Wooden rail bridge burns and collapses in northern Minnesota

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

INTERNATIONAL FALLS, Minn. (AP) — An old wooden railroad bridge near Minnesota's northern border burned and collapsed early Wednesday, shutting a busy train route that connects the Pacific Coast with Chicago.

The bridge in Koochiching County belongs to Canadian National Railway. It carried more than 20 trains over the Rat Root River daily until it collapsed.

CN spokesman Brent Kossey said the crew of a southbound train approaching the bridge reported a fire on the trestle just after 12:30 a.m. The train came to a stop but only after it had crossed the bridge. The bridge was destroyed, but the crew was not hurt.

Two cars carrying potash fertilizer were left hanging over the river. The rest of the train was able to leave, Sheriff Perryn Hedlund said.

Railroad officials as well as the sheriff's office and the state fire marshal were investigating the cause of the fire. The railroad was already working on a temporary replacement bridge.

The collapse blocked a Canadian National line that runs from Prince Rupert, British Columbia, to Chicago. It crosses the Rainy River, which forms part of the U.S- Canada border, at Ranier, Minnesota, just east of International Falls. It's one of the busiest rail crossings on the border. All rail traffic through Ranier has been halted.

Ranier Mayor Dennis Wagner told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis that the bridge was built in 1907 and carries more than 20 trains a day that are typically up to two miles long.