Train derailment dumps coal in downtown Shiner

Highway 90-A reopened after 20 hours


The cause of a train derailment which shut down US Highway 90-A (Avenue E) for more than 20 hours Friday and Saturday remains under investigation, a Union Pacific representative told the Inquirer.

“We are not going to speculate,” said Mike Jaixen, senior manager of communications for Union Pacific. “The cause of the derailment is under investigation. We understand the impact this derailment had on the community of Shiner, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

The incident occurred at about 7 p.m. Friday, June 3, when the train full of open-top coal cars left the track near the intersection of Avenue E, spilling their contents onto the roadway less than two blocks from the city’s main traffic light.

Eyewitnesses reported one of the train’s wheels appeared to have been smoking from as far back as the 16th Street crossing before the train’s axle broke, causing cars to topple like fallen dominoes. One of the  rail cars took out the intersection’s safety signal and traffic crossarm while snapping a number of electrical lines below the pavement.

Fortunately, while traffic was stopped in both directions due to the train’s approach, the scattering rail cars and debris did not appear to cause any damage to waiting passenger vehicles and there were no reported injuries.

Jaixen said crews worked throughout the night Friday and Saturday at the scene.

“The cleanup of the derailment is under way,” Jaixen said. “The derailed cars have been removed from the right of way, and the track was repaired and reopened to traffic early Sunday morning.

“We are working on removing the cars and the coal that spilled from the city of Shiner. We do not have a time frame at this time.”

Meanwhile, a crew was being dispatched to Shiner to repair the underground cables so the cross arm and safety signal could be replaced. Complete removal of the debris and damaged cars could take days and possibly a week to finish.

Avenue E was reopened at about 3 p.m. Saturday with eastbound traffic continuing in its normal lane of travel, while westbound traffic was being routed using the turn lane for now.

Jaixen said Union Pacific “works diligently to prevent derailments and other accidents.”

“We continuously inspect our tracks, locomotives and other equipment and we utilize a variety of technology to inspect locomotives and railcar wheels,” Jaixen said. “We also comply with all federal rules and regulations in working toward ensuring our trains operate safely.”