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   gvidas  Monday Jul 8 02:42 PM

July 8, 2013 -- Aftermath of Lac-Mégantic Train Derailment





Quote:
Early Saturday, a locomotive pulling a 72-car freight train full of crude oil from North Dakota was parked for the night 11 km west of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, the engineer checking into a nearby hotel. Sometime shortly after, the unattended train began to roll away, toward Lac-Megantic -- investigators are still looking for the cause. The crude oil cars, rolling downhill, broke free of the locomotives and picked up speed, derailing at a curve in the center of Lac-Megantic, a lakeside town of about 6,000 people. Six massive explosions followed, sending up huge fireballs and setting dozens of buildings ablaze. Thousands were evacuated, and so far, five deaths have been confirmed. Authorities worry the toll will climb much higher, as more than 40 residents are still listed as missing.

A few dozen more photos are available at The Atlantic's photojournalism blog, In Focus, which is where these + the above quoted text are from.

Of particularly horrifying beauty are the melted traffic light lenses.


Undertoad  Monday Jul 8 03:03 PM

WOW WOW holy hell on Earth

Thanks for posting it, gvid, it's breath-taking. For all the most horrible reasons, but breath-taking nonetheless!



orthodoc  Monday Jul 8 03:05 PM

This was absolutely horrifying. It could have been due to sheer carelessness or stupidity, but I have to wonder if it was sabotage.



Griff  Monday Jul 8 03:08 PM

Pic from
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fi...3%A9gantic.jpg

shows what it should look like. Unbelievable.



glatt  Monday Jul 8 04:05 PM

It's all horrible.

Check out that one waterfront home, almost a mansion, four blocks from the train tracks. I bet they never thought they were ever going to be burned to the ground by a train accident. Their neighbors were all untouched, including some that were closer to the tracks, but the fire burned in just the wrong direction for them.

I don't mean to single them out like they are more special than those blocks that were closer and burned to the ground, but just look at that burn path. That could happen to any one of us.



BigV  Monday Jul 8 04:12 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by glatt View Post
It's all horrible.

Check out that one waterfront home, almost a mansion, four blocks from the train tracks. I bet they never thought they were ever going to be burned to the ground by a train accident. Their neighbors were all untouched, including some that were closer to the tracks, but the fire burned in just the wrong direction for them.

I don't mean to single them out like they are more special than those blocks that were closer and burned to the ground, but just look at that burn path. That could happen to any one of us.
I imagine that is because the liquid oil, burning or otherwise, flowed downhill along the path of burnt, down to the water, eating that house in the process.


ZenGum  Tuesday Jul 9 01:20 AM

Some answers are beginning to emerge (via: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-0...brakes/4807576)

Quote:
It has now been confirmed that earlier on the night of the deadly blast, firefighters were called to extinguish a blaze in the train's motor.

The train had been stopped at the neighbouring town of Nantes at the time.

Nantes fire chief Patrick Lambert told Reuters the crew switched off the engine as they extinguished a "good-sized" fire in the engine, probably caused by a fuel or oil line break in the engine.

Fire officials say they were following protocols.

But Ed Burkhardt, the chairman of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, says the engine had been left on by the train's engineer to maintain pressure in the air brakes.

He says as the pressure gradually "leaked off", the air brakes failed and the train began to slide downhill.

The train derailed 12 kilometres away in Lac-Megantic.
The we-said-they-said is well underway:

Quote:
Mr Lambert says fire crews told a company dispatcher what they did at the time, but says there was no discussion of the brakes.

"We were there for the train fire. As for the inspection of the train after the fact, that was up to them," he said.

It is not immediately clear what the dispatcher did after speaking with the fire service.

Mr Burkhardt says the fire service should have also tried to contact the train's operator, who was staying at a nearby hotel.

"If the engine was shut off, someone should have made a report to the local railroad about that," he said.
This looks like a job for .... CAPTAIN HINDSIGHT!


ZenGum  Tuesday Jul 9 01:25 AM

Here's my first Captain Hindsight moment:

Why do train brakes work that way?

Truck brakes (also called Bendix brakes) work the opposite way: you have to put pressure in the system to release the brakes, not to activate them. That way, if there is a leak and the system fails, all brakes slam fully on immediately. This is why you occasionally see massive 22-wheel skid marks down the highway.

Why the bleep do trains have brakes that release when the system fails?



BigV  Tuesday Jul 9 11:20 AM

still burning as of 8 am GMT +8.



Diaphone Jim  Tuesday Jul 9 01:26 PM

Train air-brakes do operate on the same principle as truck brakes.
It is unreasonable to expect the Chairman of the railway to know this.
What a terrible scene.



Lamplighter  Tuesday Jul 9 01:51 PM

We've all seen it in the movies
... lighting the covered wagon on fire and rolling it downhill to burn out the bad guys holed up in the canyon,
... lighting the relic ship on fire and sailing it into the pirate fleet,

This was just the townspeople of Nantes settling their tiff with Lac-Megantic



Oh I forgot, insert "What if I told you ... " above that.



CaliforniaMama  Tuesday Jul 9 03:35 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZenGum View Post
The we-said-they-said is well underway: <snip> This looks like a job for .... CAPTAIN HINDSIGHT!
Mr Lambert says fire crews told a company dispatcher what they did at the time, but says there was no discussion of the brakes.

"We were there for the train fire. As for the inspection of the train after the fact, that was up to them," he said.


Sounds reasonable to me.

It is not immediately clear what the dispatcher did after speaking with the fire service.

Mr Burkhardt says the fire service should have also tried to contact the train's operator, who was staying at a nearby hotel.

"If the engine was shut off, someone should have made a report to the local railroad about that," he said.


Didn't they attempt to do that when they contacted the dispatcher?

Plus, earlier it says:


Ed Burkhardt, the chairman of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, says the engine had been left on by the train's engineer to maintain pressure in the air brakes.

He says as the pressure gradually "leaked off", the air brakes failed and the train began to slide downhill.


That implies that the engineer knew about the fire and knew that the firefighters turned the engine off since it clearly says the engineer left the engine on. He must have turned it back on after the firefighters were finished, right?

Sounds like the engineer was trying to follow protocol.

From the information presented here, I say the engineer is at fault for not inspecting the engine and making sure that the problem was fixed since the operation of the engine was vital to the operation of the brakes. He knows the machine better than anyone and he knew there had been a fire from some type of problem with a fuel or oil line leak.

It was up to him to fully inspect and make sure his engine was safe for operation. If that fuel or oil line leaked again, it may have caused the engine to be unable to maintain the pressure in the brakes . . .

Although, it could be a case of the company not keeping their equipment up-to-date and in good working order because they wanted the bottom line to look good at all times.



ZenGum  Tuesday Jul 9 08:55 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diaphone Jim View Post
Train air-brakes do operate on the same principle as truck brakes.
It is unreasonable to expect the Chairman of the railway to know this.
"unreasonable"? I do expect them to know this, even when there hasn't just been a disaster, and when there has been a brake-related disaster, I'd expect them to learn the facts before speaking publicly.

Perhaps I am a tad naive.

But if you're right about the brakes (and I suspect you are) then ... how did this all happen again?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CaliforniaMama View Post


Mr Lambert says fire crews told a company dispatcher what they did at the time, but says there was no discussion of the brakes.

"We were there for the train fire. As for the inspection of the train after the fact, that was up to them," he said.


Sounds reasonable to me.

It is not immediately clear what the dispatcher did after speaking with the fire service.

Mr Burkhardt says the fire service should have also tried to contact the train's operator, who was staying at a nearby hotel.

"If the engine was shut off, someone should have made a report to the local railroad about that," he said.


Didn't they attempt to do that when they contacted the dispatcher?


This was my reading at first, but I think "company dispatcher" refers to the emergency operator (dispatcher) of the fire "company", not the train company.

Quote:

Plus, earlier it says:
Quote:

Ed Burkhardt, the chairman of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, says the engine had been left on by the train's engineer to maintain pressure in the air brakes.

He says as the pressure gradually "leaked off", the air brakes failed and the train began to slide downhill.


That implies that the engineer knew about the fire and knew that the firefighters turned the engine off since it clearly says the engineer left the engine on. He must have turned it back on after the firefighters were finished, right?

Sounds like the engineer was trying to follow protocol.

From the information presented here, I say the engineer is at fault for not inspecting the engine and making sure that the problem was fixed since the operation of the engine was vital to the operation of the brakes. He knows the machine better than anyone and he knew there had been a fire from some type of problem with a fuel or oil line leak.

It was up to him to fully inspect and make sure his engine was safe for operation. If that fuel or oil line leaked again, it may have caused the engine to be unable to maintain the pressure in the brakes . . .


Again, my reading is that the engineer stopped the train, left the engine and handbrake on, and went off to the hotel to sleep the night. (what, trains can't run at night in Canada???) The fire occurred, the fire crew put it out and turned off the engine. The train driver was - I think - never informed of the fire or the engine shut-down.

If Nantes is the same sort of whistlestop town as Lac Megantic, they might just have a small or even volunteer-only fire brigade, and between them and an undertrained dispatcher, I could well imagine them getting this minor (but important) detail wrong. "Fire's out, leave it til morning to survey the damage" seems reasonable.

Quote:
Although, it could be a case of the company not keeping their equipment up-to-date and in good working order because they wanted the bottom line to look good at all times.
Well, that was my first suspicion.


xoxoxoBruce  Tuesday Jul 9 09:22 PM

I wonder how the tank cars became detached from the engines, after the whole train began to roll.



BigV  Tuesday Jul 9 10:15 PM

it was a train of all tank cars, as I understand. I reckon they became detached when the train derailed going around a curve too fast.



SPUCK  Wednesday Jul 10 07:19 AM

Often called rolling pipelines, trains just loaded with crude tankers.

I read that there were two engines. When last did you see a single engine freight train?? Not to mention rolling pipelines with one engine! The last rolling pipeline I saw had 5 engines on the front, seven engines in the center and 3 pushers on the rear. 13 engines total! So I'd bet there were at least two on this one.

I read that one engine had a traction motor fire (the 500hp motors that run each axle). The fire department AND the train personal determined, due to the nature of the blaze, that it was a fuel leak exacerbated by the engine still running and thereby providing fuel pressure. It was jointly determined by both parties that the affected engine should be shut down but that the 2nd engine needed to be left ON to provide air.

The fire and fire trucks were noted by an observant farmer who's land was adjacent to the event. After the fire was extinguished the fire engines departed. Sometime later (~30minutes) he witnessed the entire train roll by - uniquely without lights. Approximately 10 minutes later he witnessed brilliant flashes accompanied by large blasts from the direction of Lac-Megantic.



xoxoxoBruce  Wednesday Jul 10 09:49 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigV View Post
it was a train of all tank cars, as I understand. I reckon they became detached when the train derailed going around a curve too fast.
No.
Quote:
Sometime shortly after, the unattended train began to roll away, toward Lac-Megantic -- investigators are still looking for the cause. The crude oil cars, rolling downhill, broke free of the locomotives and picked up speed, derailing at a curve in the center of Lac-Megantic,...



Lamplighter  Wednesday Jul 10 06:04 PM

Edward Burkhardt, president and CEO of the railway's parent company,
Rail World Inc., is throwing the engineer under the train...

Fox News

Quote:
The head of the U.S. railway company whose runaway oil train
crashed into a Quebec town blamed the engineer Wednesday
for failing to set the brakes properly before the train hurtled down
a seven-mile (11-kilometer) incline, ...

He said the engineer has been suspended without pay and was under police supervision.



Sundae  Thursday Jul 11 01:18 AM

Wednesday's a cool name.



ZenGum  Thursday Jul 11 04:06 AM

Chuckles.

This Top Manager seems very quick to put the blame on other people. We all know what % chance it is that this will be directly traceable to him. I bet he's got an MBA. No, no, his is an MBA.



Lamplighter  Thursday Jul 11 08:18 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sundae View Post
Wednesday's a cool name.
So is Sundae and Tuesday. But I've never met a Thursday.


Sundae  Thursday Jul 11 12:47 PM

Ever read Jasper Fforde?
His heroine is Thursday Next.

I recommend most highly.



footfootfoot  Friday Jul 12 12:46 PM

When I was 17 I rode my bike from Maine to Quebec with a friend. We rode right through Lac Megantic. That was the summer of 1977.

That's all I got on this, except when I was in college there was a propane truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a bridge abutment. Huge fireball incinerated everything nearby. It was on 287 near White Plains, NY. My daily morning commute.

I couldn't find any photos, but it looked a lot like the Lac Megantic photos.



glatt  Friday Jul 12 01:01 PM

I didn't realize when I first heard the news reports about this how close it is to Maine. Wasn't until a few days later when I looked it up on Google Earth that I saw it's only 10 miles from Maine.

I wonder if the train hadn't derailed in that spot, if the tracks would have led them into Maine.

*heads off to Google Earth again*



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