Skip to comments.Lac Megantic explosion: Controversies and contradictions amid the despair (LOCOMOTIVES FOUND by LSM)
Posted on 07/11/2013 3:50:03 PM PDT by Paladin2
Five locomotives, the front end of a death train, sit almost completely hidden on a shabby stretch of track nestled within lakeside bush.
A person could pull the stakes out of the rotting and splintered ties with one good yank. Yet this corroded rail line held fast against the wheels of a runaway trains forward section the stubby head of the beast with no engineer at the switch, no human manipulating any of the route.
How this severed section of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railroad freight train got to this location remains a matter of speculation. Officials wont even reveal when these engines were found, far beyond the fatal jumping off spot where the rest of the 72-car haul crashed into the soft underbelly of central Lac-Mégantic.
To get from there to here, these locomotives would have rolled on right through town, clear around the bend of the bay and then curved back in the opposite direction about a kilometre in distance from the full-bore impact epicentre.
There was enough forward thrust momentum from the trains 11-kilometre downhill slide the gradation incline between neighbouring Nantes and Lac-Mégantic to send this uncoupled hunk of engines hurtling round that entire hook of shoreline before it slowed down to a full stop, causing not a shred of damage.
This is the other crime scene, according to RCMP officers whove been guarding the far-flung rump of train squatting in its bucolic arbour since Sunday. Only on Tuesday did investigators with the Transportation Safety Board catch up with the wayward locomotives as evidence of interest. But of course attention has been focused on the ground zero wreckage of derailed fuel cars that exploded into successive fireballs shortly after midnight ...
(Excerpt) Read more at thestar.com ...
I can’t believe this railroad company is going to survive this.
Check the bank accounts and travel plans of all “Asian” employees. I use Asian in the British way.
Its shutting the engine off that did this, said Burkhardt.
If they designed cars like that, San Francisco would be in a lick of trouble. How about an interlock device that prevents you from turning off a train's engine when it's parked on a hill?
Its shutting the engine off that did this, said Burkhardt."
Shutting off an engine when the fire is being fed by fuel leaks from the engine running is low level common sense.
It's leaving a train unattended for hours, held on a grade by a 27 to 37 yr old running engine that is a risky business.
There is no doubt where this reporter's sympathies lie: anti-fracking, anti-fossil fuels, anti-business, full socialist. Some of her prejudices may, in fact, be well directed -- but I wouldn't trust her judgment on anything.
How about setting the hand brakes as required when left stopped.
Indeed ... hard to believe the handbrakes on the engines were engaged when they traveled so far including a stretch uphill.
Interesting. Did the locomotives derail? How they came to be de-coupled needs to be answered. Could this be ELF at work?
Would have been simple to get the train rolling, de-couple the locomotives on level ground and out run it under power. The unpowered train takes awhile to pick up speed on the incline, you cruise through town, the tank cars don’t
I could see that the engines with a lower center of gravity passing the curve that tips over the tank cars. As the tank cars tip from the locomotives, they could twist apart leaving the locomotives on the tracks while spilling the tank cars behind.
Only a theory, might be completely false. But possible knowing the difference between the engines and the tanks.
Twisting enough to derail is one thing, twisting enough to de-couple without derailing the locomotives, I have a problem with. I’m not one to jump to conclusions and shout conspiracy, this one doesn’t pass the smell test though
I'd suggest that these early cars overturned trying to get through the yard, tearing up the track(s) in the process until the following cars started to dig into the ground and block the following cars. The locomotives tend to have 3 axle trucks on each end and being as heavy as they are and having a lower center of gravity are tougher to derail.
Some are now suggesting that there may have been 4 propane cars sitting in the yard so now that may have to be factored in.
There were some independent brakes likely set in the individual locomotives.
I am up Canada way, but a long way from Lac Megantic. There is a wealth of graphic information in this post. I should have quit while ahead on FR regarding this awful tragedy. Still, I will offer what I have gleaned from being glued to Canadian television.
We are informed that there are stringent regulations when an engineer leaves his locomotive and freight. Hand set brakes must be applied according to the length etc of his freight. We are told by some railroad men, that in order to save time and money, sometimes an engineer will leave the engine on to power the brakes. He then does not set the hand brakes.
The railroad executive now says the engineer told him that he had set eleven hand brakes. In the next breath, the executive threw the engineer under the bus. He claimed the engineer did not do this.
You will probably know this and excuse the ramble. What I did learn from this post is how the five engines did not derail. One is never too old to learn. When they subpoena the engineer, we will know more. Last year the Transport Board lifted the mandatory regulation that there must be two engineers on board. One only was then scheduled by the railroad company. One wonders what would happen if the one engineer became ill while operating, or a sudden lurch caused him to fall and become incapable
One answer would be to have more high tech communication between the engineer and the "dispatcher" so as to monitor the engineer's vital signs. Many trucks have broadcasting GPS devices so a fleet can be tracked in near real time on a map. It would seem that RRs could do the same. Put broadcasting Web cams in the cab and on the end-of-train device.
It also seems fairly straight forward to have a remote control available to the 'dispatcher to hit the "train" air brakes, throttle down the locomotives, and what ever else is electronically controllable. Even to the point of operating the trains in drone fashion.
Not if someone is driving them
Waiting to see what investigation reveals. Rail car couplings aren’t small and tend to hold well although they are quite easy to disengage with a simple handle
The only two photos of the rear of the trailing locomotive I’ve seen do not include any info about the state of the rear coupler.
Still, modern times are here. (chuckle)
Pic of MMA oil train with buffer car between locos and string of tanks and the RC caboose behind the lead loco.
See also: http://www.easternrailroadnews.com/2012/05/09/mma-prepares-for-daily-ops-in-canada-with-one-person-crews/
That might explain the explosion better than a simple (although apparently energetic) derailment of crude tankers. Colliding with stationary propane cars might be enough to produce the sort of explosion and ensuing conflagration reported.
Sure crude will burn, and burn well--we had a multi-vehicle accident here where a crude hauler (semi) was involved and the vehicles burned when the tanker ruptured--but there was no explosion, just a big fire.
Thanks for posting that link.
Bookmark oil train wreck investigation
I'd suggest that the box car on its side with fire oxidation of the aft end was coupled to the other three tank cars in the pic. It was the "buffer" car attached to the rear of the last locomotive. Its position wrt the inside track indicates that it was accurately following the locomotive directly in front of it, but was rolled over by rollovers of tanks cars somewhere to its rear.
Not being argumentative. My whole line of questioning of this wreck is, were the locomotives attached to the rest of the train when they went through town. Just seems odd that five locomotives , unmanned, make it through unscathed and everything else derails. I’ve not read or heard anything officially suggesting sabotage and won’t jump to that conclusion. There must not be any kind of video or it would have surfaced by now
It seems that it happened. Computer modeling based on variations of combinations of track curvature, train speed, track banking and vehicle characteristics would potentially explain the "how".
As you noted, the locomotives are heavier, lower center of gravity and will track better with three axles per truck. Thus, they are less likely to derail when going through switches and curves.
However, the first car in the following train that had its manual brakes set would be a prime candidate to derail, dig in and take everything behind it off the track.
That is, the train would probably "break" at the first car which had its manual brakes locked. If there were any, that is.
If you look at the cars strewn in the LM rail yard ahead/beyond of the pile up it amounts to maybe eight - pretty close to the 11 hand braked claimed by the engineer.
I speculate that putting the hand brake on a car could be affected by the fact of having the main train air brake on. When the air brake leaks away, the forces in the brake pad generated by the hand brake setting could change (reduce).
Then there are the thermal effects (diurnal temps, letting the train's brakes cool after it is parked) on the various linkages and geometries (wheel diameter, brake levers, linkages, etc.).