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Published December 13, 2010, 09:28 AM

Big spill from derailment surprises homeowners

Homeowners from just yards away from the big spill got quite a surprise: Some had to hear the news from their family. Dozens of homes sit just on the east side of the Jamestown rail yard, within view of where the cars derailed, but some didn't hear a thing! And as luck would have it, the couple's home is the same as what over-turned near their backyard.

Jamestown, ND (WDAY TV) - Almost 40 hours later and cleanup is far from over in a 21-car train derailment. Crews in Jamestown have been working through the night to clean up tons of coal and metal, trying to get both railroad tracks open. BNSF officials expect cleanup to last for several days. Heaps of coal still line the rail yard today.

BNSF officials still don't know what caused the derailment. Roads in and out of the yard are still closed. Crews hope to have both tracks open by midnight tonight.

LT. ROBERT OPPJamestown Police Department: "They have enough of it cleaned up to allow eastbound rail traffic through, however westbound is still closed."

Only 2 of the 21 cars were able to be salvaged and put back on the track. The rest were scrapped.

Homeowners from just yards away from the big spill got quite a surprise: Some had to hear the news from their family. Dozens of homes sit just on the east side of the Jamestown rail yard, within view of where the cars derailed, but some didn't hear a thing! And as luck would have it, the couple's home is the same as what over-turned near their backyard.

To call it ironic is an understatement: Dan and Erin Tracy live practically feet away from the train tracks and a few hundred yards from this recent mess of metal and steal. And their place of rest, used to be on tracks: Its two old boxcars put side by side.

DAN TRACY: "This house has been in our family since, I believe 1910. My great, great grandmother lived in it. Then my grandmother lived in here, my parents lived here, and now we live in here."

Surprisingly, these two school teachers say they didn't hear a peep Sunday morning when 21 railcars went off track, yards away.

DAN: "Late in the evening when I talked to my mother, and she said, 'Did you guys hear about the train that derailed?' No idea whatsoever."

They just didn't hear it, but they did think something was off that day: The Tracy's can usually feel the house shake slightly when a train charges through this generally serene neighborhood. Once they did hear the news, a bit of concern.

ERIN: "The first thing I thought of was what was in the cars, and was there something out in the air that could be dangerous."

Luckily, the coal spill didn't affect nearby families like the Tracy's, a family who knows a thing or two about trains.

BNSF officials I talked to today say these low, negative temps have slowed cleanup and repair somewhat, but contractors are expected to work around the clock until the tracks and rail yard are clear.

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