Two train routes in the Cajon Pass came back on line late Wednesday as the fire receded. But two remained closed, including one along which a Union Pacific bridge was damaged by flames.
Crews scrambled Thursday to get the damaged lines — one operated by Union Pacific, the other by BNSF — back on line to further ease the logjam of stranded cargo.
“It created a backlog,” said Lena Kent, a spokeswoman for BNSF Railway. “But, none of our employees were hurt, none of our trains caught fire.”
BNSF Railway, which operates three tracks snaking through the pass, said trains were running on two of their routes after a 30-hour stoppage. No BNSF infrastructure was damaged.
Union Pacific’s lone line through the pass remained unusable after fire charred a 145-foot-tall bridge on its path, just north of Cajon Junction. Wood ties along the tracks and the approach sustained damage.
“We are still rerouting (trains) around the fire in coordination with BNSF,” said Justin E. Jacobs, spokesman for Union Pacific.
Still, the green light allowed shippers to finally haul cargo parked for more than a day along rail tracks or at port terminals at Long Beach and Los Angeles.
The routes through the Cajon Pass serve as a major shipping artery connecting Southern California and to Las Vegas and the Midwest. Tons of goods such as appliances and clothes unloaded from ships at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports are carried by locomotives bound as far away as Chicago. More than 70 trains a day run through the rugged San Bernardino Mountains. The pass is also a major route for truckers bringing goods to and from distribution warehouses in the Inland Empire.
“Now, it’s a matter of getting priority trains through the area,” Jacobs said.
With cargo still backed up, Kent said trains are moving “a bit slower than they normally do through the pass” and some customers could expect a 48-hour delay.
In the meantime, BNSF is deploying water trucks in the area to assist firefighters in protecting their tracks. The third track, though not yet operational for moving cargo, is being used by engineers to inspect tracks.
Thursday afternoon, Union Pacific was still assessing damage to the bridge. “Crews are out there now, putting together a plan to restore the construction integrity of the bridge,” said Jacobs, who estimated Union Pacific would have repairs done by early next week.
But, with flames still surging ahead, Kent warned “The fire could be a threat to our operation depending on the wind.”
By Rachel Uranga, San Bernardino County Sun - Full Article