Monday, July 3, 1978 | 6 a.m.
CALIENTE-Clouds of highly flammablefumes engulfed this railroad town when a Union Pacific train derailed and a tanker car full of yellow phosphorous ruptured and burst into flames Sunday.
Another tanker car carrying chlorine gas was among the cars that derailed about 5 a.m. However, no fumes escaped.
The train derailed on Leigh Flat in the Meadow Valley Wash. am uninhabited stretch of desert in Lincoln County, located 170 miles north of Las Vegas and 21 miles north of Caliente.
Fumes spread quickly to Caliente, according to Mayor Keith Larson, also a Union Pacific Employee.
"The smoke was kinda bad in town this morning, but the wind cleared it up. It smelled like matches when they initially burn," he said.
the train was bound for Southern California. C.R. Rockwell, Union Pacific spokesman, said the shipment of phosphorous originated in Montana. He said there were also nine covered hoppers of grain among the derailed freight cars.
Officials remained at a distance, fearing that the chlorine tanker might explode. Officials said the car was later stabilized and there was no danger of it exploding.
A Bureau of Land Management fire truck stoodby in case the fire spread to the surrounding sagebrush.
Foam trucks from Nellis Air Force base near Las Vegas and from Ceder City, Utah, were also called to the scene.
The derailment began with the 4th car of th 97-car train, Rockwell said. He said the main track was blocked and a decision had not been made Sunday whether to clear the tracks or build temporary tracks are the accident scene.
A crew from Western Environmental Service, Portland, Ore., specialists in cleaning up train wrecks, were called to the scene, he said.
The company was deciding whether to allow the wreckage to burn itself out or whether to bury it.
Rockwell explained that the tanker which carried the phosphorous was double-walled and water surrounded the flammable substance because phosphorous ignites when exposed to air.
A freight train with wheat bound for Russia crashed near Caliente this April.