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Metra Line Running, But Delayed, After Derailment

Freight Train Fire

A freight train derailed and caught fire between Bartlett and South Elgin early Thursday. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 11/04/11 6:08 a.m.

BARTLETT, Ill. (CBS) — Metra commuters can expect more delays during their morning commute Friday, a day after the fiery freight train derailment that halted the Milwaukee District-West line near Bartlett.

Metra crews worked through the night to clear the tracks where they intersect with the Canadian National freight line, and one track has now been reopened.

Thus, Milwaukee District-West line trains have resumed regular service, but trains are expected to be 20 to 30 minutes behind schedule.

Metra spokesman Michael Gillis tells CBS 2 there is “still a bit of a bottleneck” due to the reduced track capacity, but no alternate solutions such as buses are being implemented.

Passengers say they are taking the delays in stride.

“Overall, Metra does a great job, and I’m so glad I don’t have to drive into Chicago every day, so I’m not going to complain if it’s a couple of days with a problem,” one woman said.

The northbound CN freight train derailed around 5:30 a.m. Thursday on the boundary between Bartlett and South Elgin. The derailment happened north of West Bartlett Road and west of Route 59, near Spaulding and Gifford roads in an industrial park.

Three of the train cars erupted in flames, and hazy smoke filled the air. Residents of a nearby mobile home park reported hearing loud and terrifying noises, which neighbor Krissy Huetter compared to “20,000 cymbals banging against each other.”

Initially, there were concerns that dangerous chemicals might have been released by the derailment or caught fire.

One of the cars was hauling ferric sulfate (Fe2(SO4)3), which is used as a coagulant for industrial waste products, and in pigments and dyes. The other was hauling sodium hydroxide (NaOH), or lye, a caustic base used in the manufacture of everything from textiles to detergents and drain cleaners.

But it turned out the car where the fire erupted contained only wood products and no hazardous materials. Other cars on the train contained scrap metal and fiber board.

Thus no hazardous materials response was necessary, and no one was evacuated.

As of 6 a.m., crews were laying new track at the diamond crossing that will form the new junction between the CN freight line and the Metra line, reports CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl.

The old tracks were left bent and resembling limp noodles following the derailment.

Metra says it could be several more days before the crash site is cleaned up entirely.