Frac Sand Mining Means More Rail Safety Concerns


A major safety blitz is on in Barron County as demand for frac sand brings a long dormant railroad back to life.For those living along the 45-mile stretch of Canadian National Railroad between Barron and Ladysmith train horns and the rumble of freight cars are distant memories. For kids 16 years or younger the line represented nothing more than rusty tracks and rotting ties overgrown by weeds. But now two trains each day pulling up to 95 cars loaded with frac sand will be roaring past at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. Patrick Waldron of CN says this is a big change for the people living along the line, “People may have been walking over or driving over on bikes or snowmobiles these crossings and around this rail line for years, sometimes their entire lives without ever having seen a train and starting this week they will start to see trains.”

Waldron says that’s why the railroad is placing ads in local papers, sponsoring radio spots and why they invited school children to visit their “Santa Safety Train” in Barron.

Kids climbed into a vintage Illinois Central passenger car where they received gift bags from a CN employee dressed as Santa. Back outside the elementary and middle schoolers get a safety briefing from Canadian National Government Affairs Director Kevin Soucie, “This rail corridor is not a playground, it’s not a sidewalk, it’s not a place to hang out, it’s not a place to have fun, it can be a very dangerous place. So, we want you to stay away from the train tracks.”

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CN’s Barron to Ladysmith rail line is now open but officials say it’s up to their customer Superior Silica Sands when the first trains will run.