Tuesday, December 23, 2014

One-person train crews a bad idea, Wisconsin record shows

Given the upsurge in volatile oil shipping by rail, and subsequent derailments - - and that such trains routinely run through Wisconsin - - removing a set of eyes and ears from train operations as sought by trade groups is a bad idea.

Remember Weyauwega? We do.

Or Montreal?

Look no further than these fiery crashes with Wisconsin connections for a reminder about one-person crew safety concerns.
MONTREAL — Ed Burkhardt, the rail boss under fire after a fatal train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, was ordered in 1997 to comply with “strict remedial measures” to improve safety at the publicly traded Wisconsin Central Railroad he ran for more than a decade.
The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration ordered Wisconsin Central, then headed by Burkhardt, to improve its safety practices after multiple train derailments. Audit results showed the company’s accident rate for 1996 was “72-per-cent greater than all other railroads in its category,” a July 1997 news release by the U.S. authority states.
The safety compliance agreement — generally ordered by the U.S. railroad authority after a pattern of safety violations — applied to the railroad’s 4,828-kilometre network across four states. Wisconsin Central would have faced penalties ranging anywhere from fines to the closing of the railroad’s operations if it failed to honour the agreement, which called for improving employee training, submitting a track maintenance plan, and suspending the use of one-person train crews.
Burkhardt also dismissed reaction to the 1997 derailment of a handful of tanker cars carrying propane in the Wisconsin town of Appleton, as a “tempest in a teapot,” the Toronto Star reported.
“This was a very minor incident,” he told reporters. “There was never any potential danger...”
In 1996, the fiery derailment of a Wisconsin Central train in Weyauwega bolstered public support for state legislation passed in 1997 obliging rail companies to use two-person crews on trains.


PT said...

Those oil tanker cars move through Tosa, Milwaukee... on a regular basis. Imagine a derailment right in the heart of the village.

Anonymous said...

We should eliminate ALL humans on trains and run them by remote control.

Just like those men that play with choo-choo trains. If their little models don't need little engineers, why should there be big engineers on big trains?

Anonymous said...

PT -- that rail line is some of the best kept and precisely aligned in the nation. It is simply nonsense to compare this line to to the accidents in the original post.

There are no split frogs and the line is certified for 80 mph passenger operatins (though not possible nor allowed in 'tosa, but the empire builder regularly hits that speed along that line).

PT said...

11:54 - are you saying a derailment couldn't happen - ever? Just like airplanes never crash? Is it possible through human error by a conductor going too fast or falling asleep at the throttle or whatever could cause the cars to tip? Come now - sheet happens under the best conditions.

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