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UNIVERSITY PLACE, WA. – A BNSF train derailed around 8:00 pm Saturday night, February 26, near Chambers Bay golf course in University Place, Washington. The accident sent four tankers filled with sodium hydroxide onto the beach, spilling about 50 gallons of lye.

BNSF crews untangle the wreckage of a freight train that derailed at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington. Photo courtesy S. Wyant on Hometown Clipper website.

A northbound freight train with two locomotives and 109 cars was on the tracks when it derailed. All but 11 cars, including six tanker cars, were empty. Train crews from from Tacoma, Olympia, Seattle, Pasco and Salem, Ore were on the scene of the accident within 30 minutes to contain the spill.

The News Tribune reports:

The repair crews were lucky.

First, the tanker cars performed as designed and didn’t split apart. The only leak was caused by a sheared-off nut that allowed about a gallon of lye to escape every hour.

Second, the Main 2 tracks were not severely damaged and required only two new ties to make the track level. The two cars that had tipped over were placed back on the tracks and hauled away.

Had Main 2 been damaged as much as Main 1, repairs would have taken much longer, Melonas said.

On Main 1, 500 feet of track was torn apart and the roadbed undermined when the tankers tumbled off the tracks.

Before the tracks could be repaired, the derailed cars had to be broken up or hauled away. Eight cars were considered destroyed, Melonas said.

“We disconnected the train within minutes, and the segments were hauled north and south from the site,” he said.

The derailment was remote, but access was easy by road, allowing trucks with needed equipment to get close.

By 5 p.m. Saturday, one track was open to traffic; by 11 p.m. both tracks were operational. The first Amtrak train went through at 11:30 p.m.

No one was hurt in the derailment or the repair work, Melonas said.

Cleaning up the site and removing all rail cars will take another three weeks, he said.

Tuesday morning, the tanker cars on the beach were lifted and taken off the beach to the other side of the tracks.

Melonas said everyone, both rail company crews and the local and state emergency responders, did an impressive job.

“They all knew what they were doing,” he said.

News Sources:

The News Tribune

Published by FELA lawyer Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP

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