Two train derailments over the weekend in
Wisconsin brought back memories of three derailments in
Washington County since July 2002.
A Canadian Pacific
Railway freight train derailed Sunday in Watertown, spilling
nearly 1,000 gallons of crude oil and prompting evacuations.
On Saturday, a freight train derailed near Alma, spilling
more than 18,000 gallons of ethanol.
Washington County Emergency Management Director Rob Schmid
said the most serious of the three local incidents since
2002 occurred in Addison on July 15, 2002, when 34 freight
cars from a 107-car Canadian National train derailed on a
concrete bridge near Wildlife Road.
said county fire departments and other emergency personnel
are consistently training to handle such emergencies, but
there’s a problem.
you have oil, ethanol or other fuel-related fires you have
to smother them with lots of foam,” Schmid said. “Area fire
departments don’t have enough of this foam on hand to
quickly put out a large fire. They’d have to try to contain
it until enough of the foam arrives. There is a cache of the
foam stored at Fort McCoy. So it would take a while to get
McCoy is about 150 miles from West Bend.
The above map shows railway lines throughout
Department of Transportation
Hartford has a rail line that extends through parts of
the city, including downtown, and has a supply of foam,
but does not have a large supply on hand because of
space limitations. Fire Chief Paul Stephans said his
department regularly trains to handle the side effects
attended a number of training sessions and continue to do
so,” Stephans said. “We also have a foam
supply that we can use in
Dodge County in Juneau that is there through the Dodge
County Fire Chiefs Association. If we needed more then we
could contact the source at Fort McCoy or elsewhere, but the
supply in Juneau is much closer.”
The scratched side of an oil tanker after it
derailed near West and Milford streets in Watertown
Oliver/Conley News Service
Schmid said train engineers must have a manifest on
board that details what products or materials the train
is hauling and in which rail car it is located.
less serious derailment, Schmid said, took place in
Germantown in 2011 when only “a couple of cars” derailed.
recent derailment in Washington County was July 20, 2014,
when three engines and 10 rail cars derailed south of
Highway 144 in Slinger after a southbound Canadian National
train struck a Wisconsin and Southern Railroad train on a
Wisconsin Railroad Commissioner Jeff Plule said the Slinger
incident was caused by human error and “some railroad
employees lost their jobs because of it.” He said he has
inspectors at the scene of the recent derailments.
overview of the cleanup efforts on the railway at
West and Milford streets in Watertown.
Oliver/Conley News Service
“We’re only in charge of monitoring the rail crossings,”
Plule said. “So far we’ve found no problems at the
crossings in those two areas. The Federal Railroad
Commission inspects and monitors the rails.
they have their hands full,” Plule said. “They just don’t
have enough inspectors to complete inspections as quickly as
According to a map available online from the Wisconsin
Department of Transportation Bureau of Railroads, there are
about 35 miles of usable rail line in Washington County.
were placed to Canadian Pacific Railroad for comment and to
the Federal Railroad information seeking information.
Neither returned those calls before press time.
Reach reporter Joe VanDeLaarschot at