Colton train derailment closes schools, freeways

Two freight trains collided beneath an interstate about 50 miles east of Los Angeles early Tuesday morning.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific freight trains toppled over after they clipped each other in a collision that caused six rail cars to scatter along the tracks in Colton, California.

A hazardous materials squad was dispatched after the 2:10 a.m. derailment, but Colton fire spokesman Tom Debellis said none of the five tanker cars containing corrosive ferrous chloride and asphalt was leaking. The sixth rail car was hauling automobiles.

Colton is the site of Colton Crossing, one of the busiest railroad crossings in the United States. The main transcontinental trunk lines of Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe pass through the Colton yard.

Eastbound lanes of the interstate in San Bernardino County were shut down more than four hours before dawn as a precaution. The California Highway Patrol reopened the eastbound lanes at about 6:30 a.m.

The freeway was expected to be closed again later in the day, perhaps for hours, when cranes begin to lift the overturned rail cars.

It is expected to take much of the day to get the freight cars upright and repair the tracks.

Colton High School and Wilson Elementary School, which are less than a mile from the wreckage, were closed for the day as a precaution, Debellis said.

San Bernardino Metrolink commuter train service was also disrupted and streets were closed in the vicinity of the derailment at Valley Boulevard at 9th Street.

It's not clear what led to the crash and Debellis said it's unclear if both trains were moving at the time.

Engineers from the California Department of Transportation were examining an overpass at the site of the collision for possible damage. They fear one of the derailed cars may have struck the overpass during the collision.