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Great Plains derailment damages track

A portion of newly updated rail system at Great Plains Industrial Park will have to be replaced again following a derailment in August.

The Great Plains Development Authority board heard Thursday from the Great Plains park director and property manager about the derailment occurring Aug. 15 involving a Union Pacific train delivering wind turbine blades to the park, where the blades are stored by Transportation Partners & Logistics until wind energy companies are ready for them to be delivered.

On a train that hauls the turbine blades, one blade sits on two cars. A spacer car is placed between the two cars and the next two to keep the blade ends from contacting each other during transport.

One of the spacer cars went afoul and derailed at the switch area.

“When it ran afoul, it ran outside the track all the way around the S curve until it got up to the switch yard, where the lines switch out to the other eight lanes. And that car continued to follow that switch line and it got sideways, and it took the other two cars and just turned them and shoved them off in the ditch,” property manager Tim Peoples explained. “The track for the whole main line got twisted sideways.”

The accident happened around 3 a.m. The Union Pacific Railroad called a crane company that had four cranes on site and several semitrailers already on site and working by the time Peoples showed up. U.P. took over the site, working with Progress Rail Services Corp., which leases the rail system within the industrial park and manages the traffic. Progress Rail, owned by Caterpillar Inc., is one of the largest integrated and diversified suppliers of railroad and transit system products and services worldwide. The company also offers railcar storage and repair at Great Plains.

The board members were thankful the accident occurred in a rail area that had been replaced, so responsibility for it did not fall on Great Plains. A $1.64 million grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation paid for the rehabilitation and replacement of rails within that portion of Great Plains.

Progress Rail called Jim Colvin of Pryor Track & Hoe to inspect the rails and see what needed to be done to get the main line back in shape.

Through the grant-funded rail rehab project, Peoples said he put some extra material back, so they pulled from that stack to get the main line back in shape.

“Jim brought in a crew Sunday, and by Sunday evening the main line was back in shape and they were able to utilize it to get traffic going on the line,” Peoples said.

Inspectors checked over the track before trains could run again.