Category Archives: Propane

DERAILMENT: Callaway MN train semi-truck collision leads to propane explosion, evacuation

Repost from FOX 9, Eden Prairie MN
[Editor:  It was the truck carrying propane that exploded, not the train. Firefighters let it burn into the night.  Derailed train cars ended up very near another stationary propane tank, but did not hit it.  - RS]

Railroad: Video shows propane truck never stopped for train in Callaway, Minn.

POSTED: MAR 25 2016 02:29PM CDT, UPDATED: 02:38PM CDT

CALLAWAY, Minn. (KMSP) – Canadian Pacific Railway says its onboard video shows a propane tanker truck never stopped and pulled out in front of the train before Thursday’s fiery crash in Callaway, Minnesota. The northwestern Minnesota town of 200 people was evacuated as a precaution until the order was lifted at 10 a.m. Friday morning.

The crash happened at approximately 12:25 p.m. Thursday near Highway 59. Canadian Pacific said 11 empty train cars and one locomotive derailed as a result of the crash. None of the cars were carrying hazardous materials and none of the train cars caught on fire. The railroad said its train crew sounded the locomotive’s horn as the train approached the crossing.

Railroad: Video shows propane truck never stopped for train in Callaway, Minn.

Two members of the train crew sustained non-life-threatening injuries and were both taken to Essentia Hospital in Detroit Lakes, where they were treated and released Thursday afternoon.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will travel to Callaway on Saturday to visit the crash site and meet with railroad and community leaders.

Overnight explosion

Shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday, the propane tank at the scene exploded, sending a fireball into the air. No injuries were reported. According to the Becker County sheriff: “On March 24 at approximately 10:17 p.m., fire department crews were tending the propane tanker fire on the south side of the city of Callaway, Minn. At this time the tank failed causing immediate evacuation of all contents. All personnel at the scene were accounted for and uninjured.”

Cleanup progress

Canadian Pacific said its crews were able to access the site starting Thursday evening and began the process of clearing the rail line. Six railcars were moved to the side, while 5 were re-railed. Early Friday morning, engineering personnel began replacing track, and the first train passed through the site at 10:15 a.m. Friday.

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BUFFALO NEWS: The next train derailment could be far more disastrous

Repost from the Buffalo News

Another Voice: The next train derailment could be far more disastrous

By Jean Dickson & Larry Brooks, March 24, 2016 – 12:01AM

The March 1 train derailment in Ripley should serve as a warning to all residents of Western New York, and especially to those living close to the rail lines.

Many people give no thought to the passing freight trains that run along the Lake Erie shore, through our suburbs, and around the Beltline, which runs through Buffalo’s dense Black Rock, North, East Side and South neighborhoods with tracks crossing the Buffalo River in several places.

A century ago, there were even more tracks through the city, but the trains carried passengers and freight, which was mostly heavy and inert, such as grain, coal and lumber. If a car derailed, the only people hurt were those standing along the tracks. Now the freight includes huge quantities of hazardous chemicals, including chlorine gas, hydrochloric acid, ethanol, liquefied petroleum gas, propane and petroleum crude oil.

In Ripley, residents were very lucky that no spark lit up the ethanol and propane tank cars that derailed. In Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in July 2013, people were not so lucky: 47 people died when petroleum crude oil exploded and a large part of the town was burned. The downtown area is not yet habitable almost three years later, due to soil and water contamination.

Firefighters in Ripley knocked on doors to evacuate residents, but this took some time. The cars derailed at 9:30 p.m.; a resident interviewed by WBFO said he was awakened and evacuated at 11 p.m. If the cars had exploded, as in Quebec, this would have been much too late. In Buffalo, the number of people to evacuate would greatly exceed the 50 or so households evacuated in Ripley.

Ripley residents were also lucky that no tank cars of poisonous gas derailed. If one car of chlorine gas had burst open, it would have killed people for miles around, depending on wind conditions, even without a fire.

In Buffalo, this hazardous freight crosses more than 30 bridges, most of which are 100 or more years old. They belong to companies such as CSX and are used by many railroad companies. Some are in decrepit condition, rusty and dropping chunks of concrete on our roads as they fall apart.

While this railroad infrastructure is in corporate hands, the public has little influence on its condition. Before a deadly derailment occurs, we must do everything possible to inspect and repair bridges and to reroute the hazardous freight away from populated areas.

In the long run, we should make every effort to decrease the use of such hazardous chemicals.

Jean Dickson and Larry Brooks live adjacent to Beltline tracks in Buffalo.
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Hazards that enabled the Weyauwega train disaster 20 years ago still exist

Repost from the Wisconsin Gazette

Hazards that enabled the Weyauwega train disaster 20 years ago still exist

By Eric Hansen, March 3, 2016
The Weyauwega train derailment occurred on March 4, 1996, forcing the evacuation of 2,000 people who had to leave their pets behind. —PHOTO: Courtesy

The Weyauwega train derailment occurred on March 4, 1996, forcing the evacuation of 2,000 people who had to leave their pets behind. —PHOTO: Courtesy

A ferocious explosion and fireball followed a Wisconsin Central train wreck in the frigid predawn hours of March 4, 1996, in Weyauwega, Wisconsin. Two thousand citizens, many fleeing without their pets or medications, evacuated for 18 days as the fires burned.

Authorities feared additional explosions that would catapult shrapnel a mile or more from the derailed propane tank cars. Gas lines were shut off; water pipes froze in unheated houses.

Four days after the initial explosion, Wisconsin National Guard armored personnel carriers transported residents into the danger zone to rescue their pets. Wearing helmets and flak jackets, the evacuees dashed into their abandoned homes to retrieve hungry dogs, cats and parakeets.

Ever so slowly, specialists drained the railroad tank cars of their volatile cargo and Weyauwega pulled back from the brink. Federal investigators blamed a cracked rail and deficient track maintenance for the derailment.

March 4, 2016 is the 20th anniversary of the Weyauwega catastrophe. Unfortunately, railroad track failures remain a concern today — a concern greatly magnified by massive increases in explosive crude oil train traffic in recent years.

Wisconsin, now one of the busiest routes in the nation for this dangerous cargo, is part of a nationwide surge. In 2008, railroads carried 9,500 tank carloads of crude oil in the United States. By 2013, that number had risen to 407,761.

Connect the dots on the systemic danger the oil trains bring — and the details of the Weyauwega incident — and a reasonable citizen would question whether a Weyauwega scale disaster, or worse, is looming.

Key points: highly explosive crude oil from North Dakota is traveling in tank cars that are aging and were never designed with this kind of volatile cargo in mind. In addition, the sheer weight of mile-long oil trains stresses railroad tracks and aging bridges.

Those concerns grew when a Canadian government investigation traced the path of an oil train that exploded in Lac Megantic, Quebec on July 6, 2013, killing 47 people.. The train had traveled through Wisconsin and Milwaukee on Canadian Pacific tracks before exploding in Quebec.

As knowledge of the dangers of oil train traffic spread, something else became clear: a lack of transparency on the part of the railroads. Milwaukee citizens, local elected officials and journalists sought to obtain safety inspection reports for the corroded, century-old, 1st St. railroad bridge.

Canadian Pacific railroad officials refused to share the inspection reports for half a year. Federal Railroad Administration director Sarah Feinberg announced a new program to obtain bridge safety reports on Feb. 19, 2016, indicating some progress.

But bridge inspection reports are only the tip of the iceberg. Railroads are not sharing information on what levels of insurance they carry, their worst-case accident scenario plans or how they make critical routing decisions that bring oil trains through densely populated areas.

Any illusion that federal regulators are exercising effective due diligence on oil train traffic faded when the Department of Transportation released an audit of the FRA on Feb. 26, 2016.
That report’s opening words cite the Lac Megantic disaster and the vast increase in crude oil train traffic. However, the audit summarizes FRA’s overview of oil train traffic as dysfunctional and lacking analysis on the impact to towns, cities and major population areas. It also notes a lack of criminal penalties for safety violations.

When citizens push, governments move into action. Insist that your elected representatives take effective action to protect our communities from dangerous crude oil train traffic.

Outdoor writer Eric Hansen is a member of Citizens Acting for Rail Safety – Milwaukee Area. He will be one of the presenters at “Your Right to Know – Oil Train Risks to Metro Milwaukee”, a March 12 forum hosted by the League of Women Voters. For more information, see lwvmilwaukee.org
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