Saturday, October 19, 2013

Things that go Boom in the night ... UpDated

Yet another hazardous material derailment, resulting in a fire and dislocation of 100 residents.  This derailment and fire near Gainford, Alberta, occurring early this morning.

Witnesses reported a massive fireball, probably one of several cars containing Liquified Natural Gas, shot across Trans Canada Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway.)  Scorched pavement and brush fire clearly visible.

Listen to an eyewitness account.  Janette Powell lives in the house to the left.  She tells of siding melted off her house.

This is the third CN derailment in recent weeks.  It will likely fan opposition to the crude-by-rail boom taking place in Canada as the country's oil producers seek alternatives to congested pipelines.

Already, the State of Washington has pulled two permits for oil terminals at Hoquiam and Longview, requesting additional input as to safety and ecologic impacts in the event of an accident.

On September 3, 1983, a classic LNG tank car explosion - correctly referred to as a Boiling Liquid, Expanding Vapor Explosion, BLEVE, created the massive fireball, captured by a TV crew near Murdock Illinois.

So you can understand how Highway 16 became scorched.

TSB released their preliminary finding:

"Railway investigation R13E0142 Train derailment and fire in Gainford, Alberta The occurrence On 19 October 2013, while traveling westward into Gainford siding on the Edson Subdivision, CN Train M30151-18, with 134 cars, experienced an undesired emergency brake application in the area of the Gainford siding.

Inspection revealed that cars 13 through 25 had derailed and were on their side. Dangerous goods were involved. The first four derailed cars were carrying petroleum crude oil and the following 9 cars were carrying liquefied petroleum gas. Sparks and flames were visible to the crew. No injuries were reported. The Transportation Safety Board has deployed a team of investigators."

How a Professional Rail Executive Responds

Late today, Jim Vena, CN Rail executive vice-president and chief operating officer, offered his apologies to the residents of Gainford. In sharp contrast to the bumbling Ed Burkhardt, who waited several days before his bumbled visit to Lac Megantic, Quebec.

Finally, adding insult to injury, Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche says Ed Burkhardt backed out of a scheduled meeting late Wednesday afternoon at the last minute, citing "scheduling" problems. He did not apologize. He made no effort Thursday to reschedule, she said. He left town instead. Roy-Laroche, who lost two cousins in the disaster, said Burkhardt's actions showed a lack of respect for the devastated residents.

Burkhardt noted his net worth had gone down, that he’d been working hard at his desk, 20 hours a day and was tired — small comfort to grieving relatives

See Also:  The Night a Train Destroyed a Town

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Weapon of "Mass Destruction!"

A punt gun is a type of extremely large shotgun used in the 19th and early 20th centuries for shooting large numbers of waterfowl for commercial harvesting operations and private sport.

Punt guns were usually custom-designed and so varied widely, but could have bore diameters exceeding 2 inches (51 mm) and fire over a pound (? 0.45 kg) of shot at a time. A single shot could kill over 50 waterfowl resting on the water's surface. (Plus several catfish and an eel!)

This static display is located at the Sottish Maritime Museum.  [Ed Note:  Highly recommend you visit this museum site. Tons of early maritime history.]

They were too big to hold and the recoil so large that they were mounted directly on the punts used for hunting, hence their name.

Begs several questions: How far this fellow was flung, firing this #4 gauge Weapon of Mass Destruction? When did he regain his sense of hearing? What was the fellow supporting this weapon thinking?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Got Some Splainin to Do!

KTVQ-TV in Billings, Montana, reported shortly before 12:30 p.m. Sunday, September 29 (2013), a Montana Rail Link train ran past the end of the tracks in south Billings.

According to Montana Rail Link, the locomotive slowly - an estimated 2 miles per hour - went beyond the end of track and a set of the wheels came off the rail.

The switcher sits near South 27th Street after it ran off the tracks east of the Western Sugar refinery.

No one was injured. Montana Rail Link Spokesperson says there is no track damage and no damage to the locomotive. Crews from R.J. Corman Railroad Group re-railed the errant goat shortly after 4 p.m. Play video.

Its obvious as to the lack of damage to the track ... there is no track!

Like Rickey used to tell Lucy, "You got some "splainin'" to do!"

Railroad Stuff:
Montana Rail Link 17
•  Built for Northern Pacific by Electro Motive Division as SW1200 NP 156, July 1957, SN 22758
•  March 1970 merger; renumbered BN 215
•  October 1987 to Montana Rail Link as MRL 215
•  Renumbered MRL 17
•  Currently at Livingston Montana Maintenance Shops.

A second SW1200, MRL 18, identical lineage, is in storage.

Monday, October 7, 2013

"Hall of Shame" Follow-Up

The nonprofit organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, wants an ethics investigation of U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, claiming the congressman violated House of Representatives rules when he berated a National Park Service ranger who was “just doing her job” guarding the shuttered World War II memorial.

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan sent a letter to the House Office of Congressional Ethics calling for an investigation of Neugebauer. “Obviously, the Park Police employee had no role whatsoever in the decision to shut down the federal government.

“Instead, as is well recognized, the shutdown was forced by members of the House of Representatives, including Rep. Neugebauer, who have refused to vote for a resolution to fund government operations unless the president acquiesces to an ever-changing series of demands, the most recent of which was a delay in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.”

Sloan said the Texas congressman’s behavior violated House Rule 23. The provision requires House members to conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House.

“Rep. Neugebauer abused his position as a member of the House by publicly assailing a federal employee who was acting in accordance with the will of the House. He also attempted to use his position to coerce the ranger to allow access to the memorial despite the fact that federal law requires its closure.”

CREW asked that the incident involving Neugebauer be forwarded to the House Ethics Committee “for appropriate action.”

What more can be said.

[Follow-Up to original article:  Welcome to the Hall of Shame.]

Sunday, October 6, 2013

O-E Turns Six!

Six years ago I posted my first Blog article under the banner "Oil-Electric"  Now, with almost 700 articles submitted, I have racked hundreds of hours writing and scouring the Internet mining information to support each article.

Rather than kicking back in a recliner with a cool one, I can be found at the keyboard, often up to 3 or 4 a.m. doing what I love to do: explore and learn.

It has been quite a ride for this septuagenarian.

I became a ferroequinologist at age 14. In 1957, we moved from Seattle to Prince Rupert British Columbia. My Dad was Chief Engineer on the Alaska British Columbia (ABC) tug Comet.

Pan & Scan
ABC was a subsidiary of  Puget Sound Tug & Barge, Seattle, towing a 24 car (40' cars) rail barge between Prince Rupert and Ward Cove (Ketchikan) Alaska. Supplies to the paper mill; back haul kraft paper bundles via Canadian National and connecting lines to Rome, Georgia.

The Blog was born out of a frustration with a "premier" photo posting web site, who believes railroading only occurs on bright sunny days, with perfect lighting, enforced with a plethora of inconsistent reasons for rejecting photos.

Expressing my frustration to the author of  "Wet Rails," Kurt suggested, "Why not write a Blog? That way, you can always accept your photos!"

The rest is history.

Rejected Header design

Thank you Kurt for your encouragement, and thank you my readers for your continued interest and support.

Robert in Port Townsend.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Welcome to the "Hall of Shame."

I really try to avoid political discourse in this Blog. Oil-Electric is a railroad Blog. While my passion is railroading, here you will find a plethora of subjects I feel passionate about.

One of my passions is my disgust for the rudeness, crudeness and disrespect for civility exhibited almost daily by politicians. Civility passed with Robert Byrd.

And so when I witnessed the egregious personal attack yesterday by Congressman Randy Neugebauer (R) Texas, on a young female Park Ranger, at the World War II Memorial, I went ballistic! Not only did Neugebauer display contempt for government employees in general, but worse, a young woman  doing her job, without pay!

In a lame attempt to wriggle out of his public relations debacle, he told KCBD-TV Lubbock, "My beef was not with the Parks Ranger. My beef is with the Parks Department and this president, that they would deny these American heroes access to the World War II memorial."

Really? Play the tape again...

Treating her with derision, he told the young Ranger, "You should be ashamed of yourself." Sounds to me like he was referring to her, not the Parks Department. This is how a voice in his District, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal interprets this bully.

Dallas (Texas) Observer 
Austin Chronicle

What did Randy think he was voting for when he shut the government down?  Scary to learn he serves on three committees; Financial Services, Agriculture, and Science, Space, & Technology!

Is this the image of a Texas politician Texans want us to walk away with?

Compare and contrast Neugebauer to another Texan, Charles Goodnight, an important icon of Texas, and resident of the same region.

Goodnight was key in establishing the cattle trade in and beyond Texas. He is remembered for his kindness and generosity, as portrayed by James Gammon in "The Streets of Laredo." Note similarities ...

James Gammon

Neugebauer (R) is a representative of the 19 District, Texas, smack dab in the middle of  Texas cotton country.

Texas ranks first in cotton production in the U.S. Cotton is the leading cash crop in the state, and is grown on 5 million acres. This crop generates $1.6 billion in cash for farmers and has a total economic impact of $5.2 billion for the state.

Texas accounts for approximately one-half of the cotton acres and roughly 40% of the total production in the U.S. the cotton industry will take a direct hit in the form of no government loan programs under the shut down!

And when I went to the USDA site to learn more about cotton production, I got this splash screen.

See also:  Follow-Up.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Blow Down Derailment

We had an unusual - for the Pacific Northwest - weather occurrence,  an F1 tornado (up to 125 mph / 200 km/h) had touched down south of Tacoma at Frederickson Washington. These five cars were not moving when the tornado dropped down. They were spotted at the entrance to Boeing's Frederickson Complex.

According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, "work was halted at Boeing's Frederickson plant south of Tacoma Monday morning after a tornado tore between two buildings, damaging part of a roof and about two dozen cars. No one was injured.

"The vertical stabilizer and tail fins for the Boeing 777 and 787s are made at the Boeing Frederickson facility, consisting of two major manufacturing business units - composite manufacturing center and skin and spar."

"The question I asked myself became one of;  "how strong a wind is required to blow down a set box cars, and how often does it occur?"

Well, it turns out that "blow down" derailments are not unheard of!

In fact, several weeks ago, on September 3rd, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its final report (Railway Investigation Report R12W0165)  into the July 29, 2012 derailment of a Canadian Pacific (CP) freight train in Popular Point Manitoba.

TSB concluded that high winds were the cause of a train derailment, saying a delay in notification to the train crew about severe weather in the area led to the crash!

The train departed Winnipeg and began traveling westbound to Brandon on CP's Carberry subdivision when the accident occurred at around 6 p.m. The TSB says cars were double stacked with empty containers when it was traveling at around 43 km/h (27 mph.) Twelve cars of the 56 on the track blew over as a result of the strong wind gusts and rain.

CP's crew received a radio call about the weather, but it was too late to take the necessary precautions.

The railway has since taken steps to amend its severe weather warning procedure to ensure train crews are aware of the risk of encountering high winds:

CP RTC Manual - Section 3.5 – Severe Weather Warning Procedure 

When advised by the Supervisor that a severe weather warning is in effect, the RTC must:

1. Not perform any other non-emergency task until they have: •advised all movement(s) within, or immediately approaching the affected area of the weather alert information [item 2(i)];
• placed a general bulletin order (GBO) block (CTC or OCS) as applicable over the affected area; and
• recorded in Train Information and on RTC Planning sheet the details and location of the weather warning.

2. Contact all movement(s) that will encounter the weather warning area(s) and:
• advise them of the weather alert information; and
• determine from the operating crew(s) the local conditions.

3. Communicate the local conditions [item 2(ii)] to the Supervisor for determination of operating plan.

4. Verbally advise movement(s), as per the Supervisor’s request, to:
• stop;
• proceed prepared to stop short of any condition which may affect safe passage and in no case exceeding 25 mph; or
• proceed at authorized track speed.

5. Not remove any restrictions placed on movement(s) until advised that:
• the weather warning alert is cancelled;
• the track has been inspected and reported as safe for movement(s); or
• the weather within the area is clearing as determined by crew(s) on movement(s) and the Supervisor advises that it is safe to do so.

Other recent wind-related derailments 

•  August 9, 2012 "Coal Train Derails" (average coal car carrying in excess of 100 tons!)
•  June 17, 2013 "Wind causes train derailment near Hereford, Texas"
•  July 18, 2013 "High winds topple seven cars in Chicago"
•  BNSF Dispatcher broadcasts high wind warnings (turn sound up.)

Following a dramatic derailment Down Under, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) undertook a detailed analysis, including wind tunnel experiments, to understand the dynamic forces that affect safe rail operations.

"On 1 November 2006, a freight train derailed near Tarcoola, South Australia (there were no injuries). Tarcoola is a small, remote town in central South Australia where the rail line from Darwin (in the north) joins the main east-west rail line crossing Australia.

 "The freight train had been traveling from Darwin to Adelaide. As it approached Tarcoola from the north, the drivers noted a significant amount of lightning in nearby thunderstorms.

"While traveling at about 65 km/h (40 mph), the driver felt a slight tug and/or surge through the locomotives. The driver also observed (via the locomotive gauges) a reduction of brake pipe pressure and an increase in brake pipe airflow. The train slowed to a stop and one of the drivers walked back to inspect the train.

"He discovered that only 16 of the 31 wagons were coupled behind the locomotives. Walking further back along the track, the driver found the remainder of the wagons, some of which had derailed and were lying on their side."

On 11 November 2008, a freight train derailed near Loongana, Western Australia (there were no injuries). Similar to the derailment at Tarcoola, the train was loaded with double-stacked freight containers, though in this case they were loaded on a flat wagon. Again, the containers were mostly empty.

The freight train had been traveling from Perth to Melbourne. As it traveled on a long straight section of track near Loongana, the drivers observed pockets of lightning and wind induced dust moving towards them from a north to northeasterly direction.

The train had been traveling at about 105 km/h (65 mph), but the wind caused the train speed to rapidly reduce. The driver estimated that the train lost about 35 km/h (23 mph) over a distance of about 3.5 km (2 miles), despite the throttle being set at eight notches (full power).

As with the Tarcoola incident, the site evidence was not consistent with what would normally be expected at a derailment site. It too appeared as though the wagons had simply tilted and rolled over onto their side. (Source: A Blow to Train Operations, Can strong winds cause derailment? Tony Simes, Senior Transport Safety Investigator (Rail) Australian Transport Safety Bureau.)

When you read the final findings, there was no evidence of flange climbing, which lead to the conclusion that the wagons (cars) simply tilted

over until they crossed the center of gravity and dropped on their sides.

And so while it seems impossible for a heavily laden freight train to be derailed by high winds, there is plenty of empirical evidence to support such a notion!


Australian Government, Transportation Safety Board, Final Report on derailment at Loongana. Locomotives involved in the blow down at Loongana were 4,020 hp National Rail  NR 101 on the bow, and sister NR 62 distributed power on the stern.

•  NR 101 (named "Crystal Brook / Redhill") In service July 21, 1997.
•  NR 62 (named "Tarcoola") In service November 1, 1996

•  Builder: Bassendean: NR61-NR120 Model Cv40-9i
•  Build date 1996-1998
•  Total produced 120 AAR wheel arr. Co-Co UIC classification Co'Co'
•  Gauge 1435mm (Standard Gauge)
•  Length 22.00 m (72 feet)
•  Locomotive weight 132.00t (metric)
•  Engine type GE Transportation Systems 7FDL-16
•  Generator GE GMG196 Traction motors GE 5GE793A1
•  Top speed 115 km/h (71 mph)
•  Power output 3000 kW (4020 HP)

Because of the weights involved, it's hard to believe weather can derail a train! However, based on wind tunnel tests conducted by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada,  the Blow Down Derailment is a demonstrable phenomenon.

An associate sent along a link to a Blow Down Derailment caught on tape.  See Steve Boyko in "Comments" below.