Federal investigation of train derailment continues

MRL to finish clean-up with revegetation this spring
Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, December 6, 2018

The federal investigation into the derailment of 40 rail cars carrying coal through Columbus has entered its third month.

“The FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) investigation is still ongoing to our knowledge. They have not issued a final report yet. It can take a while for them to finish up their investigation and to release their findings,” said Montana Rail Link Information Officer Jim Lewis.

The Sept. 25 derailment occurred at approximately 11:30 p.m. and involved 40 cars carrying 4,720 tons of coal. Forty to 60 tons of coal spilled into the Yellowstone River, but testing showed no harm was done, due in large part to Montana Rail Link’s fast action in placing silt fencing and netting downstream. Coal is not considered a hazardous material.

MRL was on scene of the derailment within hours and had the mainline back open and running approximately 30 hours after the incident. Data from the train’s “black box” showed it was traveling under the speed limit in that stretch (41 mph in a 45 mph zone). Estimated cleanup costs for MRL were $3.5 million.

MRL is scheduled to spread fill material the week of Dec. 17, with revegetation slated for the spring.