Train derails in Merrill last week
No injuries, danger to public
By Tina L. Scott
MERRILL – Two locomotives and two rail cars hauling lumber derailed under the Center Avenue bridge in Merrill shortly before 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 16, directly north of the Agra Pavilion building on the River Bend Trail. The engines came to a stop on their sides, while the rail cars remained upright.
The train is part of the Canadian National Railway (CN) with routes regularly traveling through Merrill.
One of the first to respond to the scene and call for emergency assistance reported speaking with the engineers immediately afterwards and that no one was injured in the derailment. “Bam Bam,” who prefers to go by his Merrill nickname rather than his undisclosed legal name, said he contacted the Merrill Police Department via their non-emergency number after he had been out walking, heard the nightly train whistle, and then abruptly heard a loud noise that seemed out of place and the train whistle did not continue as it typically does, normally as it is leaving town. The train was traveling southeast at the time it derailed, just after it passed under the South Center Avenue/Highway K bridge.
Bam Bam headed toward the tracks and said he encountered three men walking around by the train at Rotary Park and asked, “Are you guys all engineers here? ‘Yep.’ Anyone injured? ‘Nope.’ And then that’s when I reported the first call and I said, ‘The engineers are OK.’”
While the cause of the derailment has not yet been released, one local former FBI agent said most derailments in the summer are typically caused when the heat expands the metal in the rail lines, exacerbating small cracks, and ultimately causing a break or shift in the line. Extensive crews were on the scene dealing with the derailment, removing the locomotives and the cars loaded with lumber, and checking all of the lines near the area.
No hazardous materials were involved, and there was no danger to the public. The Merrill Police Department asked people to stay out of the area so crews could focus on cleanup efforts, but the Center Avenue bridge did draw a group of onlookers who came and went, checking out the scene and the cleanup progress throughout the morning.
“There were no injuries, fire, or dangerous goods involved,” confirmed a release issued by CN on Wednesday, June 16. “Preliminary reports indicate that there are no leaks.”
“CN would like to thank local emergency services for their collaboration and to apologize for any inconvenience that may have occurred as a result of this incident,” the release further stated.
The cause of the incident is still under investigation.