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Trains collide in near Two Harbors; five crew members injured

Two Canadian National ore trains are stalled after colliding north of Two Harbors on Thursday evening. Five people were injured. (Clint Austin /

Five crew members were injured in a head-on collision Thursday between two Canadian National trains north of Two Harbors, according to a CN spokesman in Chicago.

Spokesman Patrick Waldron declined to characterize the extent of the injuries, but said Thursday night that two of the five crew members were being treated and expected to be released from Lake View Memorial Hospital in Two Harbors. The other three remained in Duluth hospitals, he said.

Three of the injured were in one train and two were in the other, according to Waldron. No one else was on either train at the time of the crash.

The crash occurred at about 4 p.m. about 14 miles north of Two Harbors near the Boomers Railroad Crossing, near Lake County Highway 2. One train with empty iron-ore cars was heading north, away from Two Harbors, while the other train was loaded with taconite and heading south on the same stretch of track.

The train heading north had three locomotives and was pulling 118 empty cars at the time of the crash. As the two trains hit each other, one locomotive in the northbound train derailed, but they all remained upright. Behind them, five empty cars spilled off the tracks in an S-shape -- two on one side and three on the other side of the tracks, with one car completely on its side. The train had just rounded a gradual western bend.

The southbound train, with three locomotives pulling 116 cars full of taconite, had two locomotives and eight cars derail, spilling taconite.

Crews from CN, including environmental teams, planned to spend the night cleaning up the site, Waldron said. He wasn't sure how long it would take.

Waldron said he didn't know how fast the trains were moving upon impact and that the collision is under investigation.

Recent derailments

Thursday night's train derailment in Two Harbors is the sixth in Lake County since 2000 and the first since 2007, according to Federal Railroad Administration records.

The most serious crash happened in July 2007, when 36 cars derailed, including nine ending up on their sides after a side frame on a Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range Railway car broke off.

There were three derailments in 2002, with the most serious happening on Jan. 29 that year when 20 cars derailed due to switching problems. Six cars derailed in August 2002 after a train went on a wrong track and ran into 40 empty cars.

Five cars derailed in September 2006 due to loading problems at the Two Harbors dock.

No one was injured in any of the incidents, according to Railroad Administration records.

All of the trains in the derailments were operated by the DMIR but occurred on Canadian National railroads.

In St. Louis County, a CN train derailed near Brimson in June, tipping 14 of its 120 cars full of iron ore headed to the docks in Two Harbors.

News Tribune writers Mark Stodghill, Brandon Stahl and Christa Lawler and Lake County News Chronicle reporter Matt Suoja contributed to this report.