Derailment damages elevator buildings; railroad estimates $98,000 equipment loss Thirteen railroad cars loaded with corn and soybeans derailed Jan. 30 as the 71-car train passed by Vermillion Fertilizer and Grain. A broken rail was the cause of the accident, according to Burlington Northern Santa Fe officials. About 500 yards of track were torn up and the rail cars hit a concrete bunker and a large wooden grain elevator. The train was traveling at 24 1/2 miles per hour. Property damage may have been heavy, but there were no injuries in the mishap. Local crews assisted in removing the grain from the cars over the weekend. It is being stored in the Vermillion Fertilizer and Grain elevators for the time being. As of Monday morning, two cars were still embedded in the elevator buildings, but Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad crews were working to clean up the debris. (Photo by M. Jill Sundstrom) by M. Jill Sundstrom Thirteen railroad cars loaded with corn and soybeans derailed Jan. 30 as the 13th car of a 71-car train pulled by four engines passed by Vermillion Fertilizer and Grain at about 12:59 p.m.
�A broken rail was the cause of the accident,� said Michael G. Heyns, trainmaster, South Dakota Division of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Sioux City IA. �And once a car hits a broken rail and a wheel goes down, everything behind it comes off until the whole thing stops.�
The entire train was loaded, Heyns said. Each car has a capacity of 100 tons of product ? about 3,300 bushels each.
�It ended up tearing up about 500 yards of track,� said Kevin Myron of Vermillion Fertilizer and Grain.
Before it was all said and done, the rail cars hit a concrete bunker and a large wooden grain elevator, Myron added.
�It punched a hole in the wooden elevator and in the corner of the concrete bunker, which holds about 80,000 bushels of grain,� he said. �The whole north side was also scraped and ruined. What�s fortunate is that we emptied both of those a couple of weeks ago. It would have been a lot worse if there had been grain in them.�
The train was traveling at 24 1/2 miles per hour, according to Heyns.
�This is a 25 mile per hour branch, from Sioux City to Aberdeen,� he said.
Property damage may have been heavy, but there were no injuries in the mishap.
�We went through the whole thing without a scratch,� Heyns said.
Local crews assisted in removing the grain from the cars over the weekend. It is being stored in the Vermillion Fertilizer and Grain elevators for the time being.
As of Monday morning, two cars were still embedded in the two elevator buildings, but Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad crews were working to clean up the debris. Until the cars are removed, Myron said no dollar estimate on the elevator�s damages could be determined.
If the old wooden structure�s foundation is damaged, Myron said it will be hard to call whether or not the building can be made safe again.
�I don�t think it affected it that much, but if the foundation was damaged, it will be hard to say whether or not it can be fixed,� he said. �It leans anyway, just by the nature of where it is located ? settling and vibrations over the years have caused that.�
Heyns noted that the railroad sustained $98,000 in damage to equipment and $80,000 in damage to the track.
All of the undamaged railroad cars were to stay in the vicinity of the elevator during the re-railing and rebuilding process, which started Monday. All the derailed cars were unloaded and were trucked out to a repair facility.
�There are three of them, though, that may be scrapped right here if the damage exceeds their value,� Heyns said on Monday.
This is the fourth derailment within a mile of the elevator in the past three years, Myron said.
�Burlington Northern Santa Fe took over this old track in 1981 when the Milwaukee Railroad went bankrupt,� Heyns said. �But they had already run things into the ground before we took over. We�ve been furiously trying to rebuild and upgrade as fast as we can ever since. This curve was on the schedule for this year, and even though we run detector cars over it and inspect it every day, it got away from us.
�We inherited a terrible mess from Milwaukee we�re now trying to pick up the pieces of the mess they left, while keeping the commerce of the state of South Dakota going at the same time,� Heyns added.