Tag Archives: Trenton ND

Railway Age Magazine: The importance of little accidents

Repost from Railway Age Magazine
[Editor: At every turn, when an article mentions the North Dakota requirement for crude oil “stabilization,” I must remind the reader that North Dakota does NOT require crude oil “conditioning” as is required in Texas.  Conditioning would make the oil much safer.  – RS]

The importance of little accidents

By  David Schanoes, July 20, 2015 
You know the kind I mean: the ones where nobody gets hurt, nothing blows up, and nobody shows up, except you.

You get there. There’s no press, no NTSB “go team,” no competing reflectorized vests with initials like FBI, DHS, ATF, PHMSA, DEA, FRA, NTSB. No senators expressing shock and dismay and demanding that heads will—as the cameras do—roll.

There’s just you. The wreckmaster is on the way. The track supervisor too. The local fire department is there, and the cops. Everybody is thinking, “What a mess.” And looking at you.

And you know what? It’s better this way. We might actually be able to learn something. Less noise, more signal.

We’ve had a couple of the little ones recently.

First, on July 16, a BNSF unit crude oil train derailed 22 cars near Culbertson, Mont. Three tank cars ruptured, spilling approximately 35,000 gallons of crude. No fire, no explosion, no headlines, none of that stuff I listed above and that I would be happy to never list again.

Now, if I were BNSF, or the NTSB, or FRA, or DOT, or PHMSA, I’d be very interested in this no-fire, no-explosion derailment. BNSF hasn’t identified the source of the crude, but since the train was loaded by Savage Bakken Oil Services in Trenton, N. Dak., I think it’s safe to assume that the contents of this train was Bakken crude.

Last April, North Dakota required that Bakken crude be stabilized (reducing its volatility) prior to transport. So I’d be very interested in knowing if this train was transporting the stabilized crude.

Even more recently, USDOT has established new specs for tank cars handling unpressurized flammable materials, replacing DOT 111 and 111A specs for those cars with the new 117 classification. Another “interim” car, CPC 1232, is currently in service.

So I’d be very interested in knowing if the three cars that ruptured were 111, 111A, or 1232 models. ’d also be very interested in knowing if other cars that did derail but did not rupture are 111, 111A, or 1232 models.

DOT has also stipulated that CBR trains be fitted for ECP, electro-pneumatic braking, meaning of course, that the CBR tank cars must be fitted for ECP braking.

ECP braking is not a new concept. It’s been around for at least, what, 60 years? Instead of using changes in air pressure traveling throughout the entire length of the train to signal for the application of brakes, electro-pneumatic braking sends an electronic signal to receivers on each car’s air brake apparatus to initiate braking. “Lag time” is virtually eliminated; brakes set up simultaneously, smoothly, with dramatic reduction of in-train forces. Great idea—for passenger trains, where all the cars share common electrical connections with the locomotive.

ECP may be a great idea for freight trains. It’s definitely an expensive one, as the 90,000 or so tank cars currently more or less captured in hazmat/CBR transport have no electrical connections to anything.

So I’d be interested in knowing, with ECP braking, how many of the 22 cars that did derail would not have derailed. I’d be interested in knowing if the three tank cars that ruptured after derailing (a) wouldn’t have derailed to begin with and (b) would not have been subject to “rupture forces” due to additional impact from following cars if ECP braking had been installed.

Sounds like a job for TTCI, if you ask me.

And we had a second little accident on Friday, July 17, 2015, right here in New York City. Initially reported as a “sideswipe,” it was in fact a collision between two LIRR passenger trains. A westbound train was stopped at an interlocking signal at HALL. An eastbound train violated a signal displaying “stop,” and proceeded to collide with the stopped train. You can see a summary of the accident on, where else? YouTube. The summary begins around 3:31 into the video.

Again, no injuries, no fires, no explosions. But a lot to learn, because at 13:50 into the video, the president of the LIRR says that because this stop signal violation and resulting collision took place in the interlocking, “PTC isn’t going to help.”

This is startling news, and I hope it’s just a misunderstanding, as LIRR’s approved PTCIP (PTC Implementation Plan), available in public docket FRA-2010-0031, states:

The LIRR PTC system will enforce a stop at every Home Signal displaying a Stop aspect. Transponders provide the onboard computer with the information that the train is approaching a Home Signal and the distance to that Home Signal. The onboard system uses this data to generate a speed profile with a 0 mph target speed at a target point in approach to the signal. . . .

Now, back in the day, “home signals” meant the extreme outer opposing signals of an interlocking. Signals within the interlocking might be referred to as intermediate signals, although the requirements for complying with a stop indication from such a signal within the interlocking limits was exactly the same as that for the home signal.

The distinction between “home” and “intermediate” interlocking signals has operating significance only in defining the geographical boundaries of the interlocking in which all the interlocking rules apply, including stop at every signal displaying stop.

In addition 49 CFR 236.1005(a)(1)(i) (“Requirements for Positive Train Control systems) requires at interlockings where PTC routes intersect that PTC enforce “the stop on all routes.”

It’s the little things that mean the most, sometimes, so I’m looking forward to the little answers.

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    Montana county has had 5 derailments in two years

    Repost from The Dickinson Press

    Montana county has had 5 derailments in two years

    By Amy Dalrymple on Jul 20, 2015 at 11:22 p.m.
    An investigator takes photos at the site of a crude oil train derailment on Saturday, July 18 east of Culbertson, Mont. Twenty-two oil tankers derailed, leaking an estimated 35,000 gallons of oil. (FNS Photo by Amy Dalrymple)

    CULBERTSON, Mont. — Five train derailments have occurred in less than two years in the northeastern Montana County where crews continue cleaning up after last week’s oil train derailment.

    In addition to the two train derailments that occurred last week within a 20-mile stretch of Roosevelt County, two railcars also derailed at Culbertson in February, according to the Federal Railroad Administration database, which is updated through April.

    The cause of that incident, which did not cause injuries or release of hazardous material, was attributed to human error, according to information submitted to the FRA.

    The area also had two train derailments in 2014, including the derailment of two Amtrak cars in April of that year in the neighboring community of Bainville.

    Two people were hurt in the derailment, which caused more than $100,000 in damage to Amtrak equipment and nearly $500,000 in damage to the track, the FRA database shows.

    The cause that derailment is listed as “track roadbed settled or soft,” according to information submitted to the FRA.

    The other 2014 incident, which involved one railcar that derailed in December at Culbertson, was attributed to a broken wheel, the FRA database shows.

    The entire state of Montana had 19 train derailments in 2014, the FRA information shows.

    Last Tuesday, nine railcars derailed near Blair, Mont., damaging about 1 mile of track. The cause remains under investigation.

    BNSF Railway inspects the track in that area at least four times per week, spokesman Matt Jones said.

    The FRA and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration continued collecting evidence Monday to investigate the cause of Thursday’s derailment involving 22 oil tankers. Four of the derailed tank cars leaked oil, the FRA said, and spilled an estimated 35,000 gallons of oil.

    The train was not speeding at the time it derailed, an FRA spokesman said. It was traveling 44 miles per hour in a 45-mph zone, the spokesman said.

    BNSF environmental specialists continue to clean up at the site. Oil will be removed from the remaining tank cars in the next several days, and the cars will be removed after that, Jones said.

    Crews are excavating contaminated soil, said Daniel Kenney, enforcement specialist with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, which is monitoring the cleanup. The spill was not reported to have contaminated any water sources and has not threatened human health, Kenney said.

    The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources confirmed Monday that Statoil, the company that owns the oil that was on the train, is in compliance with the state’s oil conditioning order.

    The order, which took effect in April, aims to reduce the volatility of Bakken crude oil.

    Statoil was meeting the order by operating its equipment at specific temperatures and pressures, said Department of Mineral Resources spokeswoman Alison Ritter. Companies also can comply by submitting vapor pressure tests to the state.

    The train with was loaded by Savage Services in Trenton, N.D., and headed to Anacortes, Wash., the FRA said.

    Jeff Hymas, a spokesman for Savage Services, said Monday the railcar inspection protocols at the Trenton terminal are consistent with FRA and BNSF requirements.

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