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A BNSF train approaches a pedestrian crossing near Broadway in Fargo in this Dec. 31, 2012 photo. Michael Vosburg/Forum News Service

Severe winter weather creates challenges for railway

MINOT, N.D. -- Severe winter weather creates challenges for train traffic and BNSF says it has put plans in place to remedy and prevent stoppages or derailments.

“Our employees continue working to address service challenges due to severe weather,” said Amy McBeth, Minneapolis, public relations director for this region.

“We have activated winter action plans in response to heavy snow and extreme cold that the region has been experiencing,” she said. “The type of actions include utilizing rapid responders who can address mechanical issues, staging equipment at various locations for snow removal and equipping trains with distributed power, which creates two sources of air flow throughout a train to help get air flow for trains’ braking systems.”

McBeth said extremely cold temperatures can create challenges for braking systems because of reduced air flow.

The North Central Research Extension Center just south of Minot regularly maintains weather data and reports a total of 47 inches of snow in the four snowfalls since November 2016.

In Minot, McBeth said BNSF uses a variety of equipment to clear the snow.

“We’ve had minidozers and snowplows used on the tracks to clear yard tracks. Off-track equipment like graders and loaders are used to clear parking lots and maintenance roads.

In recent days, BNSF has experienced two incidents of derailments near Minot. McBeth said both derailments are being investigated.

On Tuesday, one locomotive derailed upright at Surrey. McBeth said this means the locomotive did not tip over. She said it was off the rail and had to be put back on the rail.

She said the Surrey incident was a minor incident but did cause traffic on that route to be stopped while the locomotive was re-railed and the track and signal department confirmed the train could proceed.

On Jan. 5, train traffic was halted when two BNSF locomotives derailed upright just west of Minot. No cars were involved and there were no injuries.

The Amtrak passenger train, which uses the BNSF tracks, was among the train traffic halted until the locomotives could be put back on the tracks.

The Amtrak train remained in Minot for several hours until the tracks reopened and then continued west, said Marc Magliari of Amtrak media relations in Chicago.

“The cause of each derailment is unique, and each incident is fully reviewed,” McBeth said.

Besides BNSF and Amtrak trains, Canadian Pacific Railway trains also travel through Minot.

The Minot Daily News is a media partner with Forum News Service