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Railroad trestle burns, collapses along busy rail line

INTERNATIONAL FALLS - A Canadian National Railway trestle near International Falls caught fire early Wednesday, charring several railroad cars that were caught on the burning span before it collapsed.

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Train cars hang above the Rat Root River in Koochiching County on Wednesday after an early morning fire caused a bridge to collapse. Photo Forum News Service, courtesy of Koochiching County Sheriff's Office

INTERNATIONAL FALLS - A Canadian National Railway trestle near International Falls caught fire early Wednesday, charring several railroad cars that were caught on the burning span before it collapsed.

There were no reports of injuries, or word on when service would resume on the busy rail line.

The crew of a southbound train carrying potash - a non-flammable farm fertilizer - reported the fire just after 12:30 a.m., CN spokesman Brent Kossey said. Koochiching County Sheriff Perryn Hedlund said the bridge that burned crossed the Rat Root River, just north of Ericsburg and about eight miles southeast of International Falls.

When the train came to a stop, several cars were on the burning bridge. By the time the crew could prepare the train to start moving again, those cars were stranded in the fire.

The crew uncoupled the cars on the bridge. Hedlund said the original locomotive - on the south side of the bridge - and another locomotive called in from Ranier, to the north, cleared the unaffected cars that were on either side of the bridge.

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A couple hours later the bridge gave way; two rail cars on the bridge shifted but did not fall into the river, Hedlund said. Kossey said the cars remained intact and had not spilled their cargo.

Hedlund praised the response of local law enforcement and fire personnel to the early-morning incident, calling their efforts "picture-perfect."

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