Jul 6, 2013
WOW. The investigation report conclusions will be interesting.
Apparently this train was unmanned and ran for about 7 miles before it derailed in Lac Megantic.
What place is seven miles away, where the train is alleged to have begun this runaway?
Ken, the article said that the train had been tied down awaiting a new crew, and that the old crew had gone to the motel. Since Sherbrooke, Que. is about 7 miles west of Lac Megantic, my guess is that's a crew change location for the Maine, Montreal & Atlantic.
What a mess. Looks like a virtual repeat of the 1989 Cajon Pass pileup on SP...
I wonder if it was human error, vandals or a brake malfunction that led to the runaway?
My condolences to the families of the lost and missing...
The engineer parked the train in Nantes, QC, which is seven miles from Lac Megantic, and uphill. He allegedly set all the brakes before leaving for the hotel for the night.
Some minutes later, one of the five locomotives caught fire - a fuel line broke (MM&A's roster is mostly GEs) - and was put out by the local fire department.
At some time before 1:15 am, the train started moving by itself, rolled down the hill and derailed in Lac Megantic. The location is at a level crossing, which is immediately followed by a turnout to the old Quebec Southern tracks. Since the train was rolling at high speed, that's a sure combination for disaster. None of the locos derailed, though about half of the 73 car tanker train derailed and accordioned, caught fire, and exploded in a series of BLEVEs, destroying the town's center.
Thanks Mike, that definitely was a sad change of events. My heart goes out for Lac Megantic.
Hmmm. If true, this will likely be key to the whole incident.
Very likely. If it damaged any of the compressed air gear, that could have loosened the air brakes over some time. Which leads to the next question: weren't the hand brakes set on the locomotives before leaving them unattended?
I think there will be some very pointed questions asked of some MM&A employees.
Would hand brakes on engines have held that kind of tonnage?
A more important question is, if there was a fire, albeit minor, why wasn't the RR company called. And if they were, why did they not show up in a timely manner. i would think if equipment caught fire, being that it is oil, RR crews would be on site trying to figure our how and if they should move what was there. Looks like there could be fault across multiple agencies.
As I understand it, the MM&A had an engineering(track/MOW) employee on hand to aid the fire department.
The bigger question is not about the airbrakes holding the train but was it properly secured with the proper number of handbrakes and was a roll away test performed with the train and locomotive brakes released to insure the hand brakes would hold the train if and when the air leaked off. This is of course unless the train had at least one locomotive left running to keep the air charged up in the train line with air brakes fully applied to hold it. Regardless, the required number of handbrakes needed to hold the train stationary should have been (and maybe was) applied. No matter, all discussion about this incident is just speculation until the fire is out and the investigation completed.
From what I've heard, the fire is out but they're still hosing down the remaining wreckage to cool things down. They did recover the loco black boxes.
As for the cause, like in air accident cases, there is never just one cause to an accident. There is always a series of circumstances leading to the accident. This is most likely the case here - multiple errors and failures. All that for the TSB to find out.
Latest update as of today: The company says they have evidence of tempering with the rail cars. Whether this is wishful thinking or an act of vandalism emains to be seen.
If this should prove to be true, wow.
When you consider that firemen are trained to extinguish or disable the source of any blaze, it seems reasonable that they would shut down a burning locomotive, though unfortunate if it was the one maintaining train brake air pressure. You certainly cannot blame firefighters for doing what they have been trained to do. I hope the engine's "Black Box" provides sufficient information to determine if this may have been the cause.
Having looked at a lot of wreckage photos.... where are the locomotives? Did the train derail partway back, or did the crewman pull some tanks away (as has been reported...)..including the locomotives... or were they uncoupled somewhere? Or can somebody else spot them in the wreckage photos and I can't?
I'm also bugged by what was supposedly a posted photo from the Canadian side of a single locomotive burning, not the lead unit on a consist - directly behind it is either a buffer car or an RCE caboose thing. Either it's the wrong photo, or the burning power was at the end like a DMU, something wierd here. That single unit on fire photo was posted on Trainorders.
I'm still wondering if the locomotive consist was uncoupled due to the fire on the unit. if only handbrakes were set on the power, as soon as the train air leaked off.. either that or the whole front end of the train including locomotives didn't actually derail and is out of the wreckage shots.
If they did apply handbrakes, there should be plenty of forensic evidence of it on flat wheels, worn-thru brake shoes, wound-up brake chains, etc. that would survive the fire.
I have seen no signs of an engine. I think that news sources are getting terminology confused, referring to the train as an engine, and not the set of cars that ran away. It would make sense to not have an engine attached. I would think the engine would have slowed their descent into the town somewhat. I think the engines were detached, either before or after the first fire. Maybe the vandalism was in the form of something like wheel chocks (lacking proper rail terminology right now for the portable bumpers that can be placed on tracks) or something similiar. Hard to say. This is very unfortunate. Much worse than that 777. Or even the plane crash in Alaska that killed ten, yet gets less coverage than the 777 crash.
Apparently the firefighters shut down the burning loco - it makes sense to turn off the source of the fuel to the fire, i.e. the ruptured fuel line. It was supposed to be the loco that was to be left idling to maintain brake air pressure. MM&A brass also evoked the possibility of vandals, right after pointing fingers at the firefighters (who were doing what they were supposed to do, otherwise it wouldn't be Lac Megantic, but Nantes). The engines coasted along with the rest of the train, but didn't derail - I supposed they continued their course downhill and stopped elsewhere. That's assuming the engines were in front, of course.
As for coverage, CNN and other US news outlets were all over the SFO plane crash, but up here in Canada, they were wall-to-wall on the derailment.