NEWFIELDS — Railway inspectors are investigating the cause of a fire Tuesday night that damaged a locomotive while it sat idling on tracks below the Route 108 overpass.
The fire broke out around 9:30 p.m. in a utility compartment in the engine and caused extensive smoke and fire damage, Police Officer Guy Philbrook said.
The locomotive, which was pulling a single box car, is operated by Pan American Railways and was sitting on a spur track about 100 feet south off the Route 108 railroad bridge between Newfields and Newmarket at the time of the fire. The spur track is a small inactive side track that connects to the main tracks.
Cynthia Scarano, executive vice president of Pan Am Railways, said the company's mechanics are investigating the fire.
"Our machinists and mechanical people are very talented and well-trained. They come in and inspect and will find out the cause," she said.
The fire didn't ignite any fuel on the locomotive, which remained parked on the tracks Wednesday while inspectors assessed the damage and searched for a cause.
"It just engulfed the engineer's compartment from below," Philbrook said.
The locomotive was running at the time, Philbrook said, but it was unoccupied.
It's not uncommon for engines to be left running overnight. Scarano said locomotives don't have antifreeze in the diesel engines and that they have to stay running to keep them warm.
Many of the company's locomotives now have auxiliary power units, which are similar to a generator, to maintain warmth after the engine is shut down.
Firefighters cleared the scene shortly after 11 p.m.