BNSF is conducting further testing on a piece of fractured rail involved in the March 30 derailment of one of its trains in Raymond, Minnesota.

The derailment, which occurred approximately 106 miles northwest of Minneapolis, caused a temporary evacuation of area residents within a half-mile of the site because four cars caught fire. 

According to an initial investigation report released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board, BNSF shipped the section of fractured rail to its rail lab in Topeka, Kansas, for further analysis. 

Meanwhile, NTSB’s report provided more details on the derailment: It involved the derailment of 23 mixed freight cars, including 10 DOT-117 tank cars carrying denatured ethanol. A total of 14 tank cars were transporting hazardous materials.

Some of the denatured ethanol was released from the derailed tank cars and contributed to a fire that arose at the scene. Responders initiated a precautionary evacuation, and the fire was extinguished on the morning of March 31. 

Estimated damages to track infrastructure and equipment are about $1.9 million. No fatalities or injuries were reported. Visibility conditions were dark and clear, and there was no precipitation, according to reports.

The train itself featured two head-end locomotives and 40 loaded rail cars, and it was 2,264 feet long. The train crew, which consisted of one engineer, one conductor, one brakeman and one conductor trainee, was running the train at about 43 mph at the time of the derailment, which was under the authorized track speed of 49 mph.

On-the-scene investigations by NTSB on April 1 found that hazardous material was released from five derailed tank cars, and two tanks had sustained punctured shells, which in turn released the denatured ethanol. The release of the ethanol also caused thermal damage to the manway gaskets of three previously unbreached tank cars, which released more ethanol through their compromised manways and spread the fire, NTSB said. 

“The thermally damaged manways had been sealed with elastomeric butadiene acrylonitrile gaskets that, according to manufacturer data, had an upper-temperature performance of 225°F,” the agency said.

Besides BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B) and NTSB, others involved in the investigation into this derailment include the Federal Railroad Administration, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Archer Daniels Midland, the Greenbrier Companies, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way – Employes Division.

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Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

Related links:

BNSF train derailment in Minnesota prompts evacuation

FRA links train configuration to 6 derailments, issues safety advisory

Federal agencies, senators unveil plans aimed at boosting rail safety

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