Six train cars and three locomotives derailed Saturday near Rockwood, starting a small forest fire. The freight train was carrying hazardous materials, including pentamethylheptane, which is highly flammable and toxic to humans. Jackman-Moose River Fire and Rescue Department photo

A rail line in northern Maine has reopened after a train carrying lumber and hazardous materials derailed early Saturday, sending three people to the hospital and igniting a small swath of woodland on fire.

Crews were still at the site 15 miles east of Jackman on Monday, cleaning up debris from the derailment, according to spokesperson Doniele Carlson of CPKC, the Calgary, Alberta-based rail company that was formed when Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern merged on Friday.

The derailment happened at 8:30 a.m. Saturday near the village of Rockwood in Somerset County and was caused by a track washout, the railroad said in a statement Sunday.

CPKC and the Federal Railroad Administration, which is tasked with overseeing the railroad industry, declined to provide details around how the tracks near Jackman were inspected leading up to the derailment. Typically, railroad tracks are required to be inspected once a week, according to the railroad administration website.

Three locomotives and six cars containing lumber, wiring and other materials derailed. The three people injured were train crew members who were hospitalized with non-life-threatening conditions.

Two of the derailed cars contained hazardous materials, but were not involved in the fire and did not leak or spill, the railroad said. Those cars were carrying drums of ethanol and pentamethylheptane, both considered hazardous materials, and were removed from the site Saturday night, said Jim Britt of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.


Bill Jarvis, fire chief of the Jackman-Moose River Fire and Rescue Department, said the train was headed westbound at around 35 mph with about 80 cars – nearly a mile long – when it derailed. The section of track along the southern shore of Little Brassua Lake has a 40 mph speed limit.

Following the derailment, a team from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection was sent to monitor air, water and soil quality, according to a spokesperson from the state. The Maine DEP “is (overseeing) those clean-up efforts while continuing to monitor any impact on Maine’s environment,” Britt said.

A spokesman for the Maine DEP did not respond to a message left Monday night seeking information about status of the cleanup. The company had said on Sunday night that fuel had leaked from the engines.

“Some diesel fuel spilled from the locomotives. Crews are using boom and absorbents to contain and clean up the released diesel,” the company said in a statement on its website.

Jared Cassity, the chief of safety with SMART – the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – said he has been following Saturday’s derailment closely.

That’s in part because he believes it could have been easily avoidable because the washout that caused the derailment is typical this time of year in Maine.


“That area is known to be to be prone to flooding or subject to the weather conditions, a lot of melt going on up there,” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense to me why we’re in a time of year when it’s known to be problematic for weather-related events and they’re not doing more manual inspections to prevent this type of thing from happening.”

Six train cars derailed Saturday near Rockwood, starting a small forest fire. The roughly mile long freight train was carrying hazardous materials, though officials say there is no threat to public health or safety. Jackman-Moose River Fire and Rescue Department photo


The Maine Emergency Management Agency and Maine Department of Transportation also declined to respond to questions. Spokespeople from those agencies said the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is the lead agency handling the derailment.

But Britt and railroad administration spokesperson Cory Gattie said it is ultimately up to CPKC to provide more information.

Cassity believes that inability to provide basic details comes down to issues with who is tasked with oversight in the state and country.

Gattie said there’s only so much the railroad administration can do as small agency with limited resources and limited inspectors.


“We don’t have the resources or staffing to be doing daily inspections of railroads everywhere across the country, we do not have a system set up. We’re a watchdog who ensures that the railroads are living up to their safety responsibilities,” he said.

As of now, with the track reopened, Gattie said the railroad administration is in fact-finding mode to determine whether it needs to launch a formal investigation.

In the event that the FRA doesn’t launch a formal investigation, CPKC is required to submit its own investigation to the railroad administration within 30 days. The FRA then has three months until they are required to publish CPKC’s accident report for the public to access.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

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