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Updated Jan. 30, 9:11 a.m.: Train tracks east of Bozeman where a train derailed are still closed and could be through early Thursday morning as cleanup crews continue to clear the area, according to a Montana Rail Link news release. 

The rail company said it is unsure when the tracks will re-open. Local residents should expect minor traffic delays because of the cleanup, it said. 

Environmental contractors are onsite monitoring water quality in Rocky Creek and working to reduce stream impacts.

No details on how much coal spilled into the creek or the cause of the accident have ben released.


A coal train derailed east of Bozeman on Tuesday, sending an estimated 40 cars off track and spilling their contents near the Trail Creek interstate exit.

Ross Lane, spokesman for Montana Rail Link, said the derailment happened at about 12:50 p.m. No crew members were injured and the train wasn’t carrying hazardous materials, Lane said.

Lane said some coal spilled into Rocky Creek, which runs alongside the tracks. He didn’t know how much. Lane said the company would be testing the water and providing remediation as needed.

Helper units from Livingston were working Tuesday night on moving cars to Livingston. He said cleaning up the coal would take place over the next couple of days. The company will work with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality on a cleanup plan.

The track was closed as of press time Tuesday. The cause of the derailment is under investigation.

The train was headed west, but Lane said he didn’t know its final destination.

A few hours after the incident, coal could be heard spilling out of some of the train cars as investigators poked around the crash. Coal covered snow on portions of the ground alongside and even reached Trail Creek Road at some spots.

Some of the cars filled with coal were left intact while others were mangled. Others folded like an accordion or fell off the tracks.

At least one train car fell across Rocky Creek, a small tributary of the East Gallatin River. Coal dumped into the creek, too.

Travis Horton, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks regional fisheries manager, visited the site on Tuesday. He said the snow and ice cover on the creek would make it hard to gauge the impact on the trout population.

“Given the circumstances there’s no way to evaluate right now,” he said.

Trevor Selch, an FWP biologist who has worked on spills before, said it’s uncommon for such spills to cause major fish kills. The agency will work with DEQ on the cleanup plans.

A DEQ spokeswoman didn’t return a call for comment before deadline.

The last train derailment in Montana was in September. In that incident, a Montana Rail Link train derailed near Columbus, spilling an estimated 4,600 tons of coal, according to the Billings Gazette.

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