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( crossposted from my Gearhead Grrrl blog )

Back in the 80s when railroads were going bankrupt left and right, Ed Burkhardt got a heck of a deal on a Canadian Pacific line from Chicago to the Saint paul and some assorted branch lines. CP had just overbid on the remains of the Milwaukee Road, needed cash fast to pay for the railroad they expected to be overbid for, and Ed Burkhardt was in the right place at the right time.

But when it came to actually running the railroad he named the Wisconsin Central, Ed Burkhardt couldn’t do anything right. The IT system and paperwork were so hopeless that dispatchers asked train crews to creep by railcars parked in the sidings and read of the cars numbers… They had no idea what all railcars were on their line and what waylaid cargos they contained! For weeks on end, railcars and cargo rolled up and down the railroad, sometimes passing their actual destination multiple times. And those were slow trains of lost cars, pulled by a fleet of cast off locomotives so unreliable that they’d be sent out with twice as many locomotives as needed, in hopes enough would keep running to make it home.

Eventually Ed Burkhardt’s Wisconsin Central became a reliably mediocre railroad, well suited to low value cargo that was in no hurry to go nowhere. Then in 1996, after regular garden variety derailments and such, Wisconsin Central managed to pile up a few cars of quite flammable HazMat it a small Wisconsin town. The blaze was so intense that firefighters had to retreat and watch the fire burn out while over two thousand residents were evacuated for two weeks. Wisconsin Central paid out 27 million in damages, and a couple years later Ed Burkhardt cashed out, selling his joke of a railroad to Canadian National.

Now at this point a sane man would have figured out railroading wasn’t his calling and retire, but Ed Burkhardt and his backers went and bought some more railroads. Railroading, properly done, is a “hands on” business, to the point that the better railroads like CP send their dispatchers out to ride on the tracks they’ll be dispatching and a BNSF executive lost his life a few years back when a wayward truck hit the locomotive he was riding in. But Ed Burkhardt bought railroads in Maine and Quebec, New Zealand, Great Britain, and Eastern Europe… And is trying to run them all from an office in the suburbs in Chicago! And run it was, just like the Wisconsin Central, with a continuing perverse legacy of deferred maintainence and derailments. And just to juice the profits a bit more, they cut the crew to one and ran even longer unit trains of anything that paid, hazmat included!

So a couple days back a train on Ed Burkhardt’s MM&A Railroad in Quebec has one of it’s five locomotives catch fire… Yup, still running locomotives so unreliable that they send out twice as many as needed to move the train. The local fire service dealt with that, and the sole crew member considered his train parked and headed to a hotel for the night. Now parking a train is no minor endeavor- even if they’re just parking a piece of lightweight maintainence equipment on the siding in my little town, the BNSF crews will set both the air brakes and handbrakes, set a block called a “derail” on the track to keep anything from moving just in case, and padlock the switch so it can’t be miss thrown. With a train near a mile long and all by himself, the MM&A engineer would have had to walk nearly a mile with a heavy derail while setting handbrakes, then walk back near another mile to catch a cab to his hotel. I suspect a few of those steps may have been missed. Real railroads don’t leave trainloads of HazMat in the middle of nowhere, they hate to even park ‘em in their railyards where they can keep an eye on them.

Ed Burkhardt’s rail “empire’ is now effectively bankrupt, the damages from this tragedy far exceeding the value of the assets. Now you’d think Ed would finally ‘fess up that he’d screwed up as an opening plea in a possible felony prosecution. But no, Ed’s blaming everybody but himself and his joke of a railroad empire. Other day he hinted at sabotage, then his excuse was that someone shut off the fire damaged locomotive… If the brakes were set properly, that shouldn’t matter. Today Ed claims that it wasn’t the crude oil in his runaway train that fueled the inferno, it was four cars of propane that his train of crude hit whilst racing out of control that burned. And how did Ed divine this knowledge? A railfan along the tracks informed him… Yup, nearly two decades experience at mismanaging a railroad, and Ed Burkhardt still doesn’t know what railcars are on his joke of a railroad!

It’s the same in the pipeline biz… Some operators will go years without spilling a drop, and that drop will be cleaned up before EPA even gets started on the paperwork. Others buy a rusty old pipeline, up the pressure to make more profit, ignore the leaks, and lawyer up when the big spill happens. Same thing in trucking- I’ve been following the saga online of a manager recently hired to keep a fly by night trucking company from getting shut down by the DOT… My bet is the company wants him to get them just organized enough to avoid gettin’ shut down, then they’ll lay him off. And even after amassing a bad enough safety record to get shut down, these chameleon fly by night trucking operations seem to re-emerge with the same unsafe trucks and drivers under a new name… And the same corporate customers looking for the cheapest rates!

So the solution isn’t to plug the pipeline or derail the railroad… Heck, there’s idiots out there that could burn down a town with solar power and drop a wind turbine on a helpless crowd. The solution is to kick the cowboys, gypos, fly by night operators, and clowns that shouldn’t be entrusted with a tricycle out of the transportation industry… Let the professionals that follow best practices and don’t care if they charge the lowest rates take their place.  

Originally posted to GearheadGrrrl on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 06:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'll bet he's a Republican, too... (13+ / 0-)

    ..."party of business" my pasty white tuchis!

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 07:05:04 AM PDT

  •  Maybe he'll retire now (5+ / 0-)

    heaven help us if he decides to go in the pipeline biz.

  •  Let's wait a bit (5+ / 0-)

    before rushing to judgement on this.  
    It appears that of the four or five locomotives that were checked AFTER the fire, one of the engines should have been kept running - in order for the brakes (and perhaps auxillary power/head end power) to remain in their proper state.  Someone - not necessarily the train operator - may have shut down that locomotive - thinking that it was safer because of the earlier fire.

    Yes, Ed didn't permit unions on his WC.  However, to write a comment like "Real railroads don’t leave trainloads of HazMat in the middle of nowhere" shows ignorance of the railroad operating  environment.  It's not like a train operator gets to pick and choose which parking lot at a certain time and location he/she gets to park the train.

    •  ... (8+ / 0-)
      Someone - not necessarily the train operator - may have shut down that locomotive - thinking that it was safer because of the earlier fire.
      Who would have done that ? The firemen ? If it was them , wasn't the train operator there after the firemen left ? If the train operator was there and didn't restart a locomotive ...
      shows ignorance of the railroad operating  environment.
      "ignorance" is a rather unpleasant word , you can disagree without being disagreeable .

      The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. David Morrison

      by indycam on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 08:21:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Railroad rulebooks require... (23+ / 0-)

      Securing enough handbrakes that the train won't roll off even if the locomotives are disconnected. Reportedly where the train was parked is a 1% downgrade, and it'd take a lot of handbrakes to hold the train on that grade. Perhaps the last engineer "bottled up the air" in the railcars so the next engineer wouldn't have had to spend 15 minutes pumping the pressure back up, and maybe set the handbrakes on only the locomotives?

      I understand shortline operations, and the ones near me leave trains parked all the time. But those are trainloads of grain, they intentionally park in spots where a train is unlikely to roll away, they have two person crews, and they haul harmless stuff like grain. And BTW, US DOT requires that trucks carrying explosives be staffed even when parked, and a unit train of oil has more potential for harm but isn't required to be supervised... That's a loophole the DOT should look at closing!

    •  according to some stories I've read online (12+ / 0-)

      The firefighters said that they shut down the engine, because the engine that was running was the one that was burning, and the fuel supply to the engine was effectively the fuel supply to the fire.

      The firefighters said they then informed the railway that they had done this, and left. Some stories say there was a railway rep there after they left. Some stories say that it was 5 minutes after they left that the train slowly began to proceed down the track.

      Which would imply once again that the handbrakes were not set and the whole train being stopped depended on the engine being on, the engine that was on fire....

      The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated

      by beverlywoods on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 10:07:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There are some differences in various timelines (6+ / 0-)

        that are available on-line.  Some say the firefighters arrived around 11:30, other version say closer to midnight.

        The fire chief has said that the department had trained with RR personnel in the past, and that the firefighters had followed agreed-upon procedures.

        The fire chief then said that he was told not to make further public comment.

        The head of the RR, who two days ago was praising the train engineer as a hero, now says that the engineer did not adequately set the brakes, and that he has been canned.

        Link.

        Air brakes are generally reliable, but they sometimes fail, for various reasons.  The safety-conscious SOP is never to rely solely on air brakes.  The diarist has it exactly right... air brakes, hand brakes, and a derail.... that's what should have been done to secure the train if it was to be left standing, especially on a gradient.

    •  Wait for what? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LilithGardener, salmo
      It's not like a train operator gets to pick and choose which parking lot at a certain time and location he/she gets to park the train.
      If not the train operator, then who?

      Say a gun owner leaves the room after putting a loaded gun on the table where a nine year old is coloring in a book. Say tragedy ensues. I'm thinking it's pretty clear that the gun owner bears responsibility. Even if there is an earthquake or an alien invasion that caused the gun owner to leave the room.

    •  According to everything I've had a chance to (7+ / 0-)

      read, the engineer left the train before the small fire in one of the engines broke out.  Also, the last railroad person who had contact with the train before it ran away was a track inspector or the like who had very little experience wth locomotives.  Possibly he didn't understand how to make sure the air brakes were supposed to work.

      I'm not claiming any expertise here.  One thing, though, is that I'm darned tired of listening to government members, municipal officials, railway officials, union officials, etc. all pontificating but basically passing the buck and taking refuge in having to complete the investigation first.  There's something to be said for that but not everything.

      I cannot understand why the train was parked at Nantes at the top of a fairly steep grade in the first place.  Or why they could get away with only one crew member.  Or where the heck was the crew member who was supposed to replace the engineer?  It looks as if MM&A was going to leave the train unattended overnight.  

      A couple of weeks ago, the Mayor of Calgary was furious that cities and municipalities have not the slightet control over what railways do inside municipal boundaries.  (About six or seven oil tanker cars were stranded on a railway bridge that had started to collapse.  Fortunately the cars were rescued without any spills.)  Mayor Nenshi had a numer of municipal politicians agreeing with him.  And now this!  All things railway in Canad are regulated by the federal government.  I don't think we've heard the last of this whether Stephen Harper likes it or not.  

      We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. B. Franklin

      by Observerinvancouver on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 01:04:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ed? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      207wickedgood

      you have a moose in yer pocket?

      This machine kills Fascists.

      by KenBee on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 03:53:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "gypos" ? (6+ / 0-)

    http://racerelations.about.com/...

    "Gypped" is arguably the most commonly used racist term in existence today. If someone buys a used car that turns out to be lemon, for instance, he’s likely to complain, “I got gypped.” So, why is the term offensive? Because it equates the Gypsy, or Roma peoples, with being thieves, cheats and con artists. When someone says that they “got gypped,” they are essentially saying that they were conned.

    Explained Jake Bowers, editor of Travellers Times, to British newspaper the Telegraph: “Gypped is an offensive word, it’s derived from Gypsy and it’s being used in the same context as a person might once have said they ‘jewed’ somebody if they did an underhand business transaction.” But don’t take Bowers’ word for it. If you’re still debating whether or not to use the verb “gypped,” consider that Philip Durkin, principal etymologist at the Oxford English Dictionary told the Telegraph that there’s “scholarly consensus” that the word originated as a “racial slur.”

    The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. David Morrison

    by indycam on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 08:25:55 AM PDT

  •  Slight correction (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, 207wickedgood, Nebraskablue

    Burkehardt did not "buy a railroad" in the UK but a rail freight operating company. The market is somewhat different to the USA. Most of the permanent way is owned and maintained by Network Rail who are required to allow access to any suitably licenced operating company. In turn, those companies are required to allow open access for their competitors to any sidings etc that they may own. (In terms of freight, this actually harps back to the days of the Surrey Iron Railway in 1803 where there was a similar separation of the track owning and truck operating companies)

    Burkhardt seems to have withdrawn as CEO and Chairman of English, Welsh and Scottish Railways (EWS) in 1999 along with direct involvement in several of his European operations. It looks like he is using Rail World Inc as an asset holding and consultancy company, perhaps running MM&A as a "vanity" project to maintain his reputation as a freight operator.

    Interestingly the regulator the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), part of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) fined EWS £4.1 million (@$6 million) in 2006 for anti-competitive practices. This was based on a complain from an Enron subsidiary in 2001 about practices which dated back into his period as CEO and Chairman of EWS.

    We will work, we will play, we will laugh, we will live. We will not waste one moment, nor sacrifice one bit of our freedom, because of fear.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 09:10:45 AM PDT

  •  I'm a bit surpised (7+ / 0-)

    I work in a very heavy regulated industry (airlines). I just assumed that railroads would be equally regulated.

    It sounds like they're not.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 09:58:34 AM PDT

  •  The local CBS news here boston ran (5+ / 0-)

    with the "Criminal tampering story" using the "sabotage" quote from the CEO.

    Yet the SQ is on record, as saying the criminal investigation is not sabotage but for negligence.

    Of course saying he will be visiting without wearing a bulletproof vest certainly will not endear him to locals.

    Of course one of the other issues, their poor French communications skills. As I read elsewhere it seems they are using Google translate to write their french press releases.  This type of basic ignorance explains a lot.

  •  do you know anything about Genessee & Wyoming? (4+ / 0-)

    That's who wants to run Crude by Rail through our little town.
    G&W

    If you recommend a book, and provide an Amazon link, you are never, ever allowed to bitch about book stores closing up.

    by SeattleTammy on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 10:40:48 AM PDT

    •  Just a quick glance (10+ / 0-)

      They own a very large number of short line railroads around the US and elsewhere.

      Judging by your user name, assume you live in the PacNW.  GW owns several short line carriers in that area and in what they call the Pacific Region.  Right now, they have no operating executives in charge of their Pacific Region.  It looks like its one guy who is handling general management for at least 2 different short lines in WA - not exactly on the ground expertise, but it depends on how much they travel.

      Their chief operating officers work out of Jacksonville, FL.  They seem to have some decent operating executives on staff, many from Class 1 carriers, some not.  They only have one executive in charge of safety.  Their labor relations guy (also important for safety) came from Rite Aid drug stores.  Ummhmm.

      The top layers of management and their board of directors all seem to be guys from Wall Street, focused primarily on profits, period.  They seem very focused on rail operations in areas where there's fracking.

      It just seems like a skeleton crew to manage so much track over such a huge geographic area.  

      If you can figure out which of their railroads serves your area, you can check the NTSB databases for accident info.

      "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being in DC."

      by Betty Pinson on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 03:04:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  thanks, Betty. (0+ / 0-)

        that's about as much as we've been able to find. I was hoping someone might have seen some dirt that isn't in the corporate bio.

        If you recommend a book, and provide an Amazon link, you are never, ever allowed to bitch about book stores closing up.

        by SeattleTammy on Thu Jul 11, 2013 at 07:20:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  They own a lot of U.S. short lines (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nickrud

          So it would require doing a search of the NTSB database for all those carriers.  It might reveal some interesting information.

          Here's a link to the NTSB database for rail accidents

          "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being in DC."

          by Betty Pinson on Thu Jul 11, 2013 at 08:11:12 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Blaming the firefighters or the lone engineer..... (6+ / 0-)

    is purely being an apologist for our addiction to cheap oil and the same corporate race to the bottom seen in the Bangladeshi factory collapse. The author of this article states that the Burkhardt's MM&A Railroad

    (like all well-run American enterprises headed by MBA types) was almost completely levered, which meant after paying interest, bribes and executive salaries didn’t have much left over to maintain the tracks.
    They also use inferior equipment. In the particular case in question, they used tank cars for explosive material (it could just as well been something toxic like sulphuric acid) that are no longer permitted because the walls are not at least one inch thick. But they got a variance which allowed the company to ship oil in them until they were replaced, which in the case of this company would have been never.
    As far as having only one engineer on the train, the author explains
    This is also a variance, which they got from the Canadian regulatory agency last year. I’d like you to imagine a heavily loaded train carrying explosive or toxic materials going through your town with only one person to make sure it gets through safely.
    The story then details what is already known about the engineer catching a few winks, the fire breaking out and the local firefighter response that likely shut down the engine, thus releasing the brakes.  It ends with this endictment.
    The whole episode seems to me to sum up what has become of American capitalism. Over-leveraged, shoddy product and performance, milking the enterprise of its capital, and capturing regulators to get away with it. It is the banking disaster writ small. In the mean time the investigators have found only 5 bodies of the 60 to 80 that were incinerated in the center of town when the train exploded.
    Meanwhile, back in the Gulf of Mexico, another uncontolled release of hydrocarbons into the sacraficial dead zone.
    •  And the overleverage of whatever physical (3+ / 0-)

      assets there are means that when a disaster happens there will be no cash or assets left to pay out the eventual claims.

      Not that claims can bring back your loved ones.

      "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

      by LilithGardener on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 11:10:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  see the west fertilizer explosion (4+ / 0-)

        our MBAs are basically weevils eating out the heart of
        the country.

        The chinese laugh at them.

        •  Yes, we have been infested for quite a while nt (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Hoghead99

          "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

          by LilithGardener on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 03:18:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The West fertilizer company was a very small (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          patbahn

          operation, not likely an MBA was part of the 8-9 person workforce. Although the usual shortsighted MBA mentality permeates our state government now.

          (and one of my kids is graduating with one in two weeks, I'm proud but a little worried about the chosen path)

          I was just reading a Marketwatch article about John Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group of mutual funds.
          He's one of the better WS'ers, here is a quote:

          "The multiple failings of our flawed financial sector are jeopardizing, not only the retirement security of our nation's savers but the economy in which our entire society participates."
          No schit...I think the weevils have won.

          We’re Ready, Wendy’s Ready! WTF Are We Waiting For? Bring ‘em on! The revolution has begun! Come and take it!

          by Bluefin on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 09:12:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Shut off the oil, and a couple billion people die. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      6412093, KenBee, Hoghead99, Roadbed Guy

      There are no electric tractors or electric trucks to plant, harvest, and deliver the world's foods. The couple electrified freight lines left are short line antiques. And electric grain ships?

      Fact is, we're stuck with petrochemical burning food transport for now. We can make them more efficient and convert some to biofuels, but we'll still need some petroleum fuels and those fuels will have to be transported, preferably in the safest way possible.

      •  Oh yeah, I get that... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pvasileff, KenBee, 207wickedgood, wonmug
        and I also get the 'ol conversational cold shoulder when I bring up the notion of peak oil and its ramifications.  Folks prefer their techno-optimism and the herd is kept pacified by blather like Charles Mann's recent article in the Atlantic with the accompanying cover that changes the impact of the magazine entirely to the millions that never pick it up and read the article. Everyone wants to believe the party can go on forever, but the race to the bottom stymies that at every turn.  For instance, cheap nat gas from fracking slows implementation to renewables, since the renewables have to compete.  

        One would do well to bone up on Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI or sometimes just EROI).  With the limited amounts of cheap energy remaining, we had better not spend too much time dinking around with so-called "bridge" fuels like nat gas. Of course, thanks to the wealthiest and their malignant think tank talking points, many in America don't even believe climate change is real.

        Another great article out of Canada in the Toronto Star regarding the Lac-Mégantic tragedy.

        We want cheap oil, we won’t pay higher taxes for government regulation, we fear the loss of our own jobs, we trade ready cash for safety, and what it all boils down to is an engineer climbing down alone from a train of thin-skinned tankers holding oil that was salvation for a company desperate for freight after the economic collapse reduced demand for the lumber it usually hauled.
        The god of cheap is the wrong god to worship.
      •  Define "for Now"; "Stuck" argues against change (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DRo

        I appreciate your deep and full picture of how bad it can get - thanks for the context!  While acknowledging the current infrastructure, the same "stuck for now" rhetoric is exactly the argument behind fracking, KXL, and a lot of BAU petro-pushback and expansion.  

        Yes, we should make transport of hazmat safe. Yes, transpo is petro-based.  That doesn't mean that we shouldn't make every effort to wean ourselves off of our profiteering petro-addiction that will soon (in a few decades?) kill billions in a Thermogeddon. Transitioning to a largely local food economy, and renewable-based electrification (or hydrogen-ification) of transportation (the most difficult sector) are not really technological challenges, so much as political.  If the true cost of petro fuels were factored in, the market could do it itself, but large government programs could get it done quickly too.

        Maybe you agree with this picture where we need to go.  If so, you might position your realism, so as not to appear as a petro-apologist.

        “Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” - William Butler Yeats

        by RandW on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 12:53:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Unless you're an environmental extremist... (0+ / 0-)

          You get called a petro apologist on DKos. I'm quite convinced that global warming is real, and want to stop it. But we can't shut down society and let people starve and freeze to do that. So to borrow from AA, we need progress, not perfection... That means reducing petro and coal consumption and transitioning to renewables as quickly as practical. For example, my reference railroad, BNSF, has studied electrification and found it not cost effective. However, the payback is pretty quick on switching from diesel to natural gas, and they're going to make that conversion with some of their locomotives.

          •  There would be plenty of oil for railroads (0+ / 0-)

            and they would hardly contribute to global warming if all cars were electric.

            And we should move more long-haul transport to the railroads and get rid of long-haul trucks altogether.  

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

          •  Well, I'm glad that you are on DKos and concerned (0+ / 0-)

            about climate change.  It sounds like we are in (violent?) agreement about the basics and the need for real achievable progress. We need people like you with real knowledge and motivation.

            Two things that keep slapping me upside the head in my activism journey are:

             1) the bar for what is needed and is actually achievable to really mitigate CC has continually gone up.  What I thought wasn't possible now appears to me to be achievable with significant benefits - like 80% reduction of CO2 emissions (compared to 1990) by 2050, and even 90%+ by 2030 -- if you research it.  So, perhaps like with the below comment about electrification, esp. with a scenario where carbon emissions were taxed, then there would be cost-savings to railroads.  Please consider highlighting those sort of win-wins that go further to save the planet. Ask, "what would it take?" and "why not?"
              2 ) Language and frame matters, which is why I pounced on the "stuck for now" phrase.   Joe Romm's "Language Intelligence" book was enlightening and transformative to me.    I love your perspective on negligent, irresponsible profiteering and what it takes to run a railroad.  If burning a certain fuel was undermining the stability of a railroad's tracks, what would you recommend?  How would you frame that?  What urgency? Would half-way measures be the right investment? Would "stuck for now" be what you wanted to communicate?

              You are doing great work. Please keep at it! Thanks.

            “Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” - William Butler Yeats

            by RandW on Thu Jul 11, 2013 at 01:36:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  fairly straightforward to electrify (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rashaverak, 6412093

        freight rail.

        hang catenary and swap all the Diesel Electrics for electric.

        http://www.dailykos.com/...

        it's work, it may take a few years, but,

        basically, use eminent domain for them, upgrade the
        signalling to a national standard, employ a few milion
        people to hang the catenary,  and take DGs and add
        pantographs to them.

        msot modern Diesels are Diesel electric, so, not too hard.

      •  we don't need fossil fuels to make diesel and (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        207wickedgood, bygorry

        home heating oil. There IS a technology that will turn almost
        Anything Into Oil, and even though the big oil companies have driven Changing World Technologies into bankruptcy for daring to compete with them, I have spoken directly to a former CEO of Royal Dutch Shell who told me in a public forum that yes, the technology works, although he was loathe to admit it and tried to pretend TDP stood for something else.

        We could, clean up the planet and scrape up every last scrap of every landfill and chemical spill and vacuum all the garbage out of the ocean with this technology if we wanted to. Where have all the hippies gone? Long time passing.

        We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

        by nuclear winter solstice on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 04:14:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  And here we go again (0+ / 0-)
      Talos Energy is a partnership between private equity firms Apollo Global Management LLC APO -1.83% and Riverstone Holdings. Talos acquired the well from Energy Resource Technology in February.
      Talos Energy will assert that the problems were not their responsibility to know about, and that somehow due diligence was good enough to buy the well, but not good enough to know about or prevent leaks.

      They'll assert that somehow the problems existed due to negligence by the prior owners.

      "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

      by LilithGardener on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 11:15:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Classic railroad capitalism. Been going on ever (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nuclear winter solstice

      since Cornelius Vanderbilt.

      Thump! Bang. Whack-boing. It's dub!

      by dadadata on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 12:08:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Holy mole! (6+ / 0-)

    This is a stunner.

    a train on Ed Burkhardt’s MM&A Railroad in Quebec has one of it’s five locomotives catch fire… Yup, still running locomotives so unreliable that they send out twice as many as needed to move the train. The local fire service dealt with that, and the sole crew member considered his train parked and headed to a hotel for the night.
    Clearly train routes are well known, and the transit time is pretty well established between useful stopping points. Yet this joke of an owner couldn't plan to stop in safe locales to safely secure the train until it could continue on to its next stop.

    Now we know what the vague "dead train" means and what "a crew shift change" means. It's one overworked person checking into a hotel until another person arrives.

    It takes the term"skeleton crew" to whole different level.

    "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

    by LilithGardener on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 10:55:56 AM PDT

    •  If a BNSF locomotive caught fire here... (8+ / 0-)

      There'd be a dozen BNSF folks on the scene for hours. They'd isolate the locomotive and disconnect the batteries so it couldn't catch anything else on fire or catch fire again. They'd also check for fuel, etc. spills and start cleanup if needed. Same for the track- they'd inspect it and make needed repairs before any further trains were allowed through.

      Contrast that with Ed Burkhardt's railroad- the fire was out, so the one employee present went home and back to sleep... The local fire department had to shut it off!

      •  Burkhardt sounds like Denny Washington (4+ / 0-)

        another crook from way back.  A real type A personality, shady as heck, ready to rip off Class 1 carriers, customers, employees and investors - he doesn't discriminate.

        Link

        He had a similar accident on the Montana Rail Link a few years ago, blew up a good portion of a town there.

        Mafia bosses have more integrity than these guys, seriously.

        "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being in DC."

        by Betty Pinson on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 03:10:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  previous was caused by a missing part on a switch (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LilithGardener

        stressed the other parts out, started cracks that were unnoticed by non-inspectors which issued non-emergency orders non-stop, the non-repaired cracked part finally cracked enough to derail the train......this was the train crash you told of in Wis I think..the part had been missing for a month said wiki.

        also above was the first time I had seen that the last person to see the train is a track inspector...at midnight, inspecting tracks? ...or nearby and inspecting because of the fire?

        This machine kills Fascists.

        by KenBee on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 04:12:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Most of the victims families will not even have (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LilithGardener, Rashaverak

      a skeleton to bury.
      If they're lucky the forensic teams will separate out a little ash for them to remember their loved ones.

      This really is a criminal incident, somebody should be made accountable.

      We’re Ready, Wendy’s Ready! WTF Are We Waiting For? Bring ‘em on! The revolution has begun! Come and take it!

      by Bluefin on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 09:22:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It is terrible and they will have a difficult (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rashaverak

        burden to prove their loved one is even dead, and that they died in the fire.

        It strikes me geolocation from the person's cell phone that evening might be the indirect but crucial proof that they were there.

        "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

        by LilithGardener on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 09:50:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Well he finally arrived on scene . . . (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo, Rashaverak, KenBee, jan4insight

    showing tremendous tact and diplomacy as usual:

    "I think we had quite a reasonable safety record until the other day when we blew it all," he said.
    Burkhardt said his company is "not accepting responsibility" while facts are still being gathered.
    yet the Engineer
    The engineer in charge of the train that derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic Saturday has been suspended without pay, according to the head of the company that owns the train.
    While the Engineer may be responsible in some way, I am sure the corporate environment contributed(i.e. tight scheduling, no slack, etc)
    •  Re: Not accepting responsibility (6+ / 0-)

      Can you spell, "Res ipsa loquitur?"

      It was your company's train.  Your company's employee parked it.  He should have adequately hand-braked it and set a derail.  Your company should have had its people there to secure it, rather than leaving it unattended.  Or, your company should have had a sleeper coach as part of the train and a relief engineer in the sleeper coach so that the train did not have to be parked on a hill for several hours.

      72 tank cars loaded with hydrocarbons, attached to several locomotives, parked uphill of a town, on a relatively steep gradient, reliant on the air brakes charged by a single locomotive, which had caught fire and which had been turned off as part of the fire-fighting.  What could possibly go wrong?

      •  Can you spell, "Res ipsa loquitur?" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KenBee, jan4insight

        According to Wikipedia, for what it is worth, the doctrine may have been largely overturned in Canada.

        In Canada the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur has been largely overturned by the Supreme Court. In case of Fontaine v. British Columbia (Official Administrator) [7] the Court rejected the use of res ipsa loquitur and instead proposed the rule that once the plaintiff has proven that the harm was under exclusive control of the defendant and that they were not contributorily negligent a tactical burden is placed on the defendant in which the judge has the discretion to infer negligence unless the defendant can produce evidence to the contrary.
        (I should have checked before I posted.)

        Notwithstanding, no responsible RR operator would have allowed to continue, for hours on end even if nothing went wrong, an inherently dangerous situation involving a train    1.5 kilometers long, loaded with hundreds of thousands of litres of liquid hydrocarbons, reliant on air brakes while parked on a gradient, uphill of a town situated at a point where the track curves and where there are turnouts (a/k/a track switches).  Turnouts have speed ratings, and are points (pun intended) of potential derailments.

        It was just asking for trouble.

        The people of Lac-Mégantic now must bear the the pain and suffering.

        I would be surprised if the RR company has adequate insurance, given the scope of the disaster.  I would not be surprised to see the company go bankrupt.  Whether the Provincial or Federal Government will step in and set up a recovery fund, as was done in the USA after September 11, 2001 (to prevent the airlines from going bankrupt) remains to be seen.

        •  The provincial government has already setup (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rashaverak

          a $60 million dollar fund here is the breakdown

          “First of all, we will offer $25 million for emergency needs for the citizens, for the corporations and for the municipality,” said Marois.

          Each family evacuated will be entitled to up to $200, 000 for clothes, lodging and rebuilding. Next, the province will unlock an extra $25 million for the reconstruction of downtown Lac-Megantic. And $10 million will go to spur the local economy. In all, Quebec is setting aside $60 million.

          In addition the province will be paying 100% of all the Emergency services cost resulting from the disaster.
          •  Glad to see the taxpayers are picking up the tab (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Notreadytobenice, Roadbed Guy

            Otherwise, if the corporation that caused the problem had to pay, that would be a job-killer and harmful to the job-creators so we mustn't let that happen.  

            Seriously, has Canada gone so far fascist that they're now covering for nincompoops?

            I'm still mad about Nixon.

            by J Orygun on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 09:52:41 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Many railroads have discontinued the use of (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rashaverak

        cabooses (which also served as mobile 'sleepers') since ruthless downsizing of crew sizes has made them almost obsolete.

        your company should have had a sleeper coach as part of the train and a relief engineer in the sleeper coach

        We’re Ready, Wendy’s Ready! WTF Are We Waiting For? Bring ‘em on! The revolution has begun! Come and take it!

        by Bluefin on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 09:31:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Cabooses (0+ / 0-)

          One of the principal purposes of cabooses was to act as work stations for members of the train crews who would monitor the pressure in the brake line.  There were air-pressure gauges in the caboose.  The crew members were supposed to alert the train drivers and conductors if the gauge showed that the air pressure in the brake line had dropped to unacceptable levels.  The manual monitoring of air pressure was no longer necessary once End-of-Train Devices had been developed.

          Cabooses were also used to house relief members of the train crew.

          It is possible to have a sleeper coach as part of the train even without a caboose.  In Europe, trains that carry tractor-trailers over long distances have sleeper coaches for the tractor-trailer drivers.... sort of like the Amtrak Auto Train, but for tractor-trailers (lorries).  The tractor-trailers ride on flat cars.  This allows the transport of freight without clogging highways and with less air pollution than would occur if the tractor-trailers were moving under their own power.

    •  We had quite a reasonable safety record (5+ / 0-)

      So did the White Star Line up until the moment that the Titanic hit the iceberg.

      What a fool!  How insulting!

  •  WSJ (4+ / 0-)
    LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec--The head of the company that operated a runaway crude-carrying train that devastated this small Quebec town said Wednesday that he believed a company employee onsite didn't follow the company's brake policy.

    Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

    by DRo on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 11:51:29 AM PDT

  •  On the CBC news a while ago, they reported that (6+ / 0-)

    Burkhardt is claiming that the engineer did not set the number of handbrakes that the engineer said he had.  Nice toss overboard, Ed!

    We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. B. Franklin

    by Observerinvancouver on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 12:33:03 PM PDT

  •  That is exactly what conservatives around here... (6+ / 0-)

    do not understand.  

    The solution is to kick the cowboys, gypos, fly by night operators, and clowns that shouldn’t be entrusted with a tricycle out of the transportation industry… Let the professionals that follow best practices and don’t care if they charge the lowest rates take their place.  
    This is what government regulation is for.  Everyone around here talks of the magical "Self-Regulation" myth.  They all act as if companies will turn down making more money just because it would be the wrong thing to do or because someone might get hurt or they would get bad press.

    Two things companies always believe:

    1.) It's not going to happen to my company because I, the CEO, am awesome and I will know how far I can push it.

    2.)  If it does happen here, I will fold this company, buy or start another one just like it (and get government subsidies to do it) and then buy all of the key elements of the old company back for pennies on the dollar.  

    The system is rigged and there is never any liability or accountability if you are a corporation.

    "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

    by Buckeye Nut Schell on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 12:59:28 PM PDT

  •  Please explain how the cars broke loose (2+ / 0-)

    Finally, someone has tried to explain what happened, so thank you.  However, air brakes on the cars have a complicated design so that air pressure is needed to release the brakes.  What was the sequence of events that led to the cars breaking free of the locomotives and then not having the brakes work?  I cannot find any examples of cars breaking free like this and running away.  Clearly this procedure has been followed before without incident - why a problem this time?

    •  Great question re the coupler failure! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nuclear winter solstice

      I have not seen any explanation for that.  From what I have read, all of the Locos remained in Nantes.

      •  They probably won't know for a while (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rashaverak

        It takes time to investigate accidents, especially one this big.  They have to examine the equipment at the accident site and only recently were able to get close enough to begin.

        "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being in DC."

        by Betty Pinson on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 03:13:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I have been asking that one too. Someone suggested (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rashaverak

        that perhaps the firemen disconnected them from the burning engine in an effort to keep the fire from spreading further, but I have no evidence for that, only the only speculation that even sounds good.
            So where is the answer to this question? Are all the engines including the burnt one still sitting up there where they were parked?

        We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

        by nuclear winter solstice on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 04:31:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Maybe didn't dump all the air? (3+ / 0-)

          It takes 15 minutes or more to pump up the air pressure on a train and release the brakes... An old trick to save time was to "bottle up the air", then maybe set handbrakes on say, the locomotives only. The one engine may have been left running so the brakes wouldn't be applied as pressure leaked off...
          Expecting the hand brakes on maybe 5 locomotives to hold 75 loaded cars on a 1% grade is asking for trouble.

  •  Shit, with a resume like this I'm surprised (4+ / 0-)

    he wasn't the head of the Federal Railroad Administration under George Bush.

    Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

    by bigtimecynic on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 02:12:12 PM PDT

  •  I'm sorry... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee

    ....I just have a hard time believing that there is even one entrepreneur in the world who isn't Hank Reardon-like in his godliness and capability.

    The GOP jobs plan is to manufacture outrage.

    by Doug in SF on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 03:37:59 PM PDT

  •  article in Trains magazine on railroads & keystone (6+ / 0-)

    The current issue of Trains magazine has an article in regards to hauling tar sands by rail.   Railroads may ultimately kill the Keystone pipeline project.  In order to use pipelines for tar sands it has to be diluted to flow through pipelines whereas no dilution is needed in heated railcars.  Refineries would rather have a non diluted material.  Also, the pipleline wants 30 year commitments from refineries.  Refineries do not have to commit to long term contracts with railroads.  I was reading that article Saturday morning before this incident occurred.    

    •  Good article... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rashaverak

      But I thought they were a bit optimistic about the odds of a tragic accident like this.

    •  Thanks (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Notreadytobenice, Rashaverak

      A similar battle was fought back in the early 80's over using pipelines to move coal slurry from the Powder River Basin in WY to the midwest and southern US.  It ended up moving by rail, w/o the slurry.

      If they can move this junk by tank cars in a well-regulated manner, it would be the best option.  It must be safe, however.  There's a lot of questions about the safety risks of using unit trains to haul hazmat, as there should be.

      It will cost more, but these billionaires can afford it with plenty of profit left over.

      "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being in DC."

      by Betty Pinson on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 08:22:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wow. That seems huge. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Notreadytobenice, DRo, Rashaverak

      Can't wait to see the railroads fight the pipelines in Congress.  Our representatives will be so confused.  Just have to see who can make the most contributions, I guess.

      I'm still mad about Nixon.

      by J Orygun on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 09:57:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not an objective source methinks. Was da article (0+ / 0-)

      before Lac Magnetic or after? Someone had deja vu.
      Bottomline is Keystone now looks a lot better to this layman considering the alternative is apparently trains.

  •  God damn. This diary should be front page (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster, Rashaverak

    on both La Presse and the Toronto Star.

  •  The tank cars were second rate too (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy, Rashaverak
    Lac-Mégantic train disaster: Criminal probe started of a fire on same train earlier in evening
    Its been known for years that these old style of oil tank cars like the ones involved in this disaster pose greater hazards during accidents.  
    Deadly Derailment in Quebec Underlines Oil Debate

    By IAN AUSTEN

    A 2009 report by the National Transportation Safety Board about a Canadian National derailment in Illinois called the design of those tank cars “inadequate” and found that it “made the cars subject to damage and catastrophic loss of hazardous materials.”

    "If Wall Street paid a tax on every “game” they run, we would get enough revenue to run the government on." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 06:36:02 PM PDT

    •  Tank cars are privately owned (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rashaverak

      by the shipper or consignee.  So the cost of retrofitting or buying new fleets will have to be borne by them.  Expect the oil companies to have their lobbyists working overtime.

      "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being in DC."

      by Betty Pinson on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 08:24:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not a problem. As long as those tank cars can be (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lefty Coaster, Rashaverak

      asset depreciated and resold time after time, they will continue in service until they literally fall apart, somewhere.

      If the lack of meaningful oversight, regulation, and corporate malfeasance don't get you, the lobbyist written tax codes will.

      Suck it up, peons, we're all expendable.

      We’re Ready, Wendy’s Ready! WTF Are We Waiting For? Bring ‘em on! The revolution has begun! Come and take it!

      by Bluefin on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 09:46:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, but based on reports that it was (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rashaverak

      propane tank cars (for some reason sitting on a siding in the middle of town) that exploded and not these cars, the point is somewhat moot.

      They'd probably have exploded even if hit with by a trainful of fluffy bunnies.

  •  Improper train securement..... (3+ / 0-)

       ...for starters. My employer requires that "sufficient handbrakes be set," and then tested by releasing the air brakes. If the train rolls, you have to set more hand brakes, until it doesn't move with the air brakes released.

       At that point, the train air brakes  would be set with a 20 pound reduction. In this scenario, the train, if not tampered with, would not roll, no matter what happened to the locomotives.

       There's much more to this than we know now. It'll all come out, the technicalities of how this happened....

       As it is, if the grade is anywhere near what it's reported as, I don't see even 11 handbrakes holding a heavy train like that.

       Just my 2 cents.

    Best, Hoghead99

    Compost for a greener planet.............got piles?

    by Hoghead99 on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 07:38:53 PM PDT

  •  Ed says one person crews are safer (4+ / 0-)

    than 2 person crews.

    “We think the one-man crews are safer than two-men crews because there’s less exposure for employee injuries, less distraction," he said.
    Link

    Less distraction, huh?  What a piece of work.

    "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being in DC."

    by Betty Pinson on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 08:31:51 PM PDT

  •  Saw train like dat in Vegas yesterday... (0+ / 0-)

    Seemed endless, tanker after tanker. Never noticed b4.
    Makes ya wonder if there's an accident waiting to happen in a City that will take thousands of lives.

    Newscaster made comment that Keystone would have prevented. Think the pipeline's chances have now improved immeasurably.

  •  Bill to fast track pipeline approval (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rashaverak

    Keep an eye on this bill introduced to force permitting of a pipeline within 90 days after completion of an environmental study by FERC, thanks to Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas).

    Opponents of the bill say the delays often occur for good reason -- such as a need to further explore environmental impact or because underfunded agencies that are overburdened with applications form a rapidly growing industry.

    "They have increasingly limited resources, and the majority continues to cut those budgets further," Mr. Doyle said.

    Earlier on Tuesday, Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum testified that "the rapid expansion of natural gas infrastructure requires ever-increasing time and attention from agencies and the public, yet [this bill] proposes just the opposite."

  •  A History of Cost-Cutting (0+ / 0-)

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