Lac Mégantic Rail Disaster - ehMac.ca
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 12:09 PM   #1
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Lac Mégantic Rail Disaster

Surprised this hasn't come up as a thread... two days' old now...

Lac-Mégantic's tragedy is a most unnatural disaster


On a beautiful summer night, we are to believe, 73 driverless cars of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway somehow came broke loose on a siding near Nantes, 12 kilometres to the west of town, and began rolling quietly, unnoticed, down the hilly incline, gathering speed in their “inertia’’ — no power other than gravity — aiming right at the heart of an unsuspecting community at the bottom.

The brakes and safety system were apparently functional, nothing to worry about, when the engineer had departed just before midnight for a comfortable bed at a local hotel. A replacement was slated to come aboard later during the night.

If there were anti-derail safety devices on the track — designed to guide cars off the rails at selected spots, as protection against collisions — they clearly did not work. Heedless, that bulk of metal and — most ruinously, crude oil tankers — escalated towards Lac-Megantic, hurtling into the downtown district, its locomotive breaking free at some point before the crash, a mere 9 metres from the Musi-Café, a popular and Saturday-night crowded bar.

Those fortunate to escape the resulting inferno fled on foot, some even jumping into boats that roared off into the waters offshore, beyond the explosions and flames and eye-singing heat. The sky, said residents, turned from black to vivid orange and red — the colours of warning-label danger, still so hellfire hot late Sunday afternoon that firefighters who’d rushed to the scene from as far away as Sherbrooke and Maine, across the border, could approach no closer than 150 metres distant of two fuel cars that remained burning.

The guts of Lac-Megantic have been spilled, reduced to ashes. All those suburban commercial totems — the Dollarama store, the Metro supermarket — businesses and restaurants razed, on the scorched earth of a 5-square-kilometre central district. Worst of all, besides the five bodies that had been recovered by last night, upwards of 40 people still missing, perhaps “vaporized’’ in the fireball — many of them, it seems, Musi-Café patrons who never saw death coming.

If a loved one in Lac-Megantic hasn’t come home yet, they may never be coming home.
(Toronto Star)

Related: Devastated Lac-Mégantic waits for word of its missing - Montreal - CBC News



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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 01:53 PM   #2
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Here is a recording of a heavily loaded (ore) train Brunswick Mines in New Brunswick circa 1987. The train had the engines on it and shunting loaded zinck and lead ore. The brakes (air brakes) were not hooked up there for there were effectively no brakes on the train.

The engines pulled too far ahead and the cars started to roll with inertia like the the cars in the Lac Mégantic Rail Disaster. The only person on the train was CN engineer Wesley MacDonald. The following is the conversations that followed.

The audio is as dramatic as a radio play

PART 1



PART 2



PART 3



PART 4



PART 5
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 02:46 PM   #3
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BigDL: Riveting. Edge-of-the-seat stuff - thanks for posting.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 03:24 PM   #4
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Lac-Mégantic Disaster Now a Criminal Investigation as Deaths Mount
Five people are dead and at least 40 are still missing a day after a runaway train derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, igniting explosions and fires that destroyed a busy downtown district. Lac-Megantic, a lakeside town of 6,000 circled by forests of pine and birch, is in the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec, about 160 miles east of Montreal and close to the border with Maine and Vermont. About 2,000 people, a third of the population, were evacuated. The flames were finally extinguished by firefighters on Sunday evening, more than 40 hours after the disaster struck.

(SNIP)

"Ed Burkhardt, chairman of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, said Sunday night that the train’s sole engineer shut down four of the five locomotive units on the train, as is standard procedure, in the neighbouring community of Nantes before heading to Lac Mégantic to sleep. Burkhardt said the next engineer was probably due to arrive at daybreak.

But someone managed to shut down the fifth locomotive unit, he said. That’s the one that maintained brake pressure to keep the train in place.

“If the operating locomotive is shut down, there’s nothing left to keep the brakes charged up, and the brake pressure will drop finally to the point where they can’t be held in place any longer,” Burkhardt said.

There are two ways to shut down the fifth unit: There’s an emergency lever on the outside of the locomotive that anyone wandering by could access. Or, there are a number of levers and buttons inside the unlocked cabin.

Both means were used, said Burkhardt."
(Crooks & Liars)
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 05:49 PM   #5
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Holy crap.

Has this dullard ever heard about Westinghouse brakes?

When air pressure is lost the breaks come ON.

There is a pressure tank on every car that does this job.

I doubt the pressure was lost at all, which makes you ask "why not".

Pressure supplied by the locomotive should drop when it's switch-off"?
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 06:27 PM   #6
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The crew were shunting cars at the mine site. The air brake cocks on the locomotive were cut out (off position) to the hopper cars.

The only brakes were the brakes on the locomotive. The brakes on the locomotive were not sufficient to stop the mass of the ore hopper cars pushing the engine down the grade. The brakes on the locomotive were applied initially then overcome by the forces of gravity, mass and inertia.

The grade of the hill (gravity,) the mass of the train and inertia forced the locomotive engine up to speeds up to 70 Mph. What stopped the train was friction, when the train derailed of the tracks onto its side into the ground. Inertia was overcome by the force of friction.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 06:29 PM   #7
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8 more bodies found in Lac-Mégantic, raising death toll to 13
Eight more bodies have been found in Lac-Mégantic, bringing the official body count up to 13 people after a runaway train carrying crude oil set off a series of explosions and flattened the town's busy downtown.

Some 50 people are said to be missing, including the 13 bodies that have been recovered since the train derailed at about 1 a.m. ET Saturday.

Police are asking family members to provide DNA samples, from things like toothbrushes and combs, from their missing relatives in order to help investigators identify bodies.

About 2,000 residents were forced to leave their homes on Saturday, but 1,500 of those evacuees may be able to return home as soon as Tuesday.
(CBC)
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 06:40 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigDL View Post
The crew were shunting cars at the mine site. The air brake cocks on the locomotive were cut out (off position) to the hopper cars.

The only brakes were the brakes on the locomotive. The brakes on the locomotive were not sufficient to stop the mass of the ore hopper cars pushing the engine down the grade. The brakes on the locomotive were applied initially then overcome by the forces of gravity, mass and inertia.

The grade of the hill (gravity,) the mass of the train and inertia forced the locomotive engine up to speeds up to 70 Mph. What stopped the train was friction, when the train derailed of the tracks onto its side into the ground. Inertia was overcome by the force of friction.
Thanks for that explanation.

Another question then.

Are the cocks cut off out of necessity, or expediency, to eliminate any delay in getting the air lines back up to operating pressure?
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 07:22 PM   #9
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Thanks for that explanation.

Another question then.

Are the cocks cut off out of necessity, or expediency, to eliminate any delay in getting the air lines back up to operating pressure?
While the crew were shunting if every car that was added to the train if the cars would then have to be "pumped up" with air to the operating "brake pipe" pressure and tested before moving again, it would be very time consumming.

Normally the train would be "picked up" (put together) as cars are attached, air hose (glad hands) attached to each other when new cars are added. After the train was put together then air brakes would be "pumped up" once, and tested before the train would go anywhere.

This was the common practice at the mine. An error was made (not calculating the distance/cars) when too many cars were added to the train, and then the Locomotives went beyond the "fail safe point" in the switching yard.
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Old Jul 8th, 2013, 07:39 PM   #10
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In summation, it normally works, but Human error intervened.

Could some sort of stress gauge could be put on the coupling from the locomotive to the first car, to give some warning that the load was reaching the fail-safe point?
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