Another Train Derailment Hits Local Community Hard

With one train after another hurtling off the rails across America, the only thing people bother to ask is whether what spilled out is toxic or not. Derailments have been a regularly reported occurrence since a Norfolk Southern line derailed and poisoned residents in two states. One of the states which got chemically nuked was Pennsylvania. Norfolk Southern just had another derailment in Pittsburgh. Right along the Ohio River. At least this one isn’t toxic. Officials are investigating why there seem to be so many similar events lately and they might have an answer for why. Preventing them remains a challenge.

Train wreck in Pittsburgh

Norfolk Southern is about to have yet another team of investigators breathing down their necks in wake of a fresh train derailment. This one happened near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saturday, April 8. The good news, company officials note, is that nothing toxic spilled out. Not this time.

They are asking for some patience from local residents because they’ll be tying up traffic with their heavy equipment until they get “multiple” cars back on the rails, where they belong. The railroad isn’t having a good year. “This is at least the fourth derailment incident involving Norfolk Southern’s trains since the start of 2023.

What we know from local reporters on the scene is that “five empty cars derailed, closing a stretch of West Carson Street, which runs alongside the Ohio River.” City officials were quick to announce that “no injuries or safety hazards have been reported in the incident.

The only scary part was for the train crew, who found themselves temporarily trapped in their locomotive. A company spokesperson relates that Norfolk Southern “crews and contractors have already begun the cleanup process.

On Saturday, they issued a statement noting, “this morning, approximately five empty steel cars derailed near Pittsburgh. There is no hazardous material involved, and the cars are upright. There were no injuries reported. Norfolk Southern crews and contractors are on-site and have begun clearing the cars.

They aren’t saying what made the train jump the tracks but the fact the cars were empty might have had something to do with that. What they are saying is “to access the site, we may have to stage some equipment on nearby roads. we appreciate the community’s patience while this work happens.

Placement of rail cars

The day before this latest disaster, the federal regulators responsible issued a report calling on all railroads to “reevaluate their placement of rail cars and locomotives, particularly in long trains.” On Friday, the Federal Railroad Administration “laid out the steps for railroads” to prevent “a rise in derailments in which the makeup of the train is a leading cause or a contributing factor.

They have been taking a hard look at all railroad operations since the chemical spill in East Palestine, Ohio. That’s the one which also affected residents of neighboring Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

Railroads must prioritize proper train makeup to maintain safety, prevent accidents, and optimize train performance,” the advisory bulletin states. It’s not binding on the railroad companies, only a suggestion. The industry is urged to “review and update policies regarding the configuration of trains, while considering proper use of distributed power units, or locomotives, and train-length limitations.

The distribution of cars matters dramatically. “It also urges additional training for crews and other railroad workers who decide the placement of rail cars and locomotives.

Industry and government research shows “that excessive ‘in-train’ forces — such as those affecting the distribution of weight — can cause a long, heavy train to derail or pull apart when on an incline or when a train enters a curve.” The companies use special software to help with that. Apparently, the algorithm needs a tweak or two.

After looking at six similar wrecks, they concluded, “in every incident, the first car that derailed was empty and locomotives were spread throughout the train.” Typically, the derailment happens “at the sag between ascending and descending grades.” The “short, empty rail cars” are always the first to run off the rails.

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