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Train derails in Caledonia, 19 cars affected and rail damaged

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CALEDONIA (WITI) -- A Union Pacific train derailed in Caledonia just east of the intersection of 5 Mile Rd. and Nicholson Rd. on Sunday morning, January 19th.

It happened around 5:50 a.m. -- according to Union Pacific. The Caledonia Fire Department says it was notified around 7:00 a.m. -- when an off-duty firefighter drove beneath an overpass and noticed a dangling train car.

19 cars went off the rails as a result of the incident. You can view pictures taken by the Caledonia Fire Department and FOX6 News crews below. The train had three locomotives and 135 coal cars from Wyoming headed for Sheboygan.

Officials say debris from the derailment is spread over a thousand feet, and 500 feet of track is destroyed.

As a result of the derailment, 5 Mile Rd. between Nicholson Rd. and Highway 38 will be closed indefinitely.

"It's quite a mess!" Gerry Olley said.

Olley's property runs right up to the scene of Sunday's derailment. Olley and his nephew came in for a closer look.

"Just train cars piled on top of each other," Nick Olley said.

"There's a lot of coal cars and the coal is spilled out," Gerry Olley said.

"There was one just hanging off a bridge," Nick Olley said.

Officials say there are no injuries and no hazardous materials were spilled in the wreck. That's why Union Pacific officials say it wasn't necessary to notify the Caledonia Fire Department right away.

"It does surprise me, obviously, an event of this magnitude occurring in our community -- we'd like to be made aware of it. Certainly the courtesy of a phone call just to let us know that this event was occurring would have been beneficial," Caledonia Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Henningfeld said.

The Caledonia Fire Department eventually agreed with Union Pacific's assessment that the scene was stable.

The Wisconsin DNR was notified and an environmental containment crew was called to the scene to monitor the cleanup.

A spokesman with Union Pacific says four teams are working this investigation.

The first team is looking into whether there are any human factors that may have caused the derailment.

The second team is looking at mechanical factors.

The third team is looking at the railroad tracks and their condition.

The fourth team is handling other factors that could have caused the incident.

That spokesman says heavy machinery has been brought in to remove the rail cars -- and cleanup of coal spilled is taking place simultaneously.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Railroad Commissioner Jeff Plale says there is no official word as to what caused this incident -- but he says when the weather gets cold, it can cause fissures and fractures in the rails.

"Extreme weather is difficult for railroads. If you have very cold weather, even the smallest fissure in the steel can turn into a break, into a crack," Plale said.

Crews will work around the clock until the work is completed.

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