Posts Tagged ‘Railroad tank cars’

Report Calls for More Action on Tank Car Safety

October 13, 2017

Tanks cars could be made safer if the Federal Railroad Administration would “enable and incentivize more frequent and comprehensive inspections of rail routes with regular energy liquids traffic,” a report by the Transportation Research Board concluded.

The TRB said that although the vast majority of hazardous liquids have been transported safely by the rail, pipeline, and maritime industries, the volume of that traffic has grown significantly since 2005 and there is an “incomplete understanding of the dynamics of tank-car unit train derailments and a lack of clear guidelines and resources for state and local emergency responders.”

Among the issues that need to be addressed are the technical basis for track inspection standards, lack of training of first responders, and differences in the ways that officials gather and share accident data among states and communities subject to liquid fuels.

The report said some railroads continue to use older and less crashworthy tank cars.

That was disputed somewhat by the Association of American Railroads, which told a congressional committee recently that through the first two quarters of 2017, only 156 DOT-111 cars remain in flammable liquids service.

AAR said the weaker DOT-111 cars are being phased out in favor of the sturdier DOT-117 tank cars.

The TRB reports called for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to ensure that preparedness grants meet the needs of communities, and make sure that first responders are taking advantage of training opportunities.

It wants the FRA to provide incentives for more frequent inspections along routes used for transporting flammables, including the use of sensors and other monitoring technology.

Regulators need to encourage carriers “to make greater use of quantitative risk analysis tools … to inform decisions about priorities for maintenance and integrity management of the equipment and infrastructure.”


The Red Grain Elevator of Wellington

May 19, 2017

A certain member of the Akron Railroad Club is known for his passion for photographing trains and grain elevators.

I know that in particular he likes the red grain facility in Wellington alongside the Greenwich Subdivision of CSX.

It makes for a dramatic  image in late afternoon sunlight. From what I can see, the facility is no longer served by rail.

I didn’t go there on a recent outing just to capture the red grain elevator. As much as anything I went there because Wellington wasn’t being covered  by clouds.

CSX cooperated beautifully by sending a pair of westbounds through town, a stack train and an ethanol train.

The ethanol train shown at top was the second of the pair and I tend to like that image the best of the two.

FRA Orders Some DOT-111 Tank Cars be Inspected, Repaired if Weld Defects are Found

October 4, 2016

New directives were issued last week by the Federal Railroad Administration to owners of certain DOT-111 tank cars built between 2009 and 2015 that they may have “substantial weld defects” that could result in the release of hazardous materials.

FRAThe potential flaws, which the FRA said must be repaired immediately if the cars remain in service, were found in the welds at the bottom of the car where two components allow for the product to be offloaded.

Some welds don’t meet federal safety regulations or industry specifications.

The cars were built by American Railcar Industries and ACF Industries.

The FRA said the flawed welds have been found in only a small portion of the U.S. tank car fleet. Owners of the tank cars in question must:

• Determine within 30 days if their fleet contains any of the tank cars and report those to the FRA.

• Visually inspect the cars to ensure safety and that there is no visible leak.

• Put the identified cars through ultrasonic and surface inspections to examine the welds. If flaws are detected, the cars must be immediately removed from service and repaired.

Tank cars with confirmed flaws that carry hazmat must be tested and repaired faster than cars that carry other products.

No Serious Injuries After Tank Car Leak

August 30, 2016

No serious injuries were reported but a chlorine leak from a tank car leak forced some residents in northwestern West Virginia and southeastern Ohio to evacuate their home last weekend.

CSX logo 3The evacuations occurred after a loaded tank car developed a small liquid chlorine leak inside a chemical facility in Proctor at Axiall Corporation’s Natrium chemical facility.

Axiall said in a statement that the plant was shut down while hazmat crews evacuated the railcar and the area of the leak.

One employee and a contract worker were treated at a nearby hospital, the company said.

The plant is located along the CSX Ohio River Subdivision between Parkersburg and Benwood, West Virginia.

Glimmer of Good News in Freight Car Report

July 21, 2016

A railroad industry analyst has found of glimmer of good news in the 2016 second quarter freight car order report of the Railway Supply Institute.

KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Steve Barger said the order, delivery and backlog statistics are “somewhat better than expected.”

train image2The report said that second quarter orders increased sequentially to 7,555 cars from 6,646 in the first quarter of this year.

Carbuilders delivered 15,655 railcars in the second quarter of 2016, which was a decrease from first quarter deliveries of 16,834 cars.

The freight car backlog is 89,155 units, which although down 6.2 percent from the 95,038 units of the first quarter is at historical highs.

Barger said there appears to be a replacement market that is experiencing modest growth.

Non-tank car orders totaled 4,363 units in the second quarter as opposed to 5,729 units in the first quarter.

Covered hoppers experienced the largest concentration in orders, totaling 2,017 rail cars, or about 27 percent of the total, below last quarter’s 51 percent, with mid-cube covered hoppers representing the majority of the orders at 1,286 cars, vs. 2,020 cars ordered in the first quarter.

Orders for large-cube and small-cube covered hoppers were 708 and 23 cars, respectively, as opposed to 1,335 and zero, respectively, for the first quarter.

Orders for tank cars were 3,192 units as opposed to 917 in the first quarter.

Tank cars and covered hoppers accounted for more than 69 percent of total orders in the second quarter against 64 percent last quarter.

Short Line Railroads Get Financial Boost From Fees For Storing Idled Tanks Cars, Coal Hoppers

May 4, 2016

Some short line railroads are finding there is money to be made as a result of falling traffic on North America’s Class 1 railroads.

Companies need places to store idled freight cars and short lines have track space available.

Class 1 railroads would rather not store those cars on their own sidings because it might mean reducing their network velocity and fluidity of operations.

train image2That is particularly the case with cars that are owned by shippers.

“We are in business to make money and right now the money is in car storage,” Iowa Pacific CEO Ed Ellis told Railway Age.

Ellis estimated that 50,000 coal hoppers and an equal number of tank cars have become temporarily, or permanently, surplus.

“The Class I’s are unhappy they are losing the coal business, and we are unhappy for them; but not so unhappy that we are not going to make a few bucks in our unhappiness,” he said.

A short line can earn $3 to $12 a day, depending on car type, in storage fees. Currently, there are 6,000 cars parked on Iowa Pacific tracks.

Some companies even have “logistics centers” that they use to store out-of-service freight cars.

TNW Corporation in Texas has such facilities with room to store 14,000 cars on its three short-line railroads, including loop tracks for a 110-car unit train.

“For us, it’s not a surge business,” TNW CEO Paul Treangen told Railway Age. “We are a long-term provider of premier rail car storage. We can provide security, we can store loaded or unloaded cars, manage transshipment, and clean and maintain cars.”

Treangen said that some cars are being stored because their owners still think the energy market will rebound.

In other instances, the cars have a few years to go on their lease and must be returned in good condition.

Some older cars are likely to be scrapped, particularly tank cars built to DOT-III standards.

Ellis said there are 65,000 such tank cars and most of them will not be rebuilt because the demand for them is not there. They won’t be scrapped because they are still subject to bank leasing.

He said banks don’t want cars back that are not yet paid off. So, with no cargo to carry, those cars are going into storage.

“I believe well over half of the 65,000 DOT-111s will go into storage,” Ellis said, adding that his company would lay temporary tracks to accommodate them if need be.

Chasing an Oil Train Down the C&P

April 18, 2016






This past Saturday I chased an oil train from Alliance to Rochester, Pennsylvania, on the Old C&P via Yellow Creek, Ohio

Even though it had a Norfolk Southern cab signal equipped engine, the 64R was routed down the old line from Alliance.

Our first stop was at Homeworth where a double concrete arch bridge crosses a road and creek.

Next was Summitville at the top of the grade. We got it at Salineville (not pictured) and then again at Yellow Creek.

While waiting at Yellow Creek some ATV and dirt bike riders provided some entertainment.

From Yellow Creek which is the junction of the line to Mingo Junction it turned east to head for Conway.

Article and photographs by Todd Dillon

Union Tank Car Opens Marion Retrofiting Facility

March 2, 2016

Union Tank Car company has established a retrofitting facility in Marion near its existing Marion repair shop.

The company said on Tuesday that the new shop will retrofit existing DOT-111 and CPC-1232 specification railroad tank cars with new safety features that will enable them to attain a DOT 117R specification. That latter is needed for the cars to be used to carry flammable liquids.

Union Tank CarDuring the retrofitting, each car will receive top fittings protection, thermal insulation, an 11-gauge steel jacket, full ½-inch thick head shields, and a bottom outlet valve handle that disengages from the valve when the car is in transit.

The trucks of DOT-117R cars also will be reconditioned for 286,000-pound gross rail load service.

The retrofitting work will occur in a 125,000-square foot building that had been used for heavy manufacturing and is less than two miles from an existing Union Tank Car shop.

Union said that the retrofitting facility has more than 1,000 feet of in-grade standard gauge rail, heavy lift cranes, and a turntable with scale capability that is capable of rotating a 66-foot-long tank car inside the building.

A drum welder is used for fabrication of the tank jackets. Cars are moved through the plant by battery-powered cart caddies.

Cars entering the plant are cleaned, inspected, and qualified as “Marion 1” before being moved to the new “Marion 2” shop for the in-line conversion.

When the re-manufacturing work is finished, the car returns to Marion 1 for fittings reapplication, paint and stenciling.

Union’s re-manufacturing plant has Association of American Railroads certification and is currently conducting two DOT-117R conversions per day.

That number is expected to increase as Union trains and certifies more technicians.

Union Tank Car to Build 2nd Marion Plant

June 8, 2015

Union Tank Car Company will build a second plant in Marion that will double the company’s workforce in this central Ohio railroad crossroads town.

The announcement came after the Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved a 55 percent tax credit that is good for five years. The tax credits have an estimated value of $607,000.

The Chicago-based company said the expansion in Marion will create 200 jobs and an $8.3 million payroll over the next three years.

The company said the expansion was prompted by new federal guidelines for ethanol and crude oil tank cars.

Union said the new Marion facility will be used to upgrade its existing fleet to meet those regulations.

At the new facility, Union will “re-wrap” 60 tank cars a week once operations are at full capacity. In this process, tank cars are wrapped in heat-resistant fiberglass with heavy steel plate also installed as reinforcement.

Re-wrapping is expected to mitigate the consequences of derailments.

The new facility will be built at 1207 Cheney Ave. Union will continue to maintain its existing facility at 939 Holland Road in Marion.

“We do have a track record in Marion,” said Union spokesman Bruce Winslow. “We do have a very successful shop there.”

To receive the tax credits, Union agreed to maintain operations at the new facility for at least 11 years.

“We have a quick need to expand into a second facility due to the industry’s changing landscape, and found the Columbus Region to be a strategic location to grow,” said Greg Cieslak, Union Tank Car group president, in a news release. “The area offers access to the right workforce and real estate to fit our needs, and the Midwest location and rail infrastructure are convenient to our customers.”

Ronald Meade, administrator for Ohio Means Jobs-Marion County, said workers at the new Union facility will be paid $15 to $21 per hour and receive a benefits package of medical, dental and life insurance.

Union will be hiring welders and fabricators, tank car repairers, rail car switchmen, material handlers, and general labor and helpers, who must have a general welding knowledge.

Union will partner with the Tri-Rivers Career Center on a workforce development program to train applicants to work at Union. The training programs will be specific to the skills that Union requires.

The Ohio Rail Development Commission is offering Union a $75,000 grant to defray rail improvement costs on-site and to help the company reactivate the rail line at the Cheney Avenue site.

Ohio Means Jobs-Marion County will reimburse each eligible Union hire up to 50 percent of their on-the-job training wages up to a maximum of $8,000.

Job applications will be taken at Ohio Means Jobs-Marion County, Tri-Rivers Career Center and at Union’s existing Marion facility.

Applicants meeting eligibility requirements and successfully completing training are guaranteed an interview with the company, a process that is expected to begin in July.

Union had hired 25 welders back in March at its existing Marion facility.

Union also has manufacturing facilities in Louisiana and Texas. It maintains a national network of repair shops and lining shops.

Union Tank Car is owned by The Marmon Group, which is a Berkshire Hathaway company.

Derailed CSX Oil Train Had Newer Tank Cars

February 18, 2015

The CSX crude oil train that derailed and burned in West Virginia had newer model tank cars.

In the meantime, the fires that ignited after the train jumped the tracks on Monday had started to burn themselves out and workers had begun the task of removing the charred hulks from the scene.

Hundreds of families were evacuated and nearby water treatment plants were temporarily closed in the aftermath of the accident.

The burning cars shot fireballs into the sky and leaked oil into a Kanawha River tributary. A nearby home was destroyed by fire.

The train, which originated in North Dakota and was bound for an oil depot in Yorktown, Va., was carrying about 70,000 barrels of crude oil.

The tank cars used in the train were model CPC-1232, which were designed during safety upgrades voluntarily adopted by the industry four years ago.

The same model spilled oil and caught fire in Ontario on Saturday and last year in Lynchburg, Va.

Federal regulators are considering requiring such upgrades as thicker tanks, shields to prevent tankers from crumpling, rollover protections and electronic brakes that could make cars stop simultaneously.

Those regulations, which are currently under review by the White House, means phasing out use  of tens of thousands of older tank cars used to carry highly flammable liquids.

“This accident is another reminder of the need to improve the safety of transporting hazardous materials by rail,” said Christopher Hart, acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

But industry officials say implementing those proposals would be too costly. The Railway Supply Institute estimates that $7 billion has been spent to put 57,000 of the newer model cars into service.

“We have billions invested in tank cars,” said Bob Greco, a senior official with the American Petroleum Institute. “Every day new, modern 1232 tank cars are coming into service.”

Nonetheless, some tank car manufacturers manufacturers support requiring thicker shells and other protections even as the oil industry worries that implementing changes too quickly could slow the U.S. energy boom.

“We think we can reduce the magnitude of these incidents, in part with a safer tank car,” said Jack Isselmann, a senior vice president of Greenbrier Cos., an Oregon-based tanker-car maker.

But he said tank car orders were slow because leasing companies were waiting for the final federal rule, expected to set the standards for new tank cars as well as a timetable for retrofits.

Oil shipments by rail jumped from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to more than 435,000 in 2013, driven by a boom in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota and Montana.

In 2009, U.S. railroads transported about 21,000 barrels of oil a day. Today they carry more than 50 times that amount, according to federal data, as fracking-fueled oil production in North Dakota outpaced pipeline capacity and trains became the easiest way to get crude to refineries.

Pipeline limitations force 70 percent of the crude to move by rail, according to American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.

Reports of leaks and other oil releases from tank cars have risen from 12 in 2008 to 186 last year, according to Department of Transportation records reviewed by The Associated Press.

Last Saturday, 29 cars of a 100-car Canadian National train carrying diluted bitumen crude derailed in a remote area 50 miles south of Timmins, Ontario, spilling oil and catching fire. That train was headed from Alberta to Eastern Canada.

In the most serious incident, a train derailed on July 6, 2013, in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.

Railroads have declined to disclose the exact routes used by oil trains. Some railroads, including CSX have filed lawsuits to prevent states from publicizing them.

Monday’s derailment occurred near unincorporated Mount Carbon just after passing through Montgomery, a town of 1,946.

The train had 109 cars of which 26 of them left the tracks. One person — the owner of the destroyed home — was treated for smoke inhalation, but no other injuries were reported.

The CSX engineer and conductor uncoupled the locomotives from the train and walked away unharmed. The NTSB said its investigators will compare this wreck to others.

CSX regional vice president Randy Cheetham said no cause of the accident has yet been determined. He said the tracks had been inspected just three days before the wreck.

“They’ll look at train handling, look at the track, look at the cars. But until they get in there and do their investigation, it’s unwise to do any type of speculation,” he said.

The explosions that followed the derailment frightened local residents. Morris Bounds Jr., a 44-year-old general contractor, said he was sitting in his living room when he heard a series of booms that shook the ground like an earthquake.

His father, who lives 400 yards away, called and frantically told him a train had derailed next to his house.

The younger Bounds hopped in his pickup truck and sped toward his father’s home. Before he got there, he saw his father running barefoot through the snow.

Behind him, flames were leaping from spilled-over tanker cars and his father’s home was already burning.

“It was like a horror movie trying to get to him,” the young Bounds said. “I had seen cars piled up and flames shooting through them. He was just running for his life.”

Bounds said he was relieved that his mother wasn’t in the house. She is recovering from heart surgery and was readmitted to the hospital with the flu.

Within a minute or so of driving away, the two men saw the tankers begin to explode, sending shock waves through the air and huge balls of flames that rose against the mountains.

“Everything they owned was there,” he said of his parents’ home. But, he added: “I got him out of there safely.”

By Tuesday evening, utility company crews were restoring electricity, water treatment plants were reopening  and most of the local residents were back home.

Initial tests showed no crude near water plant intake points, state Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kelley Gillenwater said.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s acting administrator, Sarah Feinberg, and chief safety officer, Robert Lauby, will visit the site. Investigators from the FRA and the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration were at the scene already.

Shares of CSX Corp. were down 0.22 percent to $36 in pre-marker trade following the accident.