Missouri 79 was closed to through traffic much of Thursday as a train derailment approximately two miles south of Hannibal was cleaned up.

Missouri 79 was closed to through traffic much of Thursday as a train derailment approximately two miles south of Hannibal was cleaned up.

The accident happened just north of the Marion/Ralls County line, approximately one-quarter mile from the main entrance to Continental Cement.

The derailment occurred at approximately 12:35 a.m., according to Andy Williams, a public affairs director with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. A southbound train consisting of 134 cars had been parked on a siding. Five cars – number 120 through 124 - left the tracks as the train was pulling back onto the main line.

“Two of those cars were upright and three on their side,” said Williams, noting the train was moving less than 10 mph when the derailment happened.

Neither of the train’s two-person crew was injured.

The cause of the mishap was not immediately known.

“It’s still under investigation,” said Williams, adding that railroad officials want to determine what happened. “We believe every accident is preventable. We’ll investigate and do what we can to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Blocked roadway

Missouri 79, located just a few dozen feet from the derailment site, was closed early Thursday.

“It was around 2 a.m. that we were notified of the derailment,” said Marisa Ellison, public information manager for the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Northeast District. “The railroad had determined that they would need to close the road to get it cleaned up.”

Despite the highway’s close proximity to the derailment site, neither of the lanes of traffic were blocked by spilled coal.

“Missouri 79 was closed just for their access,” said Ellison, referring to cleanup personnel.

For much of the day, traffic was being detoured around the cleanup site via Routes T and N.

“That’s the same detour we use when there’s flooding,” said Ellison of the 10-mile detour.

The roadway was slated to reopen around 4 p.m. Thursday.

Cleanup efforts

Thursday’s cleanup was performed by RJ Corman Derailment Services. Its workers used heavy pieces of equipment to carry portions of the damaged cars to a staging area near the entrance to Continental Cement. Other devices were being utilized to pick up spilled coal.

Thursday’s work not only entailed removing the damaged cars and their contents, it also meant performing some track repair.

“There was siding that was damaged and they brought in track panels and ballast to replace them. They will be replaced today,” said Williams Thursday afternoon.

While the main-line tracks were blocked for a time, they were not damaged, reported the railroad spokesman.

“All cars were cleared of the main line at 9:53 this morning,” said Williams.

Rail service on the main line in that area resumed around that time.

Derailments in that area are not new. Around noon on April 19, 2011, 20 cars of a northbound Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train left the tracks. Six of the cars tipped over, five were off the tracks while another 10 were piled up. Five cars reportedly carrying hazardous material remained upright, even though they left the tracks. No leakage from any of those cars was noted.

RJ Corman personnel performed the initial cleanup. In May, Chester Bross Construction was brought in to clean up the remains of box cars and miscellaneous debris. While that work was underway traffic was reduced to one lane.