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Freight Trains Derail in Michigan, North Dakota; Amtrak Train Derails in Pa.

September 22, 1987

Undated (AP) _ More than 20 freight cars, some of them carrying toxic or volatile liquids, were derailed in separate accidents in Michigan and North Dakota, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,000 people.

However, no injuries, fire or explosions were reported in either state.

Also, an Amtrak passenger train derailed today in Pennsylvania, about 20 miles east of Pittsburgh. None of the 137 passengers aboard the Capitol Limited were injured, an Amtrak official said.

The Amtrak derailment was the third in the area since Aug. 15, and officials blamed vandalism for the accident.

Fifteen cars, including 10 carrying fuel oil and volatile butane, derailed early today in Wyndmere, N.D., officials said.

″There was ... quite a (noise), quite a shake,″ when the cars on the Soo Line train derailed at about 2 a.m., said Tom Tamlyn, a Wyndmere city councilman.

Between 450 and 500 residents left their homes to stay with friends and relatives in the surrounding area, officials said.

Three fuel-oil cars and three carrying butane were tipped over, state Fire Marshal Robert Allan said at a news conference today

Up to 20,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled into nearby ditches, with no apparent threat to groundwater sources, Allan said. The butane tanks did not leak, he said.

A crew from a Minneapolis firm that specializes in cleaning up hazardous materials was on its way this morning to Wyndmere, according to John Bergene, a Soo Line spokesman in Minneapolis.

Both the butane, a liquid petroleum gas, and the fuel oil are flammable, although the butane is more volatile, Bergene said.

Officials were investigating the cause of the derailment, he said.

The cars were toward the rear of a 92-car train bound for the Minneapolis- St. Paul area, Bergene said.

In Richmond, Mich., a driver who failed to stop at a railroad crossing crashed Monday morning into the side of a freight train, derailing 11 cars - including one carrying toxic carbolic acid, and forcing the evacuation of 400 people, police said.

Residents were allowed to return home for several hours before being evacuated again so that officials could right three cars that had toppled, police dispatcher Julie Schroeder said. Residents eventually were allowed to return home again early today, she said.

The Red Cross set up a shelter for evacuees at the Richmond Community Auditorium.

Three of the derailed cars were loaded and one of them was leaking carbolic acid, said David Williams, a spokesman for Grand Trunk Railroad which operated the 72-car train. Police did not say what the other two cars contained.

In the Pennsylvania accident, the passenger train’s lead locomotive jumped the track, but a second locomotive and 10 passenger cars remained upright on the tracks near the Youghiogheny River, Amtrak spokesman Clifford Black said.

The passengers on the Capitol Limited, en route from Washington to Chicago, were placed on four buses to continue their trip to Pittsburgh.

Preliminary reports indicated that the derailment was caused by a piece of maintenance equipment which had been placed on the track, Black said.

The derailment occurred on the same track where 16 cars of a CSX freight train derailed Aug. 22. Sixteen cars of an 18-car Capitol Limited train derailed in the Greenfield section of Pittsburgh on Aug. 15.

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