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Date: 2004-01-28
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Essex
State: MT
Country: USA
Summary: Two avalanches hit freight train, 15 cars derailed

Two avalanches hit freight train, 15 cars derailed


ESSEX, Mont. -- Two separate avalanches hit an eastbound freight train near here Wednesday, knocking 15 cars off the rails and closing the track used by Amtrak's Empire Builder.

No one was injured in the incident, but a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway official said because of the avalanche danger in the area, the Empire Builder would not be permitted on the track until at least Friday.

"The slides occurred due to extremely heavy snowfall," said Gus Melonas, a Burlington Northern spokesman in Seattle. "We've had 60 inches of snow in the area."

The freight train, consisting of 119 empty grain cars and three locomotives, was en route from Pasco, Wash., to Great Falls, Mont., when the first slide struck about three miles west of Essex, near Glacier National Park. The slide hit near the middle of the train, knocking seven cars off the tracks, Melonas said.

While the train was stopped, another slide hit near the rear of the train about 15 minutes later, knocking eight more cars off the track, Melonas said.