Union Pacific investigates Benicia derailment

Repost from The Vallejo Times-Herald
[Editor: Here’s the story on the derailed train engines last Sunday.  Thanks to Jim Kirchhoffer for spotting it and bringing it to our attention.  Tony Burchyns of the Vallejo Times-Herald did an excellent job of investigative reporting (see below).  Tony’s article set the accident in context, providing background on the two other recent Benicia derailments, one on 5/17/14 and another on 11/4/13.  Do the math: that’s 3 derailments in 10 months!  …The story was also covered in the Benicia Herald.  – RS]

Union Pacific investigates Benicia derailment

Two locomotives came off the tracks Sunday near port
By Tony Burchyns, 09/09/2014
Union Pacific Railroad is investigating what caused two of its locomotives to come off the tracks in Benicia on Sunday, a spokesperson for the rail
Union Pacific Railroad is investigating what caused two of its locomotives to come off the tracks in Benicia on Sunday, a spokesperson for the rail operator said Tuesday. (Tony Burchyns-Vallejo-Times-Herald)

BENICIA >> Union Pacific Railroad is investigating what caused two of its locomotives to come off the tracks in Benicia on Sunday, a spokesperson for the rail operator said Tuesday.

The locomotives were being used for switching operations and were moving rail cars near the Benicia port when each had one wheel set come off the tracks at about 2:30 a.m., Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt said. The engines were attached to each other when the derailment occurred, he said.

Both were re-railed several hours later and moved to Union Pacific’s maintenance yard in Roseville, where an internal investigation was launched to determine what caused the derailment, Hunt said. He added the findings would be reported to the Federal Railroad Administration.

“Fortunately there were no injuries and there was no damage to our track infrastructure,” said Hunt, adding he did not know how fast the locomotives were traveling.

Benicia police got a call from Union Pacific at 2:38 a.m. Sunday reporting the incident, but there was no request for assistance and no emergency response by the city, Lt. Scott Przekurat said.

Hunt said that because the derailment happened in the railroad’s automotive yard along Bayshore Road — where finished automobiles that arrive by boat are transported by rail to other places — there was no impact to motorists or other people in the area.

On May 17, two rail cars carrying petroleum coke derailed near the Valero refinery. Prior to that, three rail cars carrying petroleum coke came off the tracks on Nov. 4, 2013.

No hazardous materials were spilled in those incidents, but the derailments have raised eyebrows in light of the Valero refinery’s plan to bring in up to 70,000 barrels of crude oil daily on Union Pacific tracks.

Asked whether the locomotives involved in Sunday’s incident could be used to move tanker cars, Hunt said they were “switching locomotives” and are not the same as those used to move trains from city to city.

“Safety is our primary focus at Union Pacific,” Hunt said. “We invest time, human power and substantial capital to minimize derailments across our 32,000-mile network.”

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