"Crude oil is not the problem here."The information void following the tragedy led to much speculation as is usually the case.
"It's what it crashed into."
Chalmers Hardenbergh, editor of Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports
As we are now learning, several factors that were not reported are shedding light on the disaster.
A fire on the locomotive two hours earlier in a neighboring town resulted in the engine being shut off.
“The lead engine was left running because that was necessary to keep the brakes on. Somebody got on the locomotive and shut it down. And it didn’t take very long for the brakes to leak off … and the train ran away,”
Eastern Railroad News
While Burkhardt said he had “some speculation” as to who shut off the engine, he said he isn’t “making the allegation that this was sabotage or someone doing this on purpose or terrorism or anything like that. I just don’t know.”Crude oil is not shipped under pressure and does not explode, according to Hardenbergh. However, propane is shipped in pressurized cars and will explode violently. The Ghost train carried no propane, however there are reports that the train collided with four gas tankers that were parked on a spur line in Lac-Megantic.
Some have suggested the engine may have been shut off by firefighters who came in to quench flames in the train around midnight Friday.
Kevin Burkholder, editor of Vermont-based Eastern Railroad News, said...
it appears that the train derailed at a curve and slammed into railroad cars carrying liquid propane. He said a Lac-Megantic resident, a "rail fan" who monitors activity at the yard, told him that he saw four propane cars Friday on the same storage track.Burkholder said aerial photographs show that the vast majority of the tank cars carrying oil remain "intact and solid." He said the same explosion might have happened if the Ghost Train had been carrying any other cargo.
This was not Montreal Maine & Atlantic’s first runaway train.
And at least two of these incidents involved brakes that failed and rail cars that rolled away unmanned, just as they did early Saturday morning.The term "perfect storm" is overused, and I personally dislike it unless used in the context of weather, but seemingly unrelated events rained hell on Lac-Mégantic. There was nothing perfect about it. It is IMHO, a trainwreck that led to a trainwreck.