Train in Canadian derailment headed by Chicago rail veteran

Sat Jul 6, 2013 9:48pm EDT
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By P.J. Huffstutter and Scott Haggett

(Reuters) - The railroad whose train of tanker cars derailed and burst into an oil-fueled fire in a Canadian town on Saturday is headed by a Chicago-area railroad veteran whose career included work with railways in Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Estonia and Poland.

Edward A. Burkhardt's Rail World Inc is a privately held rail management and investment firm based outside Chicago. The little-known Rosemont, Illinois, company also has current ties to freight railways in Poland.

It controls the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway whose train carrying crude oil fell off the rails in Lac-Megantic, a picturesque lakeside town in Quebec, killing at least one person and leveling dozens of buildings. The railroad said it had had reports of more deaths, and Canadian officials also said they feared the death toll would go higher.

Burkhardt is president of Rail World and chairman of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway.

In an interview with Reuters in his office near Chicago's O'Hare airport, Burkhardt said the railway had had minor derailments, but no fatalities. "In the 10 years or so we've been in business, this is the only serious derailment we've had," he said.

He said he expected claims would "be a lot of money," butthe company and its insurer could handle it financially.

Burkhardt, whose office is filled with model train cars and other rail memorabilia, said the railroad had had "a tough few years" during the 2007-2008 recession when demand fell for its usual cargo of paper and forest products.

The increased demand to carry oil from western Canada and North Dakota, had helped. "The business had been getting a bit better," Burkhardt said.   Continued...

Smoke rises after a train explosion in the town Lac Megantic July 6, 2013. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger (CANADA - Tags: DISASTER ENERGY)