Train derailment at Winnipeg overpass could close McPhillips Street for several days

A train derailment involving 12 cars has closed one of Winnipeg’s busiest streets — and it could stay that way for days.

The derailment happened around 8 a.m. Friday on the Canadian Pacific Railway train overpass above McPhillips Street, forcing the city to close McPhillips between Logan and Jarvis avenues.

Some of the derailed cars are on the bridge and others are on the approach to it, said Scott Wilkinson, assistant chief for the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service.

Images from the scene show some cars leaning at sharp angles, but none appear to have fallen over.

Several emergency crews have set up on both sides of the McPhillips underpass, and a number of nearby businesses were initially evacuated as a precaution. They have since been allowed to reopen.

Black tanker cars that are part of the freight train are seen on the overpass.
A train car that is slightly leaning but shifted at a right angle is seen at the edge of the McPhillips Street underpass. (Bert Savard/CBC)

A drone was launched by the fire-paramedic service at one point to get a closer overhead view of the scene and assess the danger before the evacuation was cancelled, Wilkinson said.

The cause of the derailment is unknown.

The cars were carrying a petroleum oil compound — bitumen — which is not considered hazardous, Wilkinson said.

There are no injuries but some bitumen has spilled and Canadian Pacific is working to clean it up, as well as get the derailed cars back on the tracks.

No information about the size of the spill was provided.

A drone lifts off next to a large red truck from the fire department.
The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service uses a drone to get a closer look at the derailment. (Joanne Roberts/CBC)

There’s some concern about the integrity of bridge, which was built in 1912. The underpass will be closed for a few days, at least, while it is assessed, police Sgt. Jay Murray said.

“Certainly for rush hour, coming home today, motorists are going to want to make alternate arrangements,” he said.

The overpass accommodates seven railway tracks that spread out into dozens of tracks on either side. The Canadian Pacific Railway marshalling yard is on the east and the Weston Shops yard is on the west.

The derailment hasn’t blocked the other tracks, so trains are still able to move across the overpass.

Derailments within city limits don’t happen too frequently because of the lower speeds trains travel at, Wilkinson said. And if they do occur, it’s normally a more minor problem involving something like a few wheels slipping from the track.

“Unfortunately, this wasn’t the same,” he said.

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