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Cleaning up the mess in Mahnomen are crews with speciality contractors that deal with railroad spills and derailment cleanups. Eight tanker cars, each with 20,000 gallons or more of canola oil, were involved in the derailment, though not all cars lost all their oil. Railroad officials were assessing the damage and pumping out the oil on Tuesday. (Nathan Bowe/Tribune)

Off the rails in Mahnomen

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A railroad disaster drill held last week in the city of Mahnomen seemed eerily prescient when the real thing happened -- 13 cars in a southbound Canadian Pacific freight train derailed late Monday afternoon.

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Luckily, no one was hurt in the real derailment, and the clear liquid gushing out of an overturned tanker car -- like water out of a fire hydrant --  turned out to be harmless canola oil.

In the drill last week, it was anhydrous ammonia.

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