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Montana Railway Disrupted as Boeing Inspects 737 Hulls in River

A section of Montana railway will be closed for several hours today as railroad officials weighed how to recover three Boeing 737 fuselages that were dumped into the Clark Fork River in a train derailment.

Getting the aircraft hulls out of the river may take two days, Lynda Frost, a Montana Rail Link Inc. spokeswoman, said yesterday. Three additional fuselages also tumbled out of the train July 3 near Rivulet, Montana, and stayed on land.

“We’ve never done this before,” Frost said in a telephone interview. “We have a lot of heavy-duty equipment on hand to do this. The plan is to drag them up the bank.”

BNSF Railway Co., a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., was carrying the fuselages and some assemblies for 777 and 747 aircraft to Boeing Co.’s Renton, Washington, plant from Spirit Aerosystems Holdings Inc. in Wichita, Kansas. Montana Rail Link, a regional railroad company, took control of the train as it crossed Montana, and the accident occurred on MRL’s watch, Frost said.

The tracks have been closed intermittently since being reopened at about 8 p.m. New York time Saturday, Frost said. Railroad officials expect to close the track again today for eight hours starting at 10 a.m. New York time.

Boeing, based in Chicago, sent a team of technicians to inspect the fuselages and assemblies for damage. Doug Alder, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail yesterday he had no information on how long the accident might delay production at the Boeing plant. He also declined to say which airline or aircraft leasing company had ordered the jets.

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