BNSF continuing investigation into Great Falls train derailment

Posted at 3:01 PM, Aug 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-16 17:01:46-04

GREAT FALLS – Last Wednesday, several train cars derailed behind the Great Falls Police Department. A total of five empty lumber flat cars derailed, causing damage to several surrounding buildings and cars, but no injuries were reported.

“Our claims team is working…on making sure we pay for what we damaged,” said BNSF Public Affairs Director Ross Lane.

“This particular location, it’s important to remember, these were not loaded freight trains. They were moving through Great Falls, and were switching operations through our Great Falls yard. It occurred at a very slow speed,” Lane said.

He says the investigation can take a while considering they’ll do a very thorough investigation with specific measurement tools, and then present findings to the Federal Railroad Administration.

This is not the first time a has train derailed in that location. The previous two incidents were in 2010 and were caused by “train handling accidents,” or caused by human factor.

“We certainly understand the frustration of the police department and others in the community. One thing that folks should know is that in 2016 BNSF had the safest year on record. In just the last five years in Montana we have invested $850 million dollars in our infrastructure, including new tires and track, and new technology to make sure we reduce the number of derailments that we do have.” Lane said.

Lane was able to confirm that BNSF plans to meet with GFPD later this month to discuss future plans and to make sure this does not happen again.

(AUGUST 8, 2018) People inside the Great Falls Police Department were conducting business as usual on Wednesday afternoon when a loud crash was heard.

“Of course, we came running outside to see what happened and you can see we had another train derailment,” Police Chief David Bowen said.

According to BNSF spokesman Ross Lane, five empty, flat cars derailed between GFPD and River Drive South. The incident occurred around 4:25 p.m. and there were no reports of injuries. The cars are typically used to haul lumber although the line itself is often used to haul a variety of commodities.

“Today, there was no cargo on board, but there are chemicals that come through here and that concerns me as well,” Bowen said.

He added that the tracks affect not only police department employees who park near the railway, but also the public as the River’s Edge Trail runs through the area.

Bowen said it’s about the fourth derailment that’s occurred in a number of years: “I sat down last time with BNSF officials and worked out an agreement to limit this happening again and so we’re gonna have the state come in and look at this investigation to see what happened and then I’ll have a chance to sit down with them again and say, ‘What do we do now? What went wrong here? What can we do to ensure this doesn’t keep happening?'”

While estimates are not yet available for damage costs, nine different vehicles were involved including a marked police car and GFPD employee vehicles.

The incident occurred as crews were performing a switching move, according to Lane. The cause is under investigation.

“I think that something might have to do with the temperature today,” Bowen said. “So as the day heats up and the tracks flux a little bit, that’s probably gonna be something that the investigators are gonna look at. What happened here? BNSF has some difficult questions to answer because quite frankly, I need some answers.”