Dotsero train derailment stalls Amtrak passengers, mail |

Dotsero train derailment stalls Amtrak passengers, mail

Stephen Lloyd Wood

Passengers on Amtrak’s westbound California Zephyr were delayed several hours Wednesday evening when two mail cars derailed near Dotsero, said Kim Andree, spokeswoman for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

No injuries or heavy damage was reported, and no hazardous materials were involved, Andree said.

Just after 5 p.m., the Sheriff’s Office, the lead agency in this case, received a call that cars had derailed from the 13-car train en route from Winter Park to Glenwood Springs.

The westbound train, which departed Chicago on Tuesday, was on its way to Emeryville, Calif., near San Francisco, with 235 passengers onboard, said Washington, D.C.-based Amtrak spokesman Dan Stessel.

Passengers in the train’s nine passenger cars waited about two hours before being told the remaining portion of the train would continue on to Glenwood Springs. Stessel said the passenger cars never lost electrical power, and on-train services were not interrupted.

“”All of the facilities aboard are working,” he said. “”People can still use laptops, watch TV and do all the things people normally do on trains.”

Stessel said Union Pacific mechanical crews were enroute to the scene to cut the boxcars from the Zephyr so the train could proceed to California.

A cleanup, which would involve lifting the derailed cars back onto the tracks, was expected to last several hours. Mail contained in the derailed cars, which remained upright and did not incur serious damage, would be delayed indefinitely, Andree said.

The two derailed cars apparently created sparks as they went off the tracks near the confluence of the Eagle and Colorado rivers, Andree said, igniting a small fire. Firefighters with the Gypsum Fire Protection District responded, but decided to let the fire burn itself out on the riverbank, Andree said.

As for the cause of the derailment, Amtrak officials told Andree the derailment probably was due to “thermal misalignment,” a phenomenon in which rails deform slightly, causing wheels of a train to slip and sometimes leave the rail, Andree said.

The National Transportation Safety Board has been dispatched to investigate the accident, Andree said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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