Coal train bound for Superior derails in downtown WayzataThe train was heading from Wyoming through Minneapolis and up to Superior, Wis., rail spokeswoman Amy McBeth said. The derailment left three cars off the track and upright east of Ferndale and 14 cars west of Ferndale off their wheels, McBeth said.
By: By Paul Walsh and Abby Simons, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Superior Telegram
Annette Call was chatting with an employee a few feet from her desk Wednesday morning when she realized the train that regularly passes her downtown Wayzata office window sounded too loud.
"I could see the top of the coal car. I said, 'Hey, that's unusual' ... and the car was tipping toward us," Call said. "She (the other employee) said, 'Run!' But that seemed like an overreaction."
It wasn't. Seconds later, a steel rail smashed through the building, sending bricks and other debris from a 17-car train derailment onto Call's desk and chair.
Had she been seated at her desk, Call said, "I really don't think I'd be here, to be honest."
Officials and those closest to the wreck, which dumped tons of coal on a busy thoroughfare and disrupted traffic in the lakeside business district, could only describe the situation as "lucky."
Amazingly, no injuries were reported. Officials said trains frequently carry hazardous materials on that line, but the fully loaded, 123-car train carried only coal Wednesday morning.
"You name it, it probably comes through here at some point," Wayzata Fire Chief Kevin Klapprich said. "It could have been much, much worse than what it is."
The cause of the derailment is under investigation. The train, operated by Burlington Northern Santa Fe, was on a stretch of track off the main line, known as a siding. People who live and work in the area say that is not the norm.
The cars derailed about 9:25 a.m. near Ferndale Road and Lake Street. Call said that when she and her colleague raced out of the building, "we could still see the train still tipping. The train rail bent, came through my office wall and window," littering her space with "bricks, glass, the whole thing."
The train was heading from Wyoming through Minneapolis and up to Superior, Wis., rail spokeswoman Amy McBeth said. The derailment left three cars off the track and upright east of Ferndale and 14 cars west of Ferndale off their wheels, McBeth said.
She said workers hoped to have the cars, three locomotives and all of the coal cleared by late Wednesday, allowing the tracks to be repaired and operational by early Thursday. She said it's too early to say why the train derailed.
An unusual run
McBeth said the train had entered the side track and was pulling back onto the main line. The main line had been inspected Wednesday morning before the derailment. She said it hasn't been determined why the side track, which was last inspected on Friday, was being used or how often that side track is used.
"We normally don't see trains run on the track it was on," said Call, who runs Regency Title in the office building.
According to a police blotter posted on Wayzata.com, a 23-year-old Plymouth man was stopped by officers June 26 for walking along the tracks, picking up steel plates and railroad spikes. BNSF officials were contacted and asked that the man be charged with trespassing but declined to pursue theft charges for the spikes.
Wayzata Police Chief Mike Risvold said the police report was given to prosecutors to consider trespassing charges. The report was provided to BNSF officials. McBeth said late Wednesday that the railroad does not think the man's actions are tied to the derailment.
One by one, the office workers, retirees, teenagers and others made their way to the train tracks. They stared at the rail cars, piled like toys atop mangled tracks in the business district. One train car had slid up an embankment bordering the building punctured by the rail, pulling up manicured grass like old carpeting.
'You could see it unfolding'
Real estate broker Keith Anderson, whose office is next to the tracks, said he was writing an e-mail when he felt the building shake. Trains often go by, he said, but this time it was shaking "like it never did before."
Anderson said he saw the rear of one of the cars as it was lifted into the air and heard a crash and the scream of twisted steel, followed by "a huge plume of coal dust up in the sky." He got up from his chair and ran outside, concerned as to whether it was hauling fuel tankers.
"We could have had a barbecue here," Anderson said. "I could have been the brat."
He then saw Call's desk, piled with bricks, with the chunk of steel poked through the building wall.
George Yankoupe, who lives across the street from the tracks, said, "I heard a noise and my eyes went down the track, just glanced down the track, and you could see it unfolding. It was almost like it was in slow motion."
Star Tribune staff writer McKenna Ewen contributed to this report.
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