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Tracks open after Pillager train derailment

PILLAGER — Mammoth piles of coal still loom next to the BNSF Railway tracks at the site of Sunday’s train derailment near Pillager.

The tracks re-opened Tuesday at about 2:30 p.m., but crews now have the task of clearing the coal, which was moved from the tracks.

There’s no estimate on just how much coal spilled, but the typical car carries 119 tons, said Amy McBeth, BNSF Railway spokeswoman.

With about 45 cars that derailed, that could be up to about 5,220 tons.

The train cars left the tracks at about 11:15 p.m. Sunday in Sylvan Township, west of Pillager near County Road 101 and the Bigwater Addition Estates.

No one was hurt and there were no hazardous materials or threat to public safety, according to the Cass County Sheriff’s Department.

The 122-car train was traveling eastbound from Montana to Wisconsin, carrying three crew members.

Since the derailment late Sunday night, crews have been on-scene cutting the crushed metal cars and removing the pieces.

All of the cars are now removed and repairs have been completed on the main track, McBeth said.

Coal removal will start early next week, but BNSF Railway officials aren’t sure how long it will take.

“We want to get it done as quickly as possible and restore the site,” McBeth said.

Most of Hazel Avenue is blocked off to traffic, and will remain closed until work is complete.

An investigation into the incident will be completed by BNSF Railway officials.

“BNSF conducts a full investigation so that we can learn from what happened and work to prevent it from happening again. We will evaluate all aspects of the incident, including conditions on the ground, the track and mechanical equipment,” McBeth said.

The investigation started the first day, and will likely continue through next month.

The railroad company will submit its investigative report to the Federal Railroad Administration.

JESSIE PERRINE may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at