Train derailment leads to brake safety directive
GLENVILLE Federal rules enacted in response to last month’s deadly freight train derailment in Canada will translate into safety improvements in Glenville, where a train derailed in February.
The Federal Railroad Administration issued an emergency order to rail companies Friday aimed at preventing parked trains from accidentally moving.
Investigators probing the July 6 derailment in Lac Megantic, Quebec, are pointing to insufficient use of hand brakes as a possible reason the oil-laden freight train rolled downhill and tank cars exploded, killing more than 40 people.
There were neither explosions nor fatalities in the Feb. 7 derailment near a mobile home community off state Route 5 in Glenville. But Pan Am Railways told federal regulators that 11 out of 77 cars went off the tracks for the same reason as the Quebec disaster — the hand brakes were not applied on enough of the cars to hold their combined weight on a hill.
Three hand brakes were holding 44 freight cars in Glenville before 33 more cars were added to the train, according to an accident detail report submitted to the FRA following the February crash.
“Due to insufficient hand brakes the cars started to move resulting in a derailment,” the report states.
Pan Am’s report consists of information provided to the federal government — a final report from federal regulators on the Feb. 7 derailment has not yet been issued.
The FRA’s mandatory directive puts a halt on leaving trains unattended when they are carrying hazardous materials, and also requires detailed analysis geared toward keeping trains from moving accidentally.
These details include recording the number of hand brakes that are applied to an immobile train, the length and tonnage of the train, the grade or slope it’s sitting on and weather conditions.
The Federal Railroad Administration also announced it will be convening a Railroad Safety Advisory Committee that will explore, among other things, ensuring sufficient train crewmen are on the scene to prevent accidents.
A FRA safety advisory that accompanied the emergency order includes recommendations that the railroad industry undergo “systemwide evaluations” to seek out “particular hazards that may make it more difficult to secure a train, or pose other safety risks, and to develop procedures to mitigate those risks.”
Any action that could stem a repeat of the Glenville collision is seen as positive, Town Supervisor Christopher A. Koetzle said Monday.
“I fully support the action after seeing it happen right in the community we live in,” he said.
The derailment took place not only alongside the community of dozens of residents but it was also near the town’s water well, Koetzle said.
The town’s water protection committee has been focusing on several issues that pose a threat to the water supply, and “a train derailment is among the top issues we’re concerned about,” he said.
“These trains go by homes in Glenville and we have to make sure that every precaution is taken to make sure they go through safely.”
The FRA’s emergency order can be found online at www.fra.dot.gov.
Pan Am Railways and Federal Railroad Administration representatives could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.