Montana Outdoors

October 23, 2008

Derailed (1)

Filed under: Montana, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Train derailment — Tags: — montucky @ 11:02 pm

Yesterday morning at about 5:30, 19 cars out of a train of 111 cars carrying soy beans derailed about a half mile east of where I live and did they ever “spill the beans”! 37 tons of soy beans went into the river, and what looks like sand in the photos that follow is not sand, but beans.

There were no injuries and no hazardous materials involved. I had to be away from this area all of yesterday, and although today was very busy, I did get plenty of pictures.

Between answering two fire calls today and an hour or so controlling traffic around the derailment area, I was able to get more photos of a train wreck than most folks want to see. I will post some of the ones that I think might be interesting: they were to me.

Yesterday morning through the thick fog of the early morning, the scene looked like this:

Train derailment

Today with a clearer sky, here’s a couple shots of the whole area: the traffic on the highway above the tracks is all associated with taking care of the problem, all others have been detoured around the area.

From the west:

Train derailment

from the east.

Train derailment

Here’s what the first part of it looked like, where the work started.

Train derailment

In order to move the cars, they first had to be emptied, and there seems to be two ways to do that. The white truck to the right is simply a giant vacuum which sucks up the material into it’s container, then hauls it away and dumps it. The operation to the left consists of a big vacuum pump powered by a tractor which sucks up material and feed it into the big grain trucks.

Train derailment

Here’s a closer look at the second system at work:

Train derailment

Tomorrow I’ll post photos of the equipment moving the cars after they have been emptied.


  1. We have tracks through this area and have had derailments along the shores of Lake Champlain. Looks like it ripped up some track there too. That may take a few weeks to get back to norml. What was the cause? erosion under crossties? spikes came loose? The giant vacuum is interesting.


    Comment by Cedar — October 24, 2008 @ 4:26 am

  2. There has not been a statement issued about the cause, but because the derailment occurred in about the middle of the train, I think it was most likely a failure in one of the cars, probably a wheel.

    I looked at it this morning and they now have all the cars cleared from the tracks and are laying new track through the area. They will probably be running trains later today. BNSF loses million of dollars a day when this road is down and they have an amazing number of crews and machines working on it right through the nights. Looks like they will lose less than three days service.


    Comment by montucky — October 24, 2008 @ 10:32 am

  3. Those are some amazing photos! Great details which most of us never get to see when an event like this happens. I am happy there were no toxic chemicals involved. Are there any substances in the soybeans which could leach into the waters?


    Comment by Tabbie — October 24, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

  4. It was extremely lucky that this train carried only the beans. There are large numbers of cars containing hazardous materials passing through here every week. As far as I know, the beans are harmless, and it looks as though most were vacuumed out of the water.


    Comment by montucky — October 24, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

  5. This post, and those that follow, have some pix that would make official railfans drool. In fact, I would be surprised if there weren’t fans all over the place documenting everything.

    That zig-zag effect is a very common sight for derailed cars. The equipment used–often from Hulcher Corporation–is really amazing. Seeing this work in the SE, I’m amazed just how fast cars can be removed, roadbeds can be repaired and tamped, and hew ties and rail can be put in.



    Comment by knightofswords — October 26, 2008 @ 10:03 am

  6. I thought it was strange, but there seemed to be few people taking photos (I only saw one). I was lucky to find a vantage point above the whole thing that allowed clear shots of it.

    The big dozers used here were made by Caterpillar and modified by Hulcher. I’d like to know what they weighed. As they were moving out, I happened to follow one that was on a low-boy into town, and it was so heavy that it made quite a bow in the trailer, so low that it had only about 4 inches of ground clearance.


    Comment by montucky — October 26, 2008 @ 10:26 am

  7. Any word on what caused the derailment yet? Glad no one died! Did the wildlife at least get to feast, or were the soybeans fully wasted? *sad*


    Comment by katkmeanders — November 3, 2008 @ 1:33 am

  8. There has not been any word on what caused it. They cleaned up nearly all of the beans and say they will get the rest too, so there was very little waste.


    Comment by montucky — November 3, 2008 @ 9:30 am

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