The train crash east of Tioga that killed one man also delayed about 700 Amtrak passengers for eight to 13 hours.
The track began operating again Tuesday at 5:40 p.m., after about 36 hours of investigation and clean-up at the crash site, where the BNSF railway suffered extensive damage. The accident occurred Monday morning when semi truck driver Marvin Bell was crossing the track and the train collided with his Kenworth truck, derailing about 30 cars.
“Our crews worked quickly and safely to get the tracks back into service,” BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said Tuesday.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said trains were affected by the derailment “quite a bit.”
But McBeth said BNSF has a high safety record with about two derailments for every million miles traveled. Trains themselves are a safer mode of transport, she said.
“Railways have some of the lowest incident rates,” she said. “Certainly from BNSF’s standpoint, any collision or any incident is one too many.”
Although McBeth emphasized that “each incident is unique,” the average train traveling at 55 miles per hour would take about a mile – or 18 football fields – to come to a complete stop. The train involved in Monday’s crash was traveling about 60 miles per hour at the point of impact.
McBeth said customers along the section of the rail affected experienced delays of 24 to 36 hours as crews worked to get the tracks back in operation. In a typical 24-hour period, 32 trains pass along a section of rail and could be affected by a major outage.
“For freight trains we run re-routes where possible and those just depend on where those trains are coming from,” she said.
McBeth said the train was carrying “freight of all kinds” and no hazardous materials were compromised. BNSF is conducting a full investigation of the incident.
McBeth also pointed to driving safety tips compiled by Operation Lifesaver – a group that promotes railroad safety. According to statistics compiled by the Federal Railroad Administration and reported by the group, North Dakota was not in the top 15 states with most highway-rail grade crossing collisions in 2011.
Trains move closer and faster than drivers might think, according to the tip page. The group also warns that trains do not stop quickly, it’s important to never drive around lowered gates, individuals stalled on the track should immediately exit the vehicle and always to expect a train.
“Freight trains do not follow set schedules,” the page says.