UP, Amtrak face month of disruptions after derailment damages bridge

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Northern California service outtage
Union Pacific
DUNSMUIR, Calif. — A Union Pacific train hauling an assortment of empty freight cars derailed in the Sacramento River canyon Tuesday bringing down part of a bridge and disrupting Amtrak's premier West Coast train for perhaps a month.

Pictures broadcast by Action News Now of Chico-Redding (Calif.) show wood-chip cars entangled in girders at the north end of the through-truss bridge. Center-beam lumber racks can be seen beyond, curving into a tunnel.

"Extensive repairs will be required and initial estimates indicate this outage will last up to 30 days," UP says in a customer alert posted on its website Wednesday.

Ten cars in the northbound train reportedly derailed about 11:30 a.m. April 25, with none dropping into the river and no reported injuries or environmental issues. The bridge in the foothills of the Cascade Range is the southern of a pair that bookend a tunnel. Together, the structures shortcuts the canyon near Sims, Calif., 12 rail miles south of Dunsmuir.

With the line out of service, UP is rerouting trains from Roseville and Los Angeles to as far east as Salt Lake City to reach Portland via Pocatello, Idaho. Deliveries will be delayed as much as four days, according to UP's announcement.

Higher-priority cargo is traveling the Feather River line east of Roseville to Keddie, Calif., and from there, the BNSF Inside Gateway back to home rails at Klamath Falls, Ore.

Amtrak already was in the middle of one service disruption after a mudslide on Monday blocked BNSF tracks about 10 miles north of Vancouver, Wash., on the Coast Starlight and Amtrak Cascades route between Portland, Ore., and Seattle. BNSF imposed a 48-hour moratorium on all traffic scheduled to end today, April 27.

In the immediate aftermath of the derailment, Amtrak annulled the Starlight between Portland and Sacramento while offering no alternate transportation. Trains will continue to run between Sacramento and Los Angeles while a decision on continuing the Portland-Seattle segment is expected Monday, an Amtrak spokesperson in Oakland tells Trains News Wire.

Cascade trains and Thruway buses will continue to run between Seattle and Eugene south of Portland.

Passengers including those already aboard other trains expecting to make Starlight connections were notified their reservations had been canceled. Among them was Robert Bulkley of suburban Portland who says he had tickets for an annual excursion to explore Midwest railroads.

With his May 7 departure canceled, he says he'll likely endure flying to Los Angeles to catch the LA to Chicago Southwest Chief.

"I would comment that a bus bridge would make a lot of sense, preferably between Klamath Falls and Redding or, if there's no place to turn the train in Redding, Klamath Falls and Sacramento," Bulkley tells News Wire. "When the Frazier slide shut down the line through the Cascades a few years ago, it took Amtrak far too long to realize that that was what it should do.

"I guess it's too much to hope that it would consider a detour from Wishram to Keddie and on to Sacramento that away."

For now, Bulkley's May 20 boarding of the Starlight in Oakland when he returns on the California Zephyr is still confirmed, he adds.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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