Barge, train collision dumps six coal cars near Montrose

A locomotive lays on its side as part of a derailment late Saturday night just south of Montrose. BNSF officials said train crews were sent to the hospital as a precaution. Images courtesy of Chris Mills/Keokuk

Editors Note: This story has been updated to reflect leaked diesel fuel as a result of the collision and derailment


MONTROSE – A train derailment late Saturday evening south of Montrose has Burlington Northern Santa Fe officials on scene Sunday.

According to Lee County Emergency Management Agency coordinator Jason Dinwiddie, six cars full of coal were dumped along with two locomotives south of the Montrose city limits.

Lee County Engineer Ben Hull issued a statement Sunday morning say River Road in the area will be closed during the clean up.


“Effective immediately, River Road is closed to through traffic between the Montrose south city limits and 320th St. due to a train derailment,” Hull posted Sunday morning.

Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber is asking the public to stay away from the area for a couple days to allow railroad crews to clean up the area.

Dinwiddie said it’s unknown at this point if a barge had nosed into the shore and was hanging over the track, or if the train tipped and struck the barge, but damage was incurred to both units.

“There’s quite a bit of coal spilled. They had six cars of the train’s 142 cars tipped over. We’re just asking everyone to stay clear of the area while clean up takes place. They’ve got the right people down there and the DNR and EPA are also on the scene.”

According to a release from BNSF, distributed by Dinwiddie,

“BNSF can confirm a coal train derailed after striking a barge that had turned sideways in the river with the nose of the barge on our main track near Montrose, IA around 11:51 pm CT Saturday. As a result, both lead locomotives and six cars derailed. Two of the rail cars are in the water, three partially in the water and one is upright.  As a precaution, our train crew was taken to the hospital for evaluation and released.  BNSF responders are on scene and have cleared the remaining 137 coal cars from the area. Our primary focus is to address any safety issues and securely remove any coal that may have ended up in the water.”

A coal car lays on its side near the Mississippi River just south of Montrose early Sunday morning. It was part of a BNSF derailment that dumped six coal cars toward the river. Image courtesy of Chris Mills/Keokuk

A statement released by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources indicates that diesel fuel was also leaked as a result of the collision.

“Several hundred gallons of diesel was released on the ballast material, and was seeping into the Mississippi River from the locomotive fuel tank.  A number of coal cars spilled an unknown quantity of coal into the river. No injuries were reported.

Iowa DNR is working with local emergency responders, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Coast Guard.

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