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My link was to short a cut and didn't work.

 

The crash and cause was interesting.  In Short:  One of the locos caught fire at a fuel connection point in the locomotive. 

The train was stopped and left to idle to keep the brakes loaded.  It was about 1:am The crew went to get some shut eye at a motel.  Normal practice.

 

The fire department arrived and put out the fire and shut off the diesel engines and left. 

With the air compressors shut down the air bled off and the train started to move down hill the seven miles to town where it arrived at high speed and derailed.  

The 93 crude oil cars piled up sideways 3 cars deep.   Four exploded and the center of town was burned so fast only one person escaped from the night club. 

She was outside for a smoke and saw the train roaring into town with sparks flying as it derailed .  She ran feeling the heat on her back as she escaped.

 

Today the CEO said he suspended the train engineer and said he will require all engine emergency brakes to be set when the train is unattended.  

The engineer was blamed but said he did set all brakes.                              So, Who is to blame?  

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Wow, I had no idea that modern trains could be designed that stupidly. The brake system should be designed with springs so that a loss of pressure lets the springs apply the brakes. It should require power to the system (and active cab control) to hold the brakes open for rolling. In this way, unattended trains (or dead-man situations) stop themselves. Semi trailers are designed that way, and I thought trains were too.

 

BTW, our modern trains, tracks and signaling are also supposed to enable enough remote control that if an engineer dies in the cab, then the dispatcher can tell an engine (and consist) to relax and apply the brakes. Runaways and over-speeding are supposed to be things of the past.

 

See Automatic Train Control

 

Anyway, when power is required for the brakes to hold, too many things can go wrong with an unattended train. I blame the RR company for not chocking the wheels or using some other fool-proof method.

 

However, I would make manufacturers invert their design strategy on the braking system so it's passive=brake, active=roll. In other words, you should only be moving when all systems are "go".

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I believe the braking system, designed by Westinghouse so that customers could move the parked cars without special equipment.   

The brake wheel on the side or top of the cars are the manual airless braking system or emergency braking system for the cars.

Before air brakes, It took several minutes per car for a brakeman to climb over or around each car to winch the chains or cables tight to all 8 wheels.

A 100 car oil train like we have in Washington State would take a long time to stop.   Air brakes solved that problem.  Brakemen are no longer needed. 

 

Dynamic braking is even more modern,  letting the grade help brake todays trains. 

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We don't know if it was a 1 pipe or 2 pipe system. Either way enough hand operated brakes need to be set to hold the train if all power fails. Neither system will hold forever if the compressor on the loco stops working. If they were relying on the compressor then I would think it was probably a 2 pipe system, as with a 1 pipe system it would seem that the brakes would eventually stop holding even with the compressor running.     

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The brake wheel is mechanical, turned by hand.  It is like the Model A ford that I had as a kid.  There is linkage to each wheel. If each linkage is adjusted equally.  The RR car hand wheel will only have to turn around one turn to set the brakes.   But, In the old days the brakemen carried about a 40 inch long Oak or Hickory stick.  He would jam the stick through the spokes of the hand wheel to help him tighten the brake shoes a bit tighter as the linkage was usually mis-adjusted on privately own cars and one set of brakes often would tighten ahead of the rest.  So the hand wheels could be a lot of very necessary work if the train was moving.  Nowadays hand brake wheels are normally used only after the cars are stopped or parked.   Movies will often show the brakeman on top of a speeding train turning the hand brake wheels as the car rocks back and forth.  In the old days, many brakemen met their makers when they fell off the cars.

 

I read that 8 cars may have been hand braked out of the 93 tankers.   The Engineer said before he left the train he left the locomotive idling to keep the  air pumps running. The super said he didn't believe the engineer.   He may need someone to blame.

 

No doubt the sliding locomotive wheels started the fire; If those hand brakes had been applied with the train stopped and no one waited with the train.   It is Likely that shortly the wheels were sliding and the loco wheels would start glow red hot as the train went speeding down hill pushed by the 89 un-braked cars.   I bet all the wheels on the locomotives now have major flat spots on all of the metal tires.  They slid for 8 miles shooting a shower of red hot sparks from the wheels as the wheel treads wore away.   When the train turned into the yard all HHHH broke loose with hot oil spilling onto the burning journals and wheels.

 

Engineers are not allowed to slid the wheels as the expense to fix the wheels is massive.

 

I think the Super and the CEO will take a lot of heat.  I can only imagine the feelings of the engineer and fireman with so many people burned in the fire storm.  

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