Derailed Freight Train in Lake Forest Near US 41 Transporting Hot Molten Sulfur


No hazardous materials were found leaking from any cars, but all of the rail cars were tankers. One of the cars was carrying molten sulfur, but it was not clear if other hazardous material were also contained in the tanker rail cars. Ten tanker rail cars were derailed and some were jackknifed near perpendicular to the railroad tracks.

No residents in the area needed to be evacuated, according to fire department Battalion Chief Matthew Penar. There were no injuries to the railroad crew, firefighters or to the public.

The Lake County and McHenry County Hazardous Material technicians were called to the scene as a precaution, and no leaks or hazards were detected by about 4:40 a.m.

There is no health or fire hazard risk, and the railroad was planning to bring in equipment to remove the rail cars.

Fire crews cleared the scene at 9:40 a.m. especially near the northbound lanes of U.S. 41, which remained closed and may be closed intermittently through the day. The bike path between Lake Forest and Lake Bluff also will be closed.

Melted snow near the derailed tanker cars is likely consistent with what would be seen near hot tanker cars (295°F) carrying molten sulfur. See photos below …

A freight train transporting molten sulfur derailed just before 5:00 a.m. Friday, January 16, 2009 in Buffalo Grove. See Freight Train Derailment in Buffalo Grove Cancels North Central Commuter Service …

According CAMEO Chemicals, Molten Sulfur is transported as a yellow to red liquid, and is transported elevated temperatures of about 290°F to prevent solidification. Sulfur as a faint odor of rotten eggs.

Sulfur can react with other chemicals, so a big risk in a train derailment would occur if somehow sulfur was leaked and mixed with another leaking chemical that could cause a fire or explosion.

In a fire situation, sulfur can produce toxic sulfur dioxide gas. Molten sulfur can also solidify on skin and clothing, and attempts at removal can cause tearing of skin and flesh.

Even large spills are only evacuated about 330 feet, but if a fire is involved, evacuations of one-half mile in all directions are recommended

See also …


CAMEO is a system of software applications tools developed by the EPA’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Response and Restoration (NOAA). CAMEO is used to model scenarios regarding spills, fires and weather conditions to assist front-line chemical emergency planners and responders.

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