Canadian trail derails, starts inferno...


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Profile celttooth
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Message 1388310 - Posted: 6 Jul 2013, 15:02:44 UTC

Oh my, we will be watching this one.

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Message 1388323 - Posted: 6 Jul 2013, 15:44:59 UTC

Glad your safe Ian.

This makes a good case for pipelines. They tend not to crash.

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Message 1388419 - Posted: 6 Jul 2013, 23:11:40 UTC

And it looks like it was in a high density commercial and residential area to.
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Message 1388467 - Posted: 7 Jul 2013, 7:11:39 UTC - in response to Message 1388420.

Sadly, they are currently reporting at least one death and several more unaccounted for in the aftermath.

And a large chunck of the downtown area destroyed....
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Message 1388497 - Posted: 7 Jul 2013, 9:05:24 UTC - in response to Message 1388467.

Yes, that doesn't look good at all.

My condolences to all those effected.

Cheers.

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Message 1388514 - Posted: 7 Jul 2013, 10:24:03 UTC

Another horror ... my condolences
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Message 1388516 - Posted: 7 Jul 2013, 10:27:24 UTC

Not good news, seems the year for it, world wide at the moment.

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Message 1388585 - Posted: 7 Jul 2013, 18:09:08 UTC

BBC latest

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Message 1388616 - Posted: 7 Jul 2013, 19:33:19 UTC - in response to Message 1388552.

And, as it turns out, the train was UNMANNED.
It had been parked for the night 7 miles away from Lac-Megantic, broke loose, and rolled runaway before it derailed.

That's just carelessness on the part of the last crew, unless it turns out to be defective brakes.

The advantage of train over pipeline is flexibility of destinations. Once you build a pipeline from an oil field to a refinery, you're pretty much locked into sending all your oil from that field to that refinery. A train can go to many different places, and even have its destination changed en route.

Also, pipelines take time to build, even after they get approved.

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Message 1388646 - Posted: 7 Jul 2013, 21:04:16 UTC - in response to Message 1388617.

And, as it turns out, the train was UNMANNED.
It had been parked for the night 7 miles away from Lac-Megantic, broke loose, and rolled runaway before it derailed.

That's just carelessness on the part of the last crew, unless it turns out to be defective brakes.

The BBC article that Chris posted a link to indicates that the 73 tanker cars somehow came uncoupled from the engines, and they then rolled downhill until they derailed.

I am not a train expert. Air brakes on a truck self-apply in the absence of air pressure and can only be released by pumping the system up. So in the case of a system failure, the brakes are on. Do rail cars not work that way as well?

It's not that simple, no. There are many circumstances where a train car needs to move without any air in its brake system. I don't quite understand it myself, but the basic principle is that each train car has an air reservoir. When the engineer releases the brakes, the brake pipe running the length of the train (via hoses between cars, of course) is charged up. The cars' reservoirs fill up, and a valve on the car admits pressure to one side of the brake cylinder to release the brakes. When the engineer applies the brakes, he reduces the pressure in the pipe and the valve on the car uses air from the reservoir to apply the brakes. When the engineer releases, the valve senses the increase in the pipe pressure (hastened by a main reservoir on the locomotive) and uses air from the reservoir to release the brakes. At the same time, it also directs air from the pipe into the reservoir to refill it.

The pressure in the pipe and in the cars' reservoirs can bleed off over time if there is no locomotive connected to maintain it, or manually when necessary. I don't quite get it, but apparently it can even bleed off if there is a locomotive but no one keeping an eye on it. Therefore, it is standard practice, at least in my observation, for crews that are parking a train and leaving it for a while to set the hand brakes on at least a couple of cars. On a grade, they would set more of them and maybe even chock a few wheels.

For the train to have separated from the locomotives, it sounds to me like someone must have been messing with it. Stopped trains don't uncouple themselves. This same someone may have also released the hand brakes, or the crew didn't set them, or didn't set enough of them.

I now withdraw my earlier accusation of carelessness and will wait for the investigation to figure out what happened.

This technology is well over 100 years old. It could be done better, but not without converting the entire continental fleet of hundreds of thousands of cars and locomotives to a new system all at once, which would cost billions of dollars, which would filter down to consumers as higher prices for products, energy, etc. For certain dedicated unit trains, there is a new system called ECP (electronically controlled pneumatic) brakes that has a wire running through the cars. The air pipe is always at full pressure and set/release commands are sent through the wire (which has the added benefit that all cars set or release at once instead of the pressure change having to propagate the length of the train). But cars equipped with ECP brakes can't be mixed with regular cars in the same train. Also, locomotives have to have special equipment installed to operate ECP brakes.

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Message 1388651 - Posted: 7 Jul 2013, 21:14:34 UTC - in response to Message 1388646.

The pressure in the pipe and in the cars' reservoirs can bleed off over time if there is no locomotive connected to maintain it, or manually when necessary. I don't quite get it, but apparently it can even bleed off if there is a locomotive but no one keeping an eye on it. Therefore, it is standard practice, at least in my observation, for crews that are parking a train and leaving it for a while to set the hand brakes on at least a couple of cars. On a grade, they would set more of them and maybe even chock a few wheels.

For the train to have separated from the locomotives, it sounds to me like someone must have been messing with it. Stopped trains don't uncouple themselves. This same someone may have also released the hand brakes, or the crew didn't set them, or didn't set enough of them.

Addendum: my (non-professional) experience is with American railroads. I doubt the practices are much different in Canada, but they could be slightly.

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Message 1388669 - Posted: 7 Jul 2013, 21:57:15 UTC

Canadian and American train cars are routinly on each others tracks. So I would think they operate mechanicaly the same. Sounds like vandalism to me offhand.
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Message 1388674 - Posted: 7 Jul 2013, 22:19:41 UTC - in response to Message 1388669.

Canadian and American train cars are routinly on each others tracks. So I would think they operate mechanicaly the same. Sounds like vandalism to me offhand.

Mechanically yes (federal regulations in both countries, and Mexico, require it), but operating practices could have minor variations.

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Message 1388677 - Posted: 7 Jul 2013, 22:32:42 UTC - in response to Message 1388674.

Canadian and American train cars are routinly on each others tracks. So I would think they operate mechanicaly the same. Sounds like vandalism to me offhand.

Mechanically yes (federal regulations in both countries, and Mexico, require it), but operating practices could have minor variations.

And beyond the legalities, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) has standards that cars must meet to be interchanged from one railroad to another. In rare circumstances, such as an antique car moving to a museum, the railroads involved in a movement can agree to waive these rules, as long as their own inspectors deem it to be safe (and they might put restrictions on the movement).

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Message 1388678 - Posted: 7 Jul 2013, 22:42:03 UTC

There is a picture that might be of the train before the accident. It is not for sure yet. I appears to be on fire.

https://twitter.com/pascalrobidas/status/353549895988305920/photo/1

The caption reads "Image sent to RadioCanada of the train about 10 km from Lac Megantic (near Nantes) before it exploded".

Lac Megantic is about 250km from me. 150 miles.

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