July 18, 2013

Railway at center of tragedy struggling financially

Montreal, Maine & Atlantic lays off 79 workers after the Quebec crash severed Maine from its network and business dropped.

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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In this July 6 file photo, smoke rises from derailed railway cars that were carrying crude oil in downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada. The Maine company that owns the train that derailed and exploded in the center of Lac-Megantic has lost much of its freight business and is struggling financially because of the crash.

The Associated Press / Canadian Press

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Oil deliveries through southern Maine on Pan Am Railways are now expected to increase.

The St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railway, which runs trains between Portland and Ste. Rosalie, Quebec, where it connects with the Canadian National Railway, has offered help re-routing Montreal, Maine & Atlantic trains, said St. Lawrence & Atlantic's president, Mario Brault.

One of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic's biggest customers is Lac-Megantic's largest employer, Tafisa Canada Inc., which manufactures particle board and thermofused melamine panels.

The factory, which employs more than 300 people, ships 2,500 train cars of particle board annually. It depends on Montreal, Maine & Atlantic to get its products to markets in the west. That route is now cut off because the factory is east of the crash site, which remains closed while crews work to recover bodies and remove tankers. The area is also considered a crime scene.

Burkhardt, the railroad's chairman, said it's uncertain how long the area will remain closed and when train traffic can resume.

He said Tasifa Canada and his staff are developing a plan to truck products a short distance, then load them onto rail cars west of the disaster site.

Burkhardt said he appreciates the offers of help from other railroads.

"It's a strange business," he said. "We are enemies one day and friends the next. We fight on one thing and cooperate on another."

-- Staff Writer Jessica Hall contributed to this report.

Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:


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Additional Photos

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Rail cars sit on the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway junction in Oakfield, Maine.

2010 Associated Press File Photo

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Rail World Inc. president Edward Burkhardt speaks to the media as he tours Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on Wednesday, July 10, 2013. A Rail World train crashed into the town killing at least 15 people. Burkhardt blamed the accident on an employee who he said had failed to properly set the brakes. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)


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