Train derails, bridge collapses near Chicago
CHICAGO (MCT) — A freight train hauling coal derailed on Union Pacific tracks Wednesday in the northern Chicago suburbs.
Witnesses said a bridge overpass collapsed in the accident.
Union Pacific Spokesman Mark Davis said the train derailment occurred at 1:45 p.m. CDT by the Northbrook-Glenview border as the train was en route to a utility plant in Wisconsin from a coal mine in eastern Wyoming.
The train had three locomotive engines and 31 of its 138 train cars derailed, Davis said. About a third of the train had passed the 86-foot-long bridge before the derailment and the locomotives did not derail. There were no reported injuries from the derailment, said Davis.
He said a small fire occurred after the incident that involved vegetation in the area. He said the tracks being used are only used by its freight lines. No Metra service occurs on these tracks, said Davis.
Overnight and for about the next 24 hours crews will clean up the spilled coal and remove the train cars, Davis said. For another 24 hours or so after that workers will use stone fill to close up the gap where the bridge was, and install temporary tracks to get the trains moving again through the area.
The railroad will have to design and build a new bridge, which will take some time, he said.
Davis said the cause is under investigation, with teams checking out the mechanical equipment on the train as well as the bridge and the tracks.
Bob Brogan, Northbrook Fire Department deputy chief, said there was a small grass fire that was quickly extinguished and a propane storage unit that was nearby had to be moved out of the area to prevent an explosion from occurring.
There were only two people on the train at the time, an engineer and a conductor, who were not injured, Brogan said. About 20 cars had crossed over and the remainder were south of the bridge at the time of the derailment.
“We don’t know why it (the bridge) collapsed,” Brogan said.
Phil Perlini, deputy chief of the Glenview police department, said Union Pacific railroad officials will conduct the investigation. He said no cars or people appeared to be underneath the bridge when it collapsed.
He said that at the time of the crash, a Glenview parade was under way in another section of the town.
The cleanup and repairs could take months, Perlini said.
Tony Nielsen was in an office building next to the accident working when he heard the train and then “the whole building shook.”
He said that while they often feel the rumble of the trains going past, he and his coworkers ran outside when they felt the building shake.
“The train was already derailed, the bridge had collapsed,” Nielsen said.
He said the overpass went over Shermer Avenue and a small sidewalk parallel to it. He said it appeared the freight train was hauling coal.
“All I could see was a pile of coal and some wreckage,” he said.
Rob Stein of Glenview said he was walking across the road near the tracks when he saw smoke coming from the area.
“Then the flames shot up (and) then the fire stopped. It was very spooky,” said Stein, 60.
He said when he turned his head and looked near a strip mall he noticed the train cars had toppled over. He also noticed that the overpass had collapsed but he did not know if anyone was underneath. witnesses said at least two ambulances were on the scene.
Last year, a section of road was closed as contractors reconstructed the railroad overpass which appeared to have been destroyed Wednesday.
In November of 2009, another freight train derailed at the same location and hit a second train imperiling two large liquid propane tanks. No one was injured in that accident.
In that accident, a train headed southwest on the track derailed, hitting a train that was traveling northeast.
In that case, 18 cars were derailed — 14 from the southbound train, four from the other, officials said.