News & Reviews News Wire BNSF derailment, fire close Interstate 40 (updated)

BNSF derailment, fire close Interstate 40 (updated)

By Trains Staff | April 26, 2024

| Last updated on April 27, 2024

Cargo said to include gasoline, propane

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Aerial image of burning railcars
A screenshot from KOB-TV shows the fire involving a derailed BNSF train near the Arizona-New Mexico state line on Friday, April 26.

GALLUP, N.M. — A BNSF Railway train derailed and caught fire near the Arizona-New Mexico state line at midday Friday, forcing the closure of Interstate 40, KOB-TV reports.

The derailment on BNSF’s Gallup Subdivision about 12:42 p.m. Mountain Time, according to an initial BNSF report to customers. BNSF places the incident near Lupton, Ariz., approximately 22 miles southwest of Gallup; KOB says it is about 3 miles from the state line in New Mexico and about 13 miles west of Gallup. New Mexico State Police say the train’s cargo included gasoline and propane.

The Arizona Republic reports that the Navajo Nation Council announced that evacuations had been ordered within a 2-mile radius of the half-mile marker on I-40 in New Mexico as of Friday night, with Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren saying his administration was working with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration, and BNSF to assess the derailment and its impact. The Navajo Department of Health and Navajo Police Department were already at work in the area. The risk of danger to the public was considered low, Nygren said.

The Associated Press reported that traffic was backed up for more than 10 miles on I-40 on Friday afternoon as drivers faced lengthy detours on two-lane roads. The road remained closed as of late Friday, with no word when it might reopen.

The Arizona Corporation Commission, which oversees railroads in Arizona, said on social media site X that 10 cars had derailed and sent an inspector to the scene before determining the derailment had occurred outside of its jurisdiction. Numerous reports indicated that firefighters were allowing the burning railcars to burn themselves out.

Both directions of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief have been affected, according to the Amtrak Alerts feed on X. The westbound train was to terminate in Albuquerque on both Friday and Saturday, while the eastbound train was cancelled between Los Angeles and Albuquerque both days.

— Updated with additional information on April 27 at 8:25 a.m.

4 thoughts on “BNSF derailment, fire close Interstate 40 (updated)

  1. I hired on in the late 1970’s and we had major derailments all the time. News coverage was a lot less then because everybody in the world didn’t have a cell phone recording details and getting the news stations to respond.
    One newspaper in my area had an article about Quaker Oats having a boxcar shortage. Same paper had a photo of a 20+ car derailment with most being boxcars, of course those don’t burn or explode.
    Eric L. was lucky I worked 30+ years for a Class1 and trust me we had more than one or two major derailments in a year. I find it hard to believe his Class 1 only had 1 or 2 a year.

  2. And the class ones will tell the public derailments are down. There were 3 this week alone. Question their statistics. What are they not including in the criteria for their calculations? I’ve said it before earlier in my career two decades ago there was maybe one or two big ones a year that made headlines. These last few years there were enough big ones to make headlines at least triple that. I’m not talking about the lame media coverage of little single car rail rollover stuff either, I’m talking pileups.

    1. You are correct, Eric.

      It could be a raft of things. In-line train forces, buff and draft, acting on pre-blocked cars of varying lengths or loads could be one factor. On Wednesday, a mixed freight coming in to Spokane had a long block of empty center beams and t-pole flats in the middle of a 9,000 foot consist. Sure, there was a DUP on the end. However, what could possibly go wrong?

      It could be reduced car knocker staff doing inspections. I recall a derailment on MRL involving a cracked wheel on a chlorine tank car. After that, MRL car knockers condemned all wheels that had defects. Is that the case on Class I railroads today?

      It could be reduced track inspections.

      It could be a revised risk management paradigm.

      The list could go on.

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