Cleanup underway after 26 railcars carrying potash derail near Craven, Sask., blocking Highway 20

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Crews worked Wednesday to clean-up the aftermath of a train derailment near Craven, Sask. Twenty-six railcars carrying potash went off the rails Tuesday night. (Cory Herperger/CBC - image credit)
Crews worked Wednesday to clean-up the aftermath of a train derailment near Craven, Sask. Twenty-six railcars carrying potash went off the rails Tuesday night. (Cory Herperger/CBC - image credit)

A quiet night playing cards with his family came to a swift end for the mayor of a small village in Saskatchewan on Tuesday.

A loud screeching sound was the first indication of a CP Rail train derailment that has cut off Highway 20, just south of Craven, Sask., since 9 p.m. CST. The train was carrying potash.

"I looked through my binoculars and basically what I saw was a whole bunch of train cars just kind of crumpled in an accordion," said Scott Montgomery, the mayor of Craven, located about 30 kilometres northwest of Regina.

He immediately called 911, and as a volunteer firefighter, was dispatched to the scene.

Brian Rodgers/CBC News
Brian Rodgers/CBC News

There were no injuries in the derailment, which is believed to total 26 rail cars.

Montgomery says his crew quickly set up traffic control in order to divert people from the scene.

In a statement, officials with CP Rail confirmed that they are investigating the cause of the derailment and that there are no public safety concerns.

Village of Craven
Village of Craven

Austin Van Cryenest was on his way home from work around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday when he came across the scene.

"I was coming up to the train tracks, and I saw this huge hill there that I've never seen before, and everybody stopped. The train lights were on. And so then I turned on my light bar and then there shines a huge pileup of trains," he said.

Van Cryenest estimated the number of derailed train cars to be in the double digits. He said he saw piles of pink dust around the damaged cars.

Those piles of dust have since been confirmed to be a significant amount of potash. The substance, primarily used in fertilizers, was being hauled by a CP Rail freight train.

Brian Rodgers/CBC News
Brian Rodgers/CBC News

Canpotex, a Canadian potash exporting and marketing firm, has confirmed that the derailed cars are owned by the company. They've directed all other requests to CP Rail.

The Transportation Safety Board said they are continuing to assess the situation and confirmed no injuries and that no dangerous goods were spilled.

No potash is believed to have entered the nearby Qu'Appelle River.

In a Facebook post, the Village of Craven has asked that people avoid the area to allow emergency crews to work.

The Lumsden Fire Department responded to the scene and cleared it of any "additional hazards," the department said in a statement.

The fire department was eventually relieved by CP officials, who the company said were dispatched as soon as it was alerted to the derailment.

Cleanup continues Wednesday

CP crews were still cleaning up the site of the derailment on Wednesday afternoon. The spilled potash has been collected into large piles near the site of the crash.

Highway 20 in Craven remains at least partially blocked off, although some vehicles were able to cross the rail section this morning. However, the Village of Craven said traffic is expected to be very slow.

Officials with the village are continuing to direct travellers to or from Regina to use Highway 99, or Highway 6, as an alternate route.

Craven has a population of about 210. The village is best known as the site for the annual Country Thunder music festival.

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