CN moved in heavy equipment Sunday to remove seven train cars following a derailment south of St. Norbert along Highway 75.
"It's a matter of cleanup and a restoration effort. It will take quite a while," CN spokeswoman Lindsay Fedchyshyn said from Toronto. "In terms of cause, everybody wants to know, but it's too early to tell," she said.
Emergency crews on the scene confirmed there were no injuries or environmental damage as a result of the derailment, which took place 12:55 p.m. Sunday.
CN expected an investigative team to remain on the scene for hours Sunday. The cleanup was expected to last overnight and possibly into today before crews cleared the scene.
The rail route is one of the main arteries south into the United States, but officials expected no delays in rail traffic as a result of the derailment. Crews were rerouting trains to alternate stretches of track Sunday.
Winnipeg emergency police and fire crews manned the site of the derailment just before 1 p.m., briefly closing one of the two southbound lanes on Highway 75 just south of St. Norbert.
"From all our records and CN's records, it's not a dangerous product," said Ted Kuryluk, platoon chief and scene commander for the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service.
The scene commander said one of the cars tipped, spilling a load of plastic pellets, known as polystyrene beads, used in the manufacture of water bottles, children's toys and similar products. The other cars carried steel pipe for the pipeline industry and lumber.
The Winnipeg fire service dispatched a hazmat unit when the call came in as a precaution but it was called back before it arrived, the scene commander said.
"The river is very close. That's why we came here. This doesn't pose any danger," Kuryluk said, gesturing to the scene of the derailment on the banks of the La Salle River.
The area is environmentally sensitive, located on a narrow strip of land where the Red River and the La Salle bend towards Highway 75.
Five of the cars were derailed, either partly or completely. The other two cars remained on the tracks but were blocked by the derailment.
The freight had just left Winnipeg and was headed south to the United States when the tail end of the train derailed.
The accident attracted neighbours and motorists alike.
"I didn't hear a thing," said one neighbour, a woman who gave her name as Karen. She said she lives just north of the derailment. "It was just before 1 p.m., and we were having an Easter-egg hunt. Then we saw this white van, one of the railroad vans, stop outside. That's when we decided to have a look."
She said her family has lived in the area for 40 years and this was the first derailment they'd seen.
A passerby said he and his friend were headed south on a drive to check out the swelling flood waters on the Red when they saw the derailment and stopped to check it out.
"This is a friend of mine's property. He's in Arizona and this might upset him," said the man. "I just took some pictures to send him."