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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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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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
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5w1yp3qq21A]Runaway Train on the Nepisiguit Sub Part 1/5 - YouTube[/ame]



PART 2
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYy5llU03tk]Runaway Train on the Nepisiguit Sub Part 2/5 - YouTube[/ame]



PART 3
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpsjtgjSHEI]Runaway Train on the Nepisiguit Sub Part 3/5 - YouTube[/ame]



PART 4
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSbh4q40kGo]Runaway Train on the Nepisiguit Sub Part 4/5 - YouTube[/ame]



PART 5
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iim-iG4Yz0U]Runaway Train on the Nepisiguit Sub Part 5/5 - YouTube[/ame]
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
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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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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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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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
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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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. :cool:

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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Thanks for that explanation. :cool:

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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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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The short answer is no.

Maybe having sections of the train's air brakes "pumped up" and tested before adding additional sections. Might prove less time consuming. That would provide more breaking power vs. mass (weight) than just relying on the brakes of the locomotives as a safety measure.
 

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Just heard on the news that there had been an engine fire in the lead locomotive a couple of hours before the runaway. Engine was shut down, fire out and Railway personnel on the scene before the firefighters left.

May turn into a criminal investigation.
 

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May turn into a criminal investigation.
Reports I read on the web would indicate a criminal investigation is already under way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Incredible video... these folks are 'way too close to the remaining rail cars... things really start popping at about 3:30 into the video... Quite a lot of expletives... in English and French...

+ YouTube Video
ERROR: If you can see this, then YouTube is down or you don't have Flash installed.
 

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Just heard on the news that there had been an engine fire in the lead locomotive a couple of hours before the runaway. Engine was shut down, fire out and Railway personnel on the scene before the firefighters left.

May turn into a criminal investigation.
I don't know the operating rules for this railway company (MM&A) but as matter of practical practice, when I worked around railway equipment and the "Rules" for operating employees, was you manually apply sufficient (mechanical) hand brakes to hold the equipment in place. Chains might also be required to be placed in front of and behind the wheel to hold the equipment in place (Locomotive, tank, flat or box car) a couple examples of the types of hand brakes.




The above brakes should hold whether the Locomotives were shut down or running. The proper chains would also do the job. Sounds to me as if the CEO is protecting his ass...ets.

With unattended equipment in an unprotected yard there should have been portable or permanent mechanical derail devices on either end of the train/yard locked in the operating (derail) position just to prevent an accident such as this one in Lac Mégantic. The rail cars at a very slow speed would fall of the track. A "derail" is a railcar wheel on the ground. Having this happen a a slow speed would not cause the cars to fall over.



Derail - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

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But all of these precautions are time-consuming, right? ;)

BTW, he has now stated that an MM&A train will never again be left unattended.

Yep, close that there barn door.
 

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But all of these precautions are time-consuming, right? ;)

BTW, he has now stated that an MM&A train will never again be left unattended.

Yep, close that there barn door.
Depending on how many brakes it could be 10 to 30 seconds per brake and a little walking. The derail if available would be a minute(s) to apply plus the walk.

The securing of the train would minimal cost. Even if the cost were slightly more substantial the cost of paying for this accident could run into how many dollars?
 

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No ones knows, yet.

And the actual cost in human lives can never be repaid.
 

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Yeah...almost like he pushed the train down the hill himself. Jeezuz...

The decision to approve single engineers was made by Transport Canada, not PMSH's Office.

As usual, you never let facts get in the way of a good rant, do you? Here, GHG thread or anywhere else, for that matter.
 
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