Three rail cars plunge into river as train derails in Miami County

A Union Pacific Railroad train hauling grain derailed early Wednesday in rural Miami County, sending three rail cars into the Marais Des Cygnes River. No one was injured.

The train of 106 rail cars loaded with wheat derailed about 1:45 a.m. near West 347th Street and Lookout Road, east of Osawatomie, according to the Miami County Sheriff’s Office. The train was bound for Corpus Christi, Texas, from Colby, Kan.

Only 23 rail cars derailed, but some struck the railroad bridge over the river, said Mark Davis, a spokesman for the Union Pacific Railroad.

The sheriff’s department and Miami County Emergency Management responded. Crews were working to remove the cars and grain from the water and to remove the other cars so that the track could be rebuilt, Davis said.

Nineteen trains a day use that stretch of track, but Union Pacific is able to detour that traffic to its other lines.

Union Pacific officials were investigating the wreck Wednesday and had not determined its cause.

One of the many factors to be considered is whether drought conditions contributed the derailment. The engineering team will look at the condition of the soil or base that the tracks sit on, Davis said.

Extreme drought can cause the soil around the base area to crack or shrink, much as the earth does around a basement foundation or flat slab of a home.

“Last year it was problematic in Texas,” Davis said. “Primarily in west and south Texas.”

When the ground settles, the track will bow a little bit. To repair the damage, he said, crews have to build the base back up.