Posts Tagged ‘Sperry Rail Service’

What a History it Had

January 7, 2021

Many Sperry Rail Service cars that you would have found in the 1970s were having second lives. Such is the case with car 125, which is shown in May 1974 sitting in the McCoy Street Yard of the Erie Lackawanna in Akron.

It was built in November 1925 by St. Louis Car Company as a 60-foot doodlebug for the Lehigh Valley Railroad where it carried roster number 28.

Railroads used doodlebugs to provide passenger service on lightly-used routes. Many of those services were gone by World War II and some doodlebugs were repurposed into maintenance of way use.

This car continued to serve through the 1980s when it was replaced by a newer model of a track inspection car.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

EL Monday: An Akron Scene

December 28, 2020

We’re visiting McCoy Street Yard in Akron in May 1974. It’s the twilight years of the Erie Lackawanna and forces are at work in Washington and elsewhere that will fold the EL into the Consolidated Rail Corporation in spring 1976.

As you know all too well the coming of Conrail would spell the beginning of the end for the EL in Akron.

But that is still a few years away on this day where they are many relics of the EL including a transfer caboose and a box car with EL markings on display.

Then there is that Erie switcher that is pretending that the Erie and Delaware, Lackawanna & Western never merged. This unit would continue to proudly wear its Erie livery until the coming of Conrail.

Also of interest is that Sperry rail car sitting toward the back of the yard.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

FRA Says Lack of Followup Led to NS Pittsburgh Wreck

September 10, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration has attributed a 2018 Norfolk Southern derailment in Pittsburgh to a broken rail that had been identified but not fixed weeks before the derailment.

The broken rail was detected in two camera images made during a July 16 inspection by Sperry Rail Service, but no follow-up testing was performed.

A visual inspection of the track two days before the Aug. 5 derailment failed to find a defect.

The FRA report said “the Sperry car chief operator’s decisions . . . contributed to the cause of the derailment.

“Rail testing experts agree that the operator should have performed a hand test, based on the multiple sources of rail inspection information available  . . . during the Sperry car test. The operator’s decisions to disregard induction channel responses from the initial test and not utilize the camera images were serious oversights.”

The derailment on the NS Mon Line near Station Square closed the route for several days and caused more than $1 million in damage to equipment.

Derailed cars fell on a Port Authority of Pittsburgh light-rail line below, which disrupted service on that line for three weeks and caused more than $1.8 million in infrastructure damage.

In statement, NS said it found the FRA report to be factually accurate.

The railroad said it has been working with Sperry on improved human procedures and oversight “to ensure that this type of error does not happen again.”

Sperry declined to comment on the report.

Quite an Interesting History

May 5, 2018

I was in Alliance recently and found this Sperry Rail Service car sitting in the remains of the yard across from the former Pennsylvania Railroad station.

Some Sperry rail cars began life as passenger cars and No. 136 proved to be one of those.

It was built by Brill in 1928 as a doodlebug for the New York Central, which gave it roster designation M-11. It joined the Sperry fleet in April 1948.

Its appearance has changed over the years as has the technology used to inspect track.

SRS 136 never moved an inch during the three hours or so that I spent in Alliance.

Just this past week I saw a Sperry Rail Car in action on CSX in Berea headed eastbound. It was dark and I didn’t catch the roster number of the car.

An Akron Railroad Scene Imagined in Layers

May 11, 2016

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It is May 1974 in Akron and this is looking west across the Erie Lackawanna yard. Imagine this is in layers.

First there is a Pennsylvania Railroad gondola on the now-removed Penn Central track nearest the viewer.

Then come the hidden two-track Chessie System mainline (now CSX) and the hidden and now-removed two track EL mainline.

To the left is the EL yard office. Behind it are yard tracks. There is an EL transfer caboose on one. Behind it is Erie Railroad 520, and behind that is Sperry 125.

If you look closely behind Sperry 125, you can see the track leading to the bakery and the EL-served bakery.

Today only the two CSX tracks and Sperry 125 survive.

Article and Photographs by Robert Farkas

FRA Fines Sperry, CSX for Failure to Followup on Suspected Track Defect at Derailment Site

October 10, 2015

An operator for Sperry Rail Service failed to conduct a visual inspection of a suspected rail defect on a CSX route in West Virginia at the location where a crude oil train later derailed and exploded.

The Federal Railroad Administration has fined Sperry and CSX $25,000 apiece for failure to follow-up on the suspected defect.

FRA officials said that the defect became a broken rail, which caused the 27-car derailment last February.

The agency said it will issue new training and rail replacement recommendations in an effort to prevent similar accidents from happening.

The rail inspections were conducted on Dec. 17 and Jan. 12. During the December inspection, the Sperry inspection vehicle detected a rail defect, but the operator on duty did not conduct a visual inspection because he thought that rough track had caused the defect indication.

The January inspection also found evidence of a defect but neither CSX or Sperry personnel conducted a follow-up visual or hand inspection.

During the derailment, 15 tank cars burned and explosions occurred over three days. More than 378,000 gallons of crude oil were spilled during the incident.

No fatalities or serious injuries occurred, but one home and a garage were destroyed. The train was traveling at 33 mph in a 50 mph zone at the time of the derailment.

In a report, the FRA said the derailment was preventable and recommended the following for CSX:

• Train operators of internal rail flaw detector vehicles to identify and investigate non-valid testing locations more effectively.
• Continue to improve upon rail-defect technology using previous and real-time inspection data to better detect flaws.
• Establish a plan to replace rail with similar defects on high-hazard flammable train routes, such as those that handled crude-by-rail trains.

The FRA recommended that Sperry work with railroads to train operators in how to identify suspected rail flaws.

That training should include review of digital rail flaw tests immediately before new testing is conducted and/or real-time comparison or previous results with current, incoming data.

Agency officials have also released a safety advisory that emphasizes the importance of more detailed inspections where defects and flaws are suspected.

In a related move, the FRA said it will explore the need for railhead wear standards and potentially require railroads to reduce train speeds where risks may pose a safety risk.

CSX said in a news release that it is working in collaboration with the FRA to develop additional inspection processes that will enhance its ability to quickly and accurately identify rail flaws using technology provided by Sperry.

This includes the use of ultrasound sensors to detect internal defects, implement practices that exceed FRA safety standards, and implementing a process that combines transmitting data from thorough rail inspections with hand testing within 72 hours of being recorded.