers went down a steep embankment. Service to Canada was restored by Sunday.
The next day a series of landslides in the Kootenai River Canyon blocked BNSF tracks at Katka, Idaho, just west of the Montana line. Amtrak’s westbound Empire Building was held overnight in Whitefish and the eastbound passenger train was held in Spokane while the line was cleared. More landslides on Saturday afternoon again held up Amtrak service in Whitefish and Spokane. The line was reopened Sunday.
Dryer weather hasn’t solved all the problems.
“While there continues to be widespread reports of flooding, washouts and track slippage in northern Idaho, some trains have been detoured over alternate routes,” Railway Age Magazine reported. “But with BNSF, UP and MRL normally moving a combined flow of more than 70 trains per day through the Sandpoint-Spokane area, intermittent service outages are causing a substantial back-up of traffic into neighboring states and Canada, as well.”
On Sunday morning, Amtrak reported more disruptions farther west due to landslides between Edmonds and Everett, Washington. The magazine said BNSF, which owns the tracks, suspended all traffic in the area for 48 hours, through Tuesday morning.
This article first appeared on missoulian.com
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