While coal trains are a daily occurrence rolling through Missoula, trains hauling crude oil are relatively rare.

Montana Rail Link Public Information Specialist Lynda Frost said the locomotive electrical fire on Sunday afternoon, April 20, occurred while hauling a relatively rare shipment of crude oil from the Bakken fields in Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota.

"On Sunday afternoon, an MRL train crew discovered that there was an electrical grid fire in the rear of the unit," Frost said. "The train was just coming into Missoula when the fire broke out, and proceeded to our mechanical service shop where there were fire extinguishers available, and they were able to contain that fire. The Missoula City Fire Department also assisted. The public should know that the locomotive fire was at all times fully contained, and was not considered to be a hazard."

Frost clarified the relationship between the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad company and Montana Rail Link.

"It is a bit confusing to the public," Frost said. "Anytime you see a train traveling between Billings and Spokane, that is a Montana Rain Link train. Many times, you might see that train being pulled by a BNSF locomotive, but all that means is that the locomotive may belong to BNSF, but it's pulling a Montana Rail Link train."

Frost said coal trains vastly outnumber the trains shipping crude oil through Missoula.

"Last year, we averaged two and a half loaded, and two and a half empty coal trains per day," Frost said. "I can tell you that last year we had eight oil trains travel through Missoula during the entire year. That number has increased a bit, and as of the end of March, we have had 12."

Frost said Montana Rail Link has made a significant investment to increase safety for the public and their employees as they ship merchandise throughout the northwest.

"We're providing improved inspections, slower trains, and more training for our employees," Frost said. "Plus, the tank cars themselves are being built to be more sturdy."

In response to President Obama's continuing delays in building the Keystone XL pipeline, Frost said, "Montana Rail Link will be ready to ship anything that comes our way safely, for our employees, for the public and the communities we live in."

And, that includes oil.

Montana Rail Link Public Information Specialist Lynda Frost