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So how could a train with over 70 full tankers of petroleum disengage from its locomotives while parked on a hill above a populated community?  Here's how.

http://www.usatoday.com/...

The air brakes on the runaway oil train that devastated a Quebec town early Saturday had been disabled by firefighters who were called to extinguish a blaze aboard one of the locomotives 90 minutes before the disaster, the head of the railway said Monday.
And where have we heard this type of callous response before??
He told Reuters that firefighters had shut down the locomotive while they battled the fire, which was apparently caused by a broken oil or fuel line. But the train's crew had left the engine idling to keep the air brakes pressurized so the train wouldn't roll, said Ed Burkhardt, chairman of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway.

Lambert said the local railway dispatcher was contacted to report the engine fire had been put out. "We told them what we did and how we did it," he said.

"There was no discussion of the brakes at that time," he added. "We were there for the train fire. As for the inspection of the train after the fact, that was up to them."

And for those who say pipelines are the answer:

http://www.usatoday.com/...

Underground pipeline spills an estimated 25,000 of gasoline on Crow Reservation in Montana

http://ow.ly/...  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Wow (8+ / 0-)

    That is unbelievable.  People seem to have lost the capacity to think through situations and act accordingly.  

  •  so who is culpable? (5+ / 0-)

    13 dead at last count, more than 40 missing, a town in ruins ...
    do you blame the railway or the firefighters?

    LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 05:42:16 PM PDT

  •  Why don't they have a sleeper car (4+ / 0-)

    so they can swap out crews?

    I still don't get the brakes thing, enough manual breaking should have done the trick. Something else seems fishy.

  •  This doesn't make sense, air brakes engage when (5+ / 0-)

    they lose pressure. The air pressure holds them open while the train is operating.

    •  Oh dear: (11+ / 0-)
      The Westinghouse air brake system is very trustworthy, but not infallible. Recall that the car reservoirs recharge only when the brake pipe pressure is higher than the reservoir pressure, and that the car reservoir pressure will rise only to the point of equilibrium. Fully recharging the reservoirs on a long train can require considerable time (8 to 10 minutes in some cases[3]), during which the brake pipe pressure will be lower than locomotive reservoir pressure.

      If the brakes must be applied before recharging has been completed, a larger brake pipe reduction will be required in order to achieve the desired amount of braking effort, as the system is starting out at a lower point of equilibrium (lower overall pressure). If many brake pipe reductions are made in short succession ("fanning the brake" in railroad slang), a point may be reached where car reservoir pressure will be severely depleted, resulting in substantially reduced brake cylinder piston force, causing the brakes to fail. On a descending grade, the unfortunate result will be a runaway.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/...
  •  Sigh.. (11+ / 0-)

    The fire chief didn't appreciate being thrown under the train...

    http://news.nationalpost.com/...

    In an interview Monday, Patrick Lambert told the National Post that his men extinguished an engine fire aboard the oil-laden train late Friday night and left the train in the care of two representatives of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway.
    . . .
    The MMA employees “inspected the train with us,” he said. “MMA told the leading fire officer that everything was okay, the fire was out, everything was secure, you guys can leave.”

    The locomotive’s power remained shut off, and the fire officer advised the railway employees that it could not be moved until the ruptured line was repaired.

    “When we left, there was a police officer and two employees of MMA [at the scene],” he said.
    . . .
    Preliminary data recovered from the locomotive’s data recorder indicate the train was travelling at 101 kilometres per hour when it derailed in the heart of downtown at about 1:15 a.m., Transportation Safety Board investigator in charge, Donald Ross, said in an interview Monday.

    The crew should have applied a sufficient number of handbrakes to hold the train even if the locomotive had been shut down.

    The article states that the grade was 6%, but that's probably just the journalist getting it wrong.  Train tracks generally won't have a grade higher than 2%.  The real grade is more likely to be 0.6%.

    The timeline is weird:

    http://www.montrealgazette.com/...

    The train was supposedly secured at 11:25pm, and the 911 call came at 11:30pm.  Were the two MMA employees the original train crew?  The article doesn't say.

    There was an eyewitness who saw the train start to move again (Reuters):

    Andre Gendron, 38, lives on a wooded property next to the railyard in Nantes. He said he was burning a campfire outside his trailer on Friday night when he heard the fire trucks.

    "About five minutes after the firemen left, I felt the vibration of a train moving down the track. I then saw the train move by without its lights on," Gendron told Reuters.

    "I found it strange its lights weren't on and thought it was an electrical problem on board. It wasn't long after that I heard the explosion. I could see the light from the fires in Lac Megantic."

  •  Why (7+ / 0-)

    Why isn't this more of a story here?  The train came from the Dakotas, no?  So there's your USA hook.  Dozens more killed unfortunately than in the SFO air crash.

    So why isn't this the top story?  What are we missing?

    On a separate note, I watched Aaron Sorkin's latest liberal fantasy, "NewsRoom" over the weekend.  And I guess we know why this story isn't the top story.

    This is depressing shit, man.

  •  I can only speak to my former... (18+ / 0-)

      ...employer's rules. There is no way that train was properly secured. Our rules required the crew to apply sufficient handbrakes to hold the train with the automatic and the independent brakes released, then to re-apply the automatic to a 20# reduction, and also then to apply the locomotive handbrakes.

    My guess is that, in the confusion and hubbub of the locomotive fire, they didn't secure the train. Makes sense, doesn't it? Then, for whatever reason the crew was relieved from duty. The 2 employees who were on scene, likely didn't realize the train was not secure.

    Even so, if the cars seperated from the locomotives, they should've went into an emergency brake application automatically and immediately.......

    There's a lot more to this than we now know.

    Compost for a greener planet.............got piles?

    by Hoghead99 on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 06:54:32 PM PDT

    •  Would the fact that it is a short line (0+ / 0-)

      have anything to do with it?
      (i.e. less slack with staffing or operations?)

    •  all kinds of woulda, coulda, shoulda is going to (5+ / 0-)

      be applied here, as well it should. But you make an important point here:

      The 2 employees who were on scene, likely didn't realize the train was not secure.
      No- apparently they didn't, even if they should have, because no one would do such a thing on purpose and it all began as an incident that turned into a horrendous accident. Even Jesus's parents once looked at each other and said 'I thought you had him.'

      Quite likely there are plenty of people kicking themselves in despair over their role or possible role in what went wrong.

      We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

      by nuclear winter solstice on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 08:09:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  ... (0+ / 0-)
      They did not secure the train . (1+ / 0-)

      It might not have occurred to them that it could roll away .
      Even if they wanted to stop it from rolling , it takes some doing to prevent that much weight from rolling down hill .

      by indycam on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 11:46:51 AM PDT

      The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. David Morrison

      by indycam on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 08:26:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It takes some doing (0+ / 0-)
        Even if they wanted to stop it from rolling , it takes some doing to prevent that much weight from rolling down hill.
        A fail-safe approach would have been to instal a derail on the track behind the downhill end of the train.
        •  I was talking about the firemen . (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rashaverak

          I don't know that they would know about derails or where to find one .

          Putting a derail in the path of loaded tank cars is dangerous . If they had derailed the tank/s and it caught fire ...

          I read trains magazine , they have adds for derails .
          I find them funny , I can't imagine there is a big market for them or many people looking through the magazine shopping for them .

          The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. David Morrison

          by indycam on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 09:54:43 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I was talking about the train crew. (0+ / 0-)

            If the derail was placed near and behind the last car in the train, I think that there would have been little chance of a rupture.  The train would not have been moving very fast when the derail shift the tank car off the track onto soft ground.  That might have been enough to stop the trail from rolling any further.

            The manual setting of hand brakes on a sufficient number of tank cars should also have prevented the catastrophe from happening.  According to this article, the train engineer did set at least some hand brakes:

            As usual, Harding set the main train brake and a series of hand brakes, secondary devices on each car. He shut down four out of five locomotive units and headed for a hotel in Lac-Mégantic, Burkhardt said. The next engineer was due at some time early Saturday morning to carry on the trip.
            Shortly afterward, a fire broke out in the locomotive.
            Link
            Donald Ross, the Transportation Safety Board's investigator in charge, has said investigators are looking at the state of the train's air brakes and hand brakes, and the engineer will likely be interviewed.
            According to the BNSF Railway rulebook, widely considered the industry standard, engineers are required to use hand brakes to ensure a train is secure against undesired movement, and "the air brake system must not be depended upon to prevent an undesired movement.”
            Link
            •  The force of the combined weight , (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Rashaverak

              might have slowly push one after another tank off the tracks .

              The crew might have done a good job on a working undamaged train
              but the train was damaged by the fire , so maybe what they did wasn't right for a damaged train , iykwim .

              The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. David Morrison

              by indycam on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 04:13:46 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Properly securing a train means setting enough (0+ / 0-)

                hand brakes to prevent movement in the event of a loss of the air brakes. It is tested by kicking off the air and confirming that there is no movement. If there is movement, you set the air and go tie more hand brakes. Rinse and repeat.
                 If insufficient handbrakes are set and the train starts moving, the brakes that are set will burn off fairly quickly. My quick and dirty calculation says that the crew member should probably have tied brakes on a third or more of that train, and probably would have taken around an hour.
                A derail at the bottom of the siding would have prevented this disaster,

                We can't all be Paul Kersey.

                by furrfu on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 02:35:39 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Is that standard practice for all trains (0+ / 0-)

                  left standing ? Setting hand brakes , kicking off the air , testing , etc and putting a derail on the track ?
                  Or would that be standard practice after a fire ?

                  My quick and dirty calculation says that the crew member should probably have tied brakes on a third or more of that train, and probably would have taken around an hour.
                  Is that with the testing or is that just walking and working ?

                  If they set enough brakes to keep it from rolling with out the air , and then the air system gave out , the brakes on the tanks cars might have been just barely enough but not enough . It might have held until it didn't . I've seen this with parking brakes . Park on a hill , set the brake , everything seems ok , then in a bit a groan is heard as the brakes slip just a little as the vehicle moves slightly down hill .  

                  The fire on board made this a non standard .

                  The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. David Morrison

                  by indycam on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 07:53:23 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  The method described is standard practice (0+ / 0-)

                    for my employer. GCOR http://en.m.wikipedia.org/...  states only that sufficient brakes be set to prevent movement in the event of a loss of air brakes, as happened in this case.
                     Air Brake and Train Handling rules ( Google it) vary from carrier to carrier;  mine has a matrix of tonnage and grade for determining the  MINIMUM number of brakes to set for a given train. Done by rule, a fire or any other cause for loss of air brakes wouldn't enter into it.
                     When the air is kicked off, it's common for the slack to run in or out. That's not the same as the train keeps moving afterward.
                    Things to keep in mind here are that the carrier under discussion is not a listed adopter  of GCOR, and this train had a one man crew. In other words, the engineer had to go tie the brakes himself. To test the handbrakes as I described would have been, to say the least, impractical. And the answer would be an abundance of caution, better to set too many than too few.
                    Fixed ( permanent) derails are common in sidings of nonsignaled territory, but not in signaled. They're on hinges so that you can remove them to get past, then you flop it back onto the rail.  I'm assuming this siding did not have one,  if the train was in a siding at all.

                    We can't all be Paul Kersey.

                    by furrfu on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 10:08:37 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  If you set the reccomended number (0+ / 0-)

                      and some of the brakes were not up to standard ,
                      then the total amount of brakes really might not be up to the task . The train might seem fine at first , but over time it might start to creep slowly and then build up heat and speed until its a real runaway ?

                      I'm assuming this siding did not have one,  if the train was in a siding at all.
                      I just looked at google maps , I don't see a siding 4 miles from the crash site . So it would have had to be a derail that they would have had on board the train ?

                      http://static.guim.co.uk/...

                      The engineer and crew aboard the train had arrived in Nantes, Quebec, around 11 p.m. Saturday, locked the train in its place for the night, and left.
                      Nantes, Quebec, Canada to Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada
                      https://maps.google.com/...

                      The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. David Morrison

                      by indycam on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 11:32:47 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  If you look at Google Earth, there is a siding at (0+ / 0-)

                        Nantes (posting from my phone, so link challenged).

                          I do not know anything about short lines in general, or this one in particular. In my world, the only people that regularly carry portable derails are maintenance and mechanical crews (to establish their own protection).

                        I believe I read that the train had been inspected a day or two before. A faulty handbrake would have caused the individual car to be removed from the train for repair.

                        We can't all be Paul Kersey.

                        by furrfu on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 07:04:29 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  I looked earlier and I looked again (0+ / 0-)

                          I sure don't see it on google maps .
                          I did a web search just now and found
                          http://www.montrealgazette.com/...

                          A faulty handbrake would have caused the individual car to be removed from the train for repair.
                          How faulty can it be before its removed ? I've worked on a lot of gear that people bring in , some have just a tiny problem , others have several .
                          I did a job and handed it in , the boss came to me pissed off because I checked off every check box for every problem that was on the list of possible problems , he informed me that in future I was to only check off one of the boxes .

                          The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. David Morrison

                          by indycam on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 07:22:19 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Either it works or it doesn't. If it doesn't, you (0+ / 0-)

                            just move on and tie another one.  If you need 25 brakes and it takes you 27 cars to get them, the mission is still accomplished. If, on the other hand, you need 25 but only tie 15, their operating condition doesn't really matter.

                            We can't all be Paul Kersey.

                            by furrfu on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 11:30:22 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  If you do 25 (0+ / 0-)

                            and a few of the 25 you do are not working 100% ?

                            Either it works or it doesn't.
                            Really ? There is no in-between ?
                            If he locks down 25 and one or more has failed , " it doesn't" then only 24 or less are trying to do the work 25 should be doing ? If the brakes on the tank cars were contaminated with oil from the tanks leaking or being overflowed etc etc etc , the brakes might not have been at 100% in holding power ?

                            I'm guessing that 25 would have some extra built in for safety , that 23 might do the job and they ad a few more for extra safety .

                            I'm not convinced that the person was at fault ,
                            the fire and the reports of the equipment being not in the best state of repair makes me wonder if the problem wasn't in the equipment .

                            My guess , and its only a guess , is that the person did what should have worked but the equipment was "funny" .

                             

                            The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. David Morrison

                            by indycam on Thu Jul 11, 2013 at 10:41:16 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  This is why my employer requires the test (0+ / 0-)

                            I originally described.

                            We can't all be Paul Kersey.

                            by furrfu on Thu Jul 11, 2013 at 11:41:56 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

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