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 This unit was withdrawn from the recent auction, by order of the Sûreté du Québec, as being associated with a crime scene.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.

2 Comments - Click here:

Steve Boyko said...

Thanks for the link to the IRJ article. I had not read the TSB comments, just the report itself. I agree TC deserves some of the blame, MMA deserves some of the blame, the engineer and RTC deserve some of the blame... there's plenty to go around.

Chris Walker said...

As usual another great in depth article, thanks for bringing this to our attention.

That interesting animation shown above has two oddities. The locomotive cranked independant brake lever is shown moving to the left or the Release position and the G.E. C30 exhaust is shown at the front of the prime mover not the rear. I guess they aren't Railroad orientated employees to miss those obvious mistakes.

in New Zealand

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