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Train engine that caused rush-hour Elgin traffic snarl getting look-over

Updated: January 19, 2014 11:48AM

ELGIN — A complete inspection is taking place for a locomotive pulling two miles of freight cars that stalled for about two hours Monday evening from Big Timber Road south to the city’s downtown, severely snarling traffic.

That was the word Tuesday afternoon from Canadian Pacific Railway spokesman Ed Greenberg.

“There was a mechanical matter that required our experts’ attention before we could safely proceed again,” Greenberg said. “Regrettably, it took some time to ensure all safety procedures were followed as the train was being inspected and prepared for movement.”

Greenberg added, “CP has in place a strict inspection and maintenance process for our entire locomotive fleet, and this situation is being reviewed.”

Because of the train’s troubles, Monday night police sent out a notice shortly after 5 p.m. that only the I-90 and Route 20 bridges in Elgin were open to east-west travel through the city. At that time the city’s four downtown Fox River bridges — Kimball Street, Chicago Street, Highland Avenue and National Street — were blocked at nearby train crossings.

Until the crossings could be unblocked, the only east-west crossings over the Fox River available to motorists remained I-90 on the city’s north end and Route 20 on the sound end. Other bridges farther north and south that were open to traffic included Route 72 (Main Street) through the Dundees and State Street in South Elgin.

By 7 p.m. Monday, all four of the downtown Elgin crossings finally were reopened to traffic — just as the evening’s snowfall was causing problems on hilly streets.

Police Cmdr. Dan O’Shea said Tuesday that Elgin police had worked Monday evening with railroad personnel as they disconnected the train cars south of Chicago Street. That was done so a rescue engine could be used to pull cars north in order to open the Chicago, Highland and Kimball bridges.

O’Shea said public works crews were busy clearing the streets of the evening’s snowfall and providing barricades to help police redirect traffic and prevent children and commuters from the adjacent Metra line from coming near the stalled Canadian Pacific freight train.

“I’ve never seen that happen before,” O’Shea said of the train blocking all four downtown bridges as it did Monday.

Neither could Mayor Dave Kaptain. Kaptain said he noticed another first Saturday afternoon around 2 p.m. — two very long freight trains, heading in opposite directions, blocking the downtown for about a half-hour. Greenberg said that he had not heard of the Saturday delay and noted the tracks in question are used by other railway lines in addition to Canadian Pacific.

While no hazardous materials were being transported in the Monday incident, Kaptain said that emails were going around Tuesday about an upcoming Metro West Council of Government meeting that will be discussing that topic.

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