Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lac-Mégantic: TSB Final Report

From TSB animation of MM&A derailment
One of my faithful readers alerted me that the Transportation Safety Board of Canada had released their final findings of what contributed to the terrible oil-train disaster a little more than a year ago at Lac-Mégantic, Ontario.

It is a detailed analysis of the oil train derailment, which, as you recall, took 47 lives. More than 100 other souls were hospitalized, with 20 or so requiring extended hospital care. In addition, 40 structures, including a library containing priceless First Nations artifacts, and 53 motor vehicles were destroyed.

Recently, all of former Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MM&A) motive power, now Central Maine & Quebec, were sold at auction. If you haven't had the opportunity, read the description presented by the auctioneer, of the fundamentally pitiable gaggle of locomotives. This is reflected in the Final Report.

¶ 1.13.1 Analysis of the Locomotive Event Recorder.

¶ 1.15 speaks to the mechanical condition of MM&A 5017, lead engine of the runaway consist. Reads like a Gothic horror story. This unit was withdrawn from the recent auction, by order of the Sûreté du Québec, as being associated with a crime scene.

¶  1.18 speaks to the infamous DOT-111 tank cars. While Canada has taken positive measures to get that junk off the tracks or complete extensive retro-fits, here in the USA we "strongly advise" to get rid of the cars, with retro-fitting staggering along.

¶ 1.23 speaks to the culture of Single Person Train Operation (SPTO.) Under Edward Burkhardt, former owner of MM&A, SPTO was argued to be superior to a two-man cab, ostensibly to reduce inattention due to "conversations," and other ridiculous reasoning. Call it like it is. Wage reduction.

¶ 1.25.16 speaks to the condition of rails and track inspections.

¶ 2.13.8 speaks to a weak organizational safety structure. I am of the opinion that will the history of train wrecks, train crews running unit oil trains, especially those carrying the caustic "Bakken Crude," need to be trained on their responsibility to operate trains in a safe manner, and management must commit to operating a safe plant, including detailed track inspection with a recognized service such as Sperry.

¶ 3.0 speaks to the findings as to the causes and contributing factors, resulting in death and destruction.

Another document brought to my attention was an article in the International Railway Journal, written by David Thomas. Mr. Thomas makes an interesting argument, beyond Edward Burkhardt's penny-pinching, there is plenty of blame  to be spread around for Lac-Mégantic

With a Unit Oil Train coming to your neighborhood, rail operators have a fiduciary responsibility to commit resources, training and accountability, to insure safe transit of hazardous materials through your neighborhood.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Epic Voyage of the Corbin Foss

I just learned of Seattle's Corbin Foss towing the decommissioned aircraft carrier ex-Constellation to a scrap yard in Brownsville Texas.

Our wiz-bang newspaper just reported it today, so I find myself playing catch-up! The tow left Bremerton on August 8th!

When I brought the Corbin Foss up on MarineTraffic, I find she is a day or so out of Long Beach! Had I known about it in real time, I could have gotten some excellent shots of the tow passing my home here in Port Townsend!

At any rate, this video, grainy as it is, is all I've been able to locate. Shot by Ron Bishop, the tow is just getting underway, traveling through Rich Passage. Rich Passage leads from Bremerton Naval Ship Yard out to Puget Sound.

Voyage by the Numbers

Corbin Foss
•  Foss Maritime, Seattle Washington
•  Built: Marine Power & Equipment, Seattle
•  Launch: 2003
•  Callsign: WDB5265
•  MMSI number: 366902220
•  IMO number: 218926
•  Length: 149.8 ft (45.6 m)
•  Beam: 40 ft (12 m)
•  Draft: 19.5 ft (5.9 m)
•  Prime Mover: 2 x ALCO 16-251F diesel engine, 4,100 horsepower @ 900 RPM.
•  Twin Screw Kort Nozzle
•  Bollard Pull: 212,900 lbs (106 t)
•  SOLAS (Compliant with Safety of Life at Sea criteria)
•  Net: 181 tons
•  Complete Tug History

USS Constellation (CVA-64, CV-64)
•  Length: 1,088 ft (332 m) overall, 990 ft (302 m) waterline
•  Beam: 282 ft (86 m) extreme, 130 ft (40 m) waterline
•  Draft: 39 ft (12 m)
•  Launched: October 8, 1960
•  Commissioned: October 27, 1961
•  Decommissioned: 7 August 7, 2003
•  Removed from the Navy List: December 2, 2003
•  June 2014, the US Navy awarded International Shipbreaking Limited of Brownsville, Texas, for the towing, dismantling and recycling of ex-Constellation.
•  Estimated travel time: 140 days.
•  Distance: Bremerton Washington to Brownville Texas, 16,000 miles
•  Crew change: Chile.
•  Too big to transit the Panama Canal, travel through the Straits of Magellan into the Atlantic, thence to Texas.
•  Tow Weight: 61,000 dead weight tons

The tow will stop for fuel at Long Beach also to clear Customs.

Bremerton Mothball Fleet

•  USS Ranger (CV 61) Type ship: Forrestal-class aircraft carrier Length: 1,067 feet Beam: 270 feet Status: Stricken, available for donation as museum or memorial Commissioned: Aug. 10, 1957 Decommissioned: July 10, 1993 Stricken: March 8, 2004
•  USS Independence (CV 62) Type ship: Forrestal-class aircraft carrier Length: 1,070 feet Beam: 263 feet Status: Stricken, to be disposed of Commissioned: Jan. 10, 1959 Decommissioned: Sept. 30, 1998 Stricken: March 8, 2004
•  USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) Type ship: Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier Length: 1,069 feet Beam: 282 feet Status: Out of commission, in reserve Commissioned: April 29, 1961 Decommissioned: Spring 2009
•  USS Constellation (CV 64) Type ship: Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier Length: 1,073 feet Beam: 282 feet Status: Stricken, to be disposed of Commissioned: Oct. 27, 1961 Decommissioned: Aug. 6, 2003 Stricken: Dec. 2, 2003

Follow the Voyage 

•  You can follow this epic voyage on Foss' Maritime Blog.
•  And you can get "real time" positioning at  (Click on green icon, "Click on Live Map.")

Friday, August 15, 2014

Welcome to Ferguson, Missouri! "A Playful City USA."

Ferguson Missouri has been thrown into the spotlight both at home and around the world following the fatal shooting of a young man, who was supposed to be settling into college this week.

What perhaps was the most disturbing message, from the Chief of Police in Ferguson, was his admonition to not to demonstrate after dark.

"Disperse well before evening hours."

To many, including older residents, that sounded eerily like a reference to Sundown Town.

Without question, we all abhor civil unrest, looting and vandalism. And nobody begrudges cops being armed with helmets, shields, and batons for self protection when facing an agitated crowd.

But the over the top law enforcement response, confronting citizens wearing left over military gear,  more appropriate in Afghanistan or Iraq, no doubt escalated the angst of Ferguson. I was stunned to see cops aiming their weapons at unarmed citizens!

Like a woman interviewed on MSNBC said, "How are we supposed to feel about freedom of speech, when we have a machine gun aimed at us?"

Ferguson or Iraq?

All of which poses a larger question concerning the increasing "militarism" of police departments.

Many combat veterans have since pointed out that the SWAT officers are more heavily armed and outfitted than they themselves were while patrolling the streets of Iraq or Afghanistan, characterizing cops as "untrained wannabes."

Actions calling into question of the veracity of the Ferguson Police Department include:

•  Sunday night, in a video captured by CNN, a police officer yelled a derogatory phrase at protesters;  "Bring it, all you fucking animals! Bring it!" the officer said in the exchange.

•  The cops showed up with a heavily armed SWAT team. Members of this police force in a town of 21,000 carried 5.56-mm rifles based on the military M4 carbine. They wore body armor, stood in front of an armored vehicle known as a BearCat, and would have been mistaken for soldiers if they weren't wearing "Police" patches.

•  Failure to release the name of the cop who shot Michael Brown, under the lame guise of "protecting" his life and family, infers the cops "circling the wagons," with more than five days to construct "their version" of events, resulting in the slaying. Fortunately, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed Sunshine Law requests, which stipulates that records of public governmental bodies be made open to the public.

•  Failure to release the complete autopsy reports. Again, suggesting the Ferguson PD are "circling the wagons," giving them ample opportunity to construct their version of the fatal event.

•  At one point, requesting the FAA prohibit air traffic activity over Ferguson Missouri until August 18th.  An action seen by may observers as an attempt to hide police activity in the investigation. Ostensibly, there had been shots fired at a police helicopter, prompting the ban. But an FAA investigation found that report false, and the restriction has been rescinded.

•  Placing intimidating armored vehicles on display, complete with snipers deployed on the roof. Are they to be used to mow protestors into the pavement? Worse, several video and still images show cops playing around with automatic weapons, aiming them over the crowd. God forbid an accident discharge!  

The Lenco BearCat  (Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck) has been embraced by several DoD (Department of Defense) and DoE (Department of Energy) Security Forces and, because of its affordability, low maintenance expenses, ease of use and superior armor level, are increasingly the replacement vehicles of choice for up-armored Humvees. It may also be equipped with our optional Mechanical Rotating Turret with Cupola (Tub) and Weapon Ready Mounting System, suitable for the M60, 240B and Mark 19 weapons system. (From Lenco catalog.)

•  On top of the BearCat, we see a dude playing with an automatic weapon. One wonders, is he "reliving his memories of gunning down people in Fallujah or Afghanistan?"

•  Also on the roof,  what appears to be a Long Range Hailing Device (LRAD), Model 300X.

"In a situation when a SWAT team deals with a rioting mob, the device allows the SWAT team to broadcast sound files containing warning messages. If the crowd does not respond to the verbal messages, the LRAD operator can activate the deterrent tone that can be as loud as 142 dB. 

"When used correctly, neither the LRAD operator nor nearby personnel nor peripheral bystanders will be affected by the LRAD 300X. Sound behind the LRAD unit is over 40 dB less than the on-axis forward output because of the high directionality of the LRAD. The LRAD is safe at aperture when used appropriately. We provide training to customers to ensure they understand the safety ranges and operating requirements." (From LRAD catalog.)

Your Tax Dollars at Work!

So how do police jurisdictions get their hands on military grade weapons and vehicles? Courtesy of the US Government! Your tax dollars at work!

The Department of Defense (DoD) makes this hardware available to law enforcement agencies through its Excess Property Program (1033 Program).  The 1033 Program, which has the motto "From Warfighter to Crimefighter," provides surplus DoD military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations.

St. Louis County, which encompasses Ferguson, is part of the program. St. Louis County law enforcement agencies received twelve 5.56 millimeter rifles and six .45 caliber pistols from the Department of Defense between Aug. 2, 2010, and Feb. 13, 2013.

These exchanges are occurring from coast to coast in towns and cities that are hardly considered epicenters of violent crime, let alone on par with the foreign war zones where these hand-me-downs — machine guns, armored cars and other made-for-battle items — were originally intended to be used.

Add to that, Military personnel are trained to use these appliances.  What kind of training is a cop receiving?

I don't see anything positive about the increasing militarism of of police department playing Ninja Soldiers. There are reports of cops using this equipment to serve search warrants! That approach is repugnant to most citizens, further widening the gulf between police and the citizens who PAY their wages!

Bill Maher used his closing monologue on the July 18 (2014) episode of "Real Time With Bill Maher" to take a jab at militarized police culture in America. He listed different small towns that use military-style tanks and "toys" in their police departments.

"Once you start dressing and equipping people like an occupying army, they start acting like one," he said. "Every day there's another story in the paper about cops beating innocent people." He noted that police culture isn't just borrowing equipment and machinery from the army, but also a "philosophy of overwhelming force," citing the rise in SWAT team invasions and police brutality. (From Huffington Post.)

And what are the lasting traumatic effects on the children, residents, of Ferguson witnessing an army invading their town?  The militarized police response to protests in Ferguson has driven a rare wedge between two forces that often work closely together – the two largest police departments in the area: the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the St. Louis County Police.

Good News at Last!

Thursday night, Ferguson crowd control was taken away from Ferguson County Police and Ferguson City Police.  Thursday night, under command of  Ron Johnson, of the Missouri Highway Patrol, the demonstration did a 180° turn! Loud but peaceful, with no drama, tear gas, flash bangs, and intimidating SWAT teams.

Amazing what a little love can do, as opposed to a belligerent aggressive force!

Clear evidence that military posturing by cops incites anger, angst, and fear in the citizens. Even as I write this, lawmakers are considering legislation to "disarm" military cop paradigms.

Cops Set an Excellent Example of Law and Order 

Since the "Cops" TV series began airing, many of us have been wary about the behaviors of many of the Boyz in Blue. The part I find most reprehensible is the questioning, without an attorney, in the back seat of the cop car.

Spoiler alert. Do NOT answer ANY questions. It is your constitutional right. Two events stand out in the Ferguson Incident;

•  The Gassing and Vandalism of the Al Jazeera America camera crew.
•  The egregious violation of Civil Right of reporters from the Huffington Post and Washington Post.

Both are graven offenses, committed by cops, violating the civil rights of American Citizens. The cop in McDonald's rousting the reporters represents everything we find reprehensible about violation under color of law.

Not surprising. My deceased wife, who was married to a cop,got tired of him bringing contraband (read drugs) seized in arrests, into their home. The final straw for her was when cops brought her intoxicated husband home, rather than arrest him for DUI.

“At a time when we must seek to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the local community, I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a written statement Thursday. “The law enforcement response to these demonstrations must seek to reduce tensions, not heighten them.”

The Kent State Massacre

For those who support militarization of cops, you apparently don't know about or remember the horror of Kent State University in 1967. The quintessential example of military response to civil unrest.

Four students were killed. Nine wounded. The result of a military response to anti Viet Nam student protest, characterized by Tricky Dicky as "bums."

We can only hope and pray that Kent State is not repeated, with this incredible arming of cops with military weapons and appliances.

Killed (and approximate distance from the National Guard):
•  Jeffrey Glenn Miller; age 20; 265 ft (81 m) shot through the mouth; killed instantly, with 14 year old Mary Ann Vecchio, kneeling beside him.
•  Allison B. Krause; age 19; 343 ft (105 m) fatal left chest wound; died later that day.
•  William Knox Schroeder; age 19; 382 ft (116 m) fatal chest wound; died almost an hour later while undergoing surgery.
•  Sandra Lee Scheuer; age 20; 390 ft (120 m) fatal neck wound; died a few minutes later from loss of blood.

Wounded (and approximate distance from the National Guard):
•  Joseph Lewis Jr.; 71 ft (22 m); hit twice in the right abdomen and left lower leg.
•  John R. Cleary; 110 ft (34 m); upper left chest wound.
•  Thomas Mark Grace; 225 ft (69 m); struck in left ankle.
•  Alan Michael Canfora; 225 ft (69 m); hit in his right wrist.
•  Dean R. Kahler; 300 ft (91 m); back wound fracturing the vertebrae, permanently paralyzed from the chest down.
•  Douglas Alan Wrentmore; 329 ft (100 m); hit in his right knee.
•  James Dennis Russell; 375 ft (114 m); hit in his right thigh from a bullet and in the right forehead by birdshot.
•  Robert Follis Stamps; 495 ft (151 m); hit in his right buttock.
•  Donald Scott MacKenzie; 750 ft (230 m); neck wound.

We have good reason to be fearful of a militarized police force.
Article aggregated from numerous sources

Friday, August 8, 2014

Mind the Gap!

Hundreds of commuters pushed a train to free a passenger who became trapped between the platform and the carriage at a station in Perth, Australia, Wednesday morning.  The entire scene was caught on video, which shows the station's safety personnel informing the train's driver not to move the train.

Scores of passengers, together with staff, manage to tilt the car (on its suspension) enough to allow the man to free his leg which was wedged in the gap.

The Australian man whose leg was trapped said he was "amazed" when he saw his story on the news and realized how many strangers came to his rescue. Dozens of fellow commuters lifted the 28-ton car  to free the man, whose leg was stuck in the gap between the train and the platform.

 "My left leg missed the train and fell down the platform, right down past my knee, up to my thigh," said Andy, who declined to provide his last name to 9News in Australia. "I just got caught up in the rush," he said. "Somehow, getting on the train, stepped through the gap instead of on to the train.

"I didn't realize how many people were witnessing this situation until I saw the footage later on the news," he said. "I was amazed. I had no idea it was that big of an incident, that it took that many people to free me."

Public Transport Authority spokesman David Hynes said the man was attempting to board the train at Stirling Station when a misstep caused one of his legs to slip down and lodge in the gap between the train and the platform.

Mr Hynes said passengers were then asked to stand on the other side of the carriage to try and push the weight off the man's leg however it was not enough to free him. "When that didn't work, they got people off and gathered together enough of them to line up, 50 or so, and say 'one, two, three, push'," he said.

Car appears to be one the of 66 narrow gauge "B-Series" cars, run in three car consists.

This incident isn't the first time commuters have banded together to free a fellow passenger.

Last month (July), commuters at a station in Tokyo managed to push (again, tilt on its suspension) a 30,000 kg (33 ton) car off a woman after she fell down the gap between it and the platform. The woman was not seriously injured and the train continued its journey just eight minutes later.
(Story aggregated from various sources)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Articles Updated

Two previous articles updated Monday morning:
•  Locomotive Auction  
•  Wrecked 737's 

On August 5th, thirty-five locomotives sold for anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 to upward of $200,000 apiece, bringing net proceeds of about $1 million.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Significant Others and railroading

Maple Valley, Washington. Saturday, December 26, 1961. Today, as I was digging through my collection of slides, I ran across three or four “bummers” – slides that won’t pass most Internet rail photo screeners. But that’s the beauty of being my own screener. I can run them!I was home in Seattle on Christmas leave from Hamilton AFB, and relished this opportunity to “chase trains!” My buddy El Purington and I had just finished shooting an eastbound Northern Pacific freight at Covington. From there is was a short jaunt north to connect with the Milwaukee Road, to catch an electric train at Maple Valley.

By the time we got there, darkness had fallen. The operator on duty, Bob Lillengreen, was a conversationalist beyond compare, who welcomed us with a hot cup of coffee and his latest stories.

Bob told us about a rail fan who had stopped by a few weeks past with his wife. He went on to say that as her husband went out on the platform to shoot an electric train, she lamented, “You know, I think he loves those trains more than he loves me!”

By and by the darkness was penetrated with a bright headlamp, and the mournful honk of a quartet of electrics, who had descended in the early evening from Snoqualmie Tunnel. (It was almost an irritation to me, that such magnificent machines had such ugly air horns!)

Without a tripod, I fired off a 1/15 second exposure as the engineer of the Box Cabs snagged his set of train orders. The lower set destined for the Conductor in his office on wheels – the caboose.

The point of this article is the wife’s concern about where she stood with respect to the husband’s priorities in life.

This recollection got me to reflect back upon my past relationships and railroading. One lady I was involved with was happy to go "railroading" with me because we made it an outing - packing a picnic lunch, hiking for photo ops and viewing other points of interest in additon to the railroad.

She shook up a southbound Espee pusher crew way up on the Willamette Pass. She didn’t realize the helper would be manned, and she took off her top after the head end had cleared, to bask topless in the hot afternoon sun. The appreciative pusher crew struck up a tattoo on the air horns as they passed us, waving wildly at her!

My ex-wife and I got married in a business car in Vancouver Washington, and we made one or two rail photo stops along the way to Cass West Virginia, the destination for our honeymoon in May, 1989.

Here’s Patti being helped aboard Shay #5 at Cass. We had a fantastic time there with the limited crowd at the 3-day weekend. She shot 5 rolls of film there in Cass, we made new friends, and so sharing and mixing with others seemed to be the secret.

We were invited to General Motors Open House later that year, and while it was the focus of the trip to Chicago, I buffered in a few extra days so that we had time to explore Chicago, as well as go to the open house.

So. Significant others and railroading. Moderation and inclusion were the keys for me.

Sadly, not only is the Milwaukee Road gone, but also Pattie, who passed away unexpectedly in 2007...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Attend a Locomotive Auction! (Update Aug 4th)

Now is your chance to "own a piece of history!"

Central Maine and Quebec, formerly known as Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, is dumping Ed  Burkhardt's collection of ramshackle power packs in auction.

The auction, to be conducted by Adam’s Auction & Real Estate Services, will be held on Tuesday August 5th, includes: 

•  MMA 23, EMD GP-7u
•  MMA 79, EMD GP-9
•  MMA 2000, GE B-23-7
•  MMA 3614, GE C-30-7
•  MMA 5016, GE C-30-7
•  MMA 5018, GE C-30-7
•  MMA 5023, GE C-30-7
•  MMA 5026, GE C-30-7
•  MMA 5078M GEC-30-7
•  MMA 8525, GE B-39-8
•  MMA 8541, GE B-39-8
•  MMA 8569, GE B-39-8
•  MMA 8202, GE C-39-8
•  MMA 3609, GE C-30-7
•  MMA 5021, GE C-30-7
•  MMA 100, EMD GP-7
•  MMA 21, EMD GP-7u
•  MMA 5017, GE C-30-7  Up-Dated Court Info
•  MMA 3613, GE C-30-7
•  MMA 8583, GE B-39-8
•  MMA 8592, GE B-39-8
•  MMA 3000, GE C-30-7
•  MMA 3603, GE C-30-7
•  MMA 8546, GE B-39-9
•  MMA 8553, GE B-39-8
•  MMA 8578, GE B-39-8
•  MMA 8202, GE C-39-8
•  MMA 8207, GE C-39-8
•  MMA 8208, GE C-39-8

Details on each locomotive.

The auction also includes units from San Luis Central. The railroad is 13 miles (21 km) long, located between Sugar Junction (east of Monte Vista, Colorado) and Center, Colorado. The company is owned by Rail World, Inc., which is controlled by Ed Burkhardt. Burkhardt is listed as president of SLC.

Apparently, Central Maine & Quebec is leasing nine SD40-2s and seven GP-20s. I have contacted the railroad twice to learn more about the units, with no response.

The Infamous MM&A 5017

"Many of the other MM&A locomotives advertised by the auction house come with problems, from graffiti to missing parts. Some units are likely worth little more than scrap value," says the online ad.

"Quebec provincial police are attempting to prevent the auction of the former Montreal, Maine & Atlantic GE C30-7 locomotive that played a key role in the July 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster," wrote Andy Blatchford of The Canadian Press on July 23, 2014.

 “A spokeswoman for the Sûreté du Québec said Wednesday (July 23rd) that investigators initiated measures to block a U.S. auction house from selling the locomotive until the end of legal proceedings. News of the police move surfaced after a report by The Canadian Press on Wednesday revealed that locomotive MMA 5017, the lead engine on the train that smashed into the Quebec town last summer, was due to go to auction in Maine on Aug. 5.

‘The only thing I can confirm to you in this file is that Sûreté investigators have taken steps to block the sale of the locomotive for the duration of the judicial process.’"   (From Railway Age. Click for complete article.)

Three employees of the now-insolvent Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway have each been charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death, one for each victim of the crash. The MM&A itself is also facing the same charges.

MM&A 5017. General Electric (GE) C30-7, 3,000 hp. Built 10/79, as BN 5017, sn 42581. Later BNSF 5017.  Retired from BNSF 03/99. Thence to MM&A as 5017. This was the unit that suffered the machine room fire, setting off an explosive chain of events a year ago this month.

Click on MMA or Montreal Maine and Atlantic in the index below, for all previous articles posted on this disaster.