Slide disrupts Amtrak service to Southwest Washington

Bus detour expected to be in place through Wednesday

By Craig Brown, Columbian metro editor

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A mudslide onto BNSF Railway tracks north of Olympia this morning delayed 13 freight trains and will disrupt Amtrak service through at least Wednesday.

Mud, trees and rocks slid onto the rails at 1:25 a.m., said Gus Melonas, a railroad spokesman. About 30 feet of the rail line was covered with debris up to three feet deep.

The slide was detected by a remote indicator; no trains were caught in it. The slide was in an area near Nisqually, between Olympia and Tacoma.

A crew responded and reopened the tracks later this morning, but not before 13 freight trains were delayed.

No Amtrak trains were running on the line at that time of night, but safety rules mean that no passenger trains will pass the point for at least 48 hours, when engineers will reassess it to make sure there isn't any slide danger.

Amtrak passengers will be bused between stations until the line is reopened to passenger trains.

Melonas said this is the first mudslide of the season between Portland and Seattle. BNSF has invested considerable sums of money into trying to reduce slide risk on the corridor, including the trouble-prone area through Felida. In contrast, the railroad has responded to 20 slides north of Seattle since Thanksgiving.