Clearing debris from in front of the locomotive. The yellow line is the containment boom over the lost excavator.

Clean-up continues after Kootenay Lake train derailment

CP Rail says it will likely be next week before they begin removing an excavator from Kootenay Lake.

CP Rail officials say it will likely be early next week before they begin removing an excavator that ended up in Kootenay Lake following a derailment.

Around 3 p.m. Friday, a rockslide struck a small work train six kilometers east of Atbara, along the south shore between Nelson and Procter.

CP spokesman Ed Greenberg says one of the locomotives and a flat car carrying the excavator left the tracks.

The excavator was dislodged, slid down the bank, and into the lake.

Neither the conductor nor engineer was injured. Crews and equipment were brought in to clear the rock, repair the track, and put the locomotive back on the rails.

“The locomotive was re-railed late Saturday, and once the necessary track repairs and mandatory inspections were completed, the line was re-opened Sunday,” Greenberg says.

Plans are now being made to put the flat car back on the tracks and to pull the excavator out of the lake. The machine appears to be a few feet from the water’s surface.

“As safety is paramount, officials are now taking the necessary time to put in place the appropriate precautions before moving forward,” Greenberg says.

An environmental consultant is at the scene, monitoring the area where the excavator sits. No leaks are apparent, but containment booms are in place.

Alistair Fraser, who lives directly opposite the site at Crescent Bay, heard the derailment but didn’t see it.

“There was a roar as it went down the bank,” he says.

However, he and wife Dorothy didn’t go outside until about an hour later.

He has since posted a series of excellent photos on his blog.

It’s not the first time fallen rock has derailed a train on that line.

On January 20, 1995, three locomotives and two cars from a 49-car freight train fell down a 125-foot (42 m) cliff into Kootenay Lake near Procter after hitting a three-meter high slide.

An engineer and trainman were killed, while the conductor suffered minor injuries.

Divers recovered the bodies of Shawn Hogg of Cranbrook and Pete Whitehead from Kimberley from the lead locomotive.

About 28,000 litres of diesel fuel was spilled into the lake, along with a carload of lead sulphide.

CP subsequently beefed up its management of rock hazards.

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