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  Wednesday October 22nd, 2014    

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Safety and oil on trains (03/26/2014)
From: Jim R. Miller

Since I live a stone’s throw away from the CP Rail tracks, I might as well put my two cents in. (I’m good at clichés.)

There are two personnel in the cab on those trains: the engineer and the conductor. (Amtrak is using one now.) Rather than add more people in the cab, I think we should look at adding the old red caboose at the end for oil trains. They have track-side detectors for problems with the cars, but I guess that doesn’t work for leaking oil since the car with the leak went through at least two on its way to Winona. One person at the rear end of the train would have certainly smelled the leaking oil.

The length of the train is a factor. The new CEO of CP Rail is a believer in long trains. Keep in mind a mile-long oil train in Winona with a problem could be a problem for the whole older city.

Some folks have suggested lowering the speed for oil-carrying trains through the city. I have mixed feelings about that. Yes, it might be a tad safer, but, frankly, I like to see those trains pass my neighborhood as quickly as possible.

And yes, the Ethanol trains are as dangerous as the oil trains, or maybe more, so they have to be included, too. I think arguing about fossil fuels in this case is beside the point; our safety is the issue.

Shipping oil is a dangerous business no matter how you do it. If you do it by rail, you have a chance of burning oil showering down on you; if you do it by pipeline, you have the chance of it exploding under you. My great-grandfather was one of the first employees of National Transit Co. in Oil City, Pa. My grandfather followed in his slippery footsteps and they could tell you the dangers of shipping oil in wooden barrels.

There is no 100-percent safe way of shipping oil. We have to try to make it as safe as possible. 

 

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