Broken rail possible cause for derailment

Posted April 3, 2013 at 8:11 pm


Recently, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) concluded that the cause of last November’s train derailment was the result of a broken rail.

The trains that run through the area are used to primarily transport a variety of freight, including grain, coal and ethanol.

According to Amy McBeth, director of public affairs for BNSF, approximately 12 trains per day make their way through Lester and Alvord.

While a vast majority of the trains regularly pass the area problem free, last November a train derailment between Lester and Alvord caused 23 cars of the 100-car train to pile up and resulted in $1.42 million in damages.

To add to the complexity of the situation, the train contained at least one car filled with hazardous materials. When it derailed, it leaked 25-30 gallons of liquid petroleum gasoline, resulting in the evacuation of 12 families from their homes for around 10 hours, until the area was deemed safe.

Now, several months later, BNSF, which owns the train that derailed, filed an accident report with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) determining the potential cause for the derailment was the result of a broken rail. The report was given to the FRA to help in its own investigation of the accident.

Although derailments and accidents do occur, the FRA’s website states that the past decade has been the safest for the railroad industry on record, and that 2012 was the safest year.

McBeth agreed stating, “Rail is the safest mode of ground transportation for freight in general” and added, “BNSF conducts a full investigation when an incident occurs, so that we can learn from it and work to prevent it from happening again.”

In addition to the accident investigations, McBeth explained that BNSF takes several measures to ensure that the low accident rate continues.

“BNSF’s track inspection policies require that the trackage be inspected more frequently than the FRA standard. Typically, this means across our main line system, including on that route, the tracks would be inspected four times weekly,” she said.

While the BNSF’s report indicates that a broken rail caused the accident, the official determination is still under investigation by the FRA, and it has several months before it will release its final statement.

More information and statistics about the United States Railway are available on their website at