Tag Archives: Rail safety

Solano County to hold “Rail Safety Discussion” on Mon., Sept. 29, 6pm

Repost from SolanoCounty.com News Details
[Editor: this event has been referred to alternately as a “discussion”  a “forum,” an “information session,” a “public meeting,” and a “community conversation,”   Very little has been published to indicate that the County is eager to hear from the public at this meeting.  Nonetheless, governmental meetings always provide an opportunity for the public to be heard.  If you go, plan to learn something from emergency professionals, government officials and staff … and to offer your own sage advice on the best way to contain catastrophic emergencies….  – RS]

Rail safety discussion planned for Sept. 29

September 8, 2014

SOLANO COUNTY – How can emergency responders increase their capabilities to respond to potential incidents that could happen along the 73 miles of railway that cross Solano County?

That is the question to be discussed at an information session from
6 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29, in the Board of Supervisors Chambers at the County Administration Center, 675 Texas St. in Fairfield

“As we prepare for and anticipate the transportation of crude oil through our county, a community conversation about our preparedness and the potential impact from an incident is essential,” said Supervisor Linda Seifert.

The meeting’s objective will be to raise awareness of the existing safety measures already in place throughout the county and to identify potential gaps and mitigations based on potential changes in rail traffic.

Invited speakers include representatives from Valero, Union Pacific Railroad, Solano County Office of Emergency Services, the Solano County Fire Chiefs Association, and local air quality management districts. Congressman John Garamendi and state Senator Lois Wolk have also been invited to participate.

County officials said the timing of the event was two-fold. September is National Emergency Preparedness Month. In addition, the City of Benicia is considering an application that would allow Valero to receive and process crude oil delivered by rail.

“We know emergency responders from across the county, including the Hazardous Materials Response Team, are prepared for a wide array of potential incidents. Proposals to process crude oil delivered by rail will change the mix of materials coming into and passing through Solano County. It is only prudent for us to explore how to increase our capability to handle the risks associated with these changes,” Supervisor Seifert said.

NTSB final report on 2012 fatal freight train derailment

Repost from The Washington Post

Report on fatal Ellicott City train accident details how a piece of rail snapped

By Ashley Halsey III,  August 23, 2014

Workers stand near one of the coal cars of the derailed train behind the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum: Ellicott City Station on Aug. 21, 2012. (Mark Gail / FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

They would be college graduates now, poised on the brink of life, had not a train gone off the tracks two years ago in a tragic fateful moment that caught them where they should not have been.

After almost two years of investigation into a 2012 train derailment in Ellicott City, Md., the National Transportation Safety Board said a piece of rail near replacement age simply snapped under the weight of a half-mile-long train carrying 9,873 tons of coal toward the Baltimore docks.

Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr, both 19 and celebrating their imminent return to college, were sitting a few feet away on a trestle 20 feet above Main Street. They were buried beneath the spilling coal. Death transformed them into a parable for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and for the random cruelty of fate. The details played out on the airwaves and in print as far as Australia.

They had tweeted messages and photos to friends from atop the rail bridge as the freight train rumbled toward them just before midnight. One photo showed the tiny shops and bars of Main Street, gone dark deep into Sunday night. Another showing their feet dangling off the bridge came with a one-word exclamation: “Levitating.”

Last month, the parents of the girls spoke out for the first time, releasing a statement through their attorneys saying that the CSX railroad was to blame.

The NTSB report is more meticulous than captivating. It describes details of the accident and gives a broader picture of a freight rail company struggling to stay ahead of deterioration on the oldest stretch of common carrier rail line in the United States.

It describes how the three crew members had the train rolling at 23 mph, just below the acceptable limit, when the emergency brakes slammed it to a halt. They got out to discover that 11 cars had overturned, including eight that had dumped their loads as they toppled into a parking lot below.

As they pieced together sections of shattered rail, investigators could not find five inches of it. “At the point of derailment, the rail fractured,” they said. The board said that “the probable cause of the Ellicott City derailment was a broken rail with evidence of rolling contract fatigue.”

The NTSB report said the railroad was aware of the history of rail defects on that line and of the increased volume of coal tonnage the line was carrying. As a result, the report said, CSX ran ultrasonic tests on the rails 11 to 12 times a year, far more frequently than regulations require. The rail had been tested by federal regulators in July 2012 and by CSX 17 days before the Aug. 20 derailment. “In the area of the derailment, no defects were recorded” by that CSX testing, the NTSB said.

After the accident, some people in Ellicott City said the railroad bridge was a place where underage people went to drink out of sight of others.

Just before they died, Nass tweeted, “Drinking on top of the Ellicott City sign,” a reference to the welcome sign painted on the bridge just below their dangling feet. The underage girls were not heavily inebriated, the NTSB report said. One had a blood alcohol level of 0.05 and the other was at 0.03, both below the limit of 0.08 for driving a car.

“Our daughters did not cause the derailment, CSX did,” Sue Nass, Elizabeth Nass’s mother, said in the statement released by the law firm, which said the families would seek a settlement from CSX. “A rail car should not turn over and kill innocent people.”

The NTSB report said CSX has installed a chain-link fence along the rail line “in an attempt to deter future trespassing.”

Chicago Area Mayors Meet with Feds, Call For Improved Safety Measures For Oil Trains

Repost from CBS2 Chicago

Mayors Call For Improved Safety Measures For Oil Trains

August 20, 2014
Firefighters douse a blaze after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac Megantic in Canada's Quebec province on July 6, 2013, sparking explosions that engulfed about 30 buildings in fire.  More than 40 people were killed as a result of the crash and fire. (Photo redit: François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters douse a blaze after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac Megantic in Canada’s Quebec province on July 6, 2013, sparking explosions that engulfed about 30 buildings in fire. More than 40 people were killed as a result of the crash and fire. (Photo redit: François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images)

CHICAGO (CBS) – Federal railroad officials got an earful Wednesday from the mayors of several Chicago area towns that have been affected by a growing number of increasingly long trains hauling crude oil and other volatile materials.

WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports the mayors expressed concerns about traffic congestion and public safety from freight trains that they said have been getting longer and more dangerous, due to larger amounts of flammable crude oil they haul in outdated tanker cars.

The mayors spoke directly to Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo and Surface Transportation Board Chairman Dan Elliott III, at a meeting arranged by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.

The senator said approximately 25 percent of all freight train traffic travels through the Chicago area each day, including 40 trains hauling crude oil.

Barrington Village President Karen Darch said the village has seen a stark increase in the number of completely full freight trains hauling 100 or more carloads of crude oil or ethanol along the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway.

“Before, half of the community didn’t even know where the EJ&E Line was. There were a couple of trains at night. Now, several times a day, traffic – all traffic – comes to a halt as the train passes through town, and these can be hundred-car trains,” she said.

quebec derailment 1 Mayors Call For Improved Safety Measures For Oil Trains


Darch and other Chicago area mayors said their constituents have been plagued by frequent traffic jams caused by long trains rolling through the area, and are constantly worried that a fire or worse could erupt on old tankers carrying volatile liquids.

They mayors expressed concerns about a repeat of a July 2013 freight train derailment in Quebec that killed 47 people and destroyed dozens of buildings when multiple tanker cars filled with crude oil caught fire and exploded.

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said safe passage is mandatory.

“About a third of the rail accidents that do occur are related to failures of the rail infrastructure itself, and so our position is basically twofold: one, improve the tank cars and get rid of the ones that aren’t safe; and second, make the rails safe.”

Durbin said the issue requires some time to address.

“I’ve talked to the tank car manufacturers, and they understand that they have two responsibilities: build a safer car, but in the meantime retrofit existing cars,” he said.

The senator said there is no way to immediately and completely ban older style oil tanker cars, but said federal railroad officials are aware of the danger they pose, and that they must be upgraded or replaced as soon as possible.

Darch urged federal authorities to institute increased safety controls and reduced speed limits for even small trains hauling crude oil.

“A huge concern for us is what about all the trains that come through that have 19 cars or less of hazmat,” she said.

Federal railroad officials said proposed federal regulations would require increased testing to keep crude oil out of older style tankers. Railroads also would be required to notify local officials when crude oil trains will roll through, and impose a 40 mph speed limit on such trains.