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Home / News & Reviews / BNSF Northern Transcon reopens after Empire Builder derailment

BNSF Northern Transcon reopens after Empire Builder derailment

By Chris Anderson | September 28, 2021

The first BNSF freight passed derailment site around 4 a.m. Tuesday

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JOPLIN, Mont. — BNSF Railway’s busy Hi Line Subdivision is open again following the derailment of Amtrak’s Empire Builder over the weekend.

According to KHQ News, a local NBC affiliate, the first BNSF freight train to pass through the community of Joplin, Montana, since Saturday’s derailment arrived just after 4 a.m. Tuesday. The train is one of many BNSF has said was affected by Saturday’s derailment, which killed three passengers and injured about 50 more. The wreck closed a portion of BNSF’s busy Northern Transcon corridor linking Chicago and the Twin Cities with Seattle and Portland, forcing some trains to be rerouted onto other railroads, including Montana Rail Link, or face delays.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte tweeted early Tuesday about the importance of the Hi Line Sub to local farmers and ranchers. “Our farmers and ranchers rely on this railway to get their world-class products to market,” he said. “I’m glad to see it reopened this morning as NTSB continues its investigation.”

In a media briefing on Monday, the vice chair of the National Transportation Safety Board said the line would be reopened once investigators gathered the evidence they needed as part of their probe of Saturday’s derailment. NTSB has published no new updates on the investigation since Monday’s briefing.

The westbound Empire Builder derailed at about 4 p.m. Saturday while traveling at between 75 and 78 mph, with eight of the train’s 10 cars leaving the track. Of those derailed cars, four overturned. NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said the investigation into the derailment will take months to complete, but a preliminary report will be issued within about 30 days.

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