Freight derailment forces Amtrak detour in Minnesota
WILLMAR, Minn. -- Amtrak's Empire Builder train riders Friday got a major detour through west-central Minnesota due to a freight train derailment on BNSF Railway tracks near Elk River.
WILLMAR, Minn. - Amtrak’s Empire Builder train riders Friday got a major detour through west-central Minnesota due to a freight train derailment on BNSF Railway tracks near Elk River.
An Amtrak spokesman confirmed Friday afternoon that the Empire Builder was rerouted along BNSF Railway tracks through west-central Minnesota, traveling a southerly route from Fargo through Breckenridge-Morris-Willmar-Litchfield to Minneapolis.
The Empire Builder rolled through Morris about 2:15 p.m., Benson about 3 p.m. and stopped into Willmar about 3:50 p.m. It then rolled east about 4 p.m. headed for Litchfield.
The Empire Builder’s normal route is from Fargo, N.D., through Detroit Lakes-Wadena-Staples-St. Cloud to Minneapolis. Regular Amtrak service through Willmar ended in 1980.
Rob Kortum of Spring Park was driving between near Hancock Friday afternoon when he spotted the Empire Builder.
“The train had three private cars, including a dome car, on the end of the Amtrak train,” he said.
The train stopped in Willmar where a unnamed railroad engineer and a Fairmont family de-boarded the train. Angie Moore and her children, Will, 11, Abbie, 10, and Allissa, 4, had departed Seattle 48 hours earlier. Friends were driving from Fairmont to pick them up.
Amtrak Conductor Tom Fracassi said the derailment near Elk River would add about 12 hours to Empire Builder’s schedule Friday.
Kortum followed the train all afternoon along U.S. Highway 12 as he enjoys trains.
“The train traveled about 45 mph through Willmar, he said. “Then the train traveled about 60 mph.”
Passengers aboard Empire Builder trains have encountered significant delays in recent months due to very high volumes of freight train traffic along the route. During the previous weeks in May and June, delays averaged between three and five hours. Amtrak has advised that passengers should anticipate delays in both directions.
Roughly 16 empty freight cars jumped their tracks between Big Lake and Ramsey shortly after 2 a.m., according to BNSF Railway spokeswoman Amy McBeth.
There were no injuries.
The Metro Transit web site reported Friday evening that the Northstar line would operate Saturday and Sunday along its route, in conjunction with the grand opening Saturday of the Metro’s Green Line from Minneapolis to St. Paul.