Another Deadly Coal Train Derailment

Two killed near Baltimore.
This post is part of the research project: Northwest Coal & Oil Exports

This one was outside Baltimore, killing two 19-year-old women who were students at universities in the area. USA Today and the Baltimore Sun have the awful story.

This marks at least the second deadly coal train derailment in the US this summer after two people were killed in Chicago on July 4 when a coal train tumbled off an overpass and crushed the car they were traveling in.

At National Wildlife Federation, Peter LaFontaine has put together an interactive map documenting the dozen-plus coal train derailments in 2012. It’s a worrisome look at the direct threat posed by extremely heavy trains traveling at high speeds in populated areas.

As I’ve said before with respect to freight rail, there are some risks and annoyances that are worth putting up with. Moving high-value freight and supporting a stable base of jobs justify  some hassles. But clogging our rails and backing up our streets with a low-value commodity that supports few jobs, is notoriously unreliable, is a huge threat to the planet’s climate, and results in serious air pollution problems?

I’m having a hard time seeing the upside.

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  1. Jessica says:

    Out of curiosity, are coal trains more, less, or equally prone to derailments compared to other commodity trains? I’ve seen tanker cars for liquids–those seem like they’d be pretty heavy too.

  2. Brian Bundridge says:

    Nope, any train is capable of derailing. Heat, cold, lack of maintenance can all cause derailments. Grain trains, coal trains, coke trains, ore trains all run in heavy “unit” (meaning, the same bulk commodity in the same train)

    To answer your question though, equal.

    • richard pauli says:

      Gosh, I had heard NOT equal.

      That coal dust clogs the track bed drainage.. and when frozen cracks more than well drained track beds. I heard that coal tracks require tremendously more maintenance… ( hey more jobs!)

  3. Rudy Caparros says:

    HazMat Experts and Firefighters petition Dow Chemical and Union Pacific for safe rail tank cars transporting gas chlorine. Secondary containment is a necessary improvement that must be implemented. See–PETITION C KIT for First Responders Comments.

  4. tgotech says:

    TOXIC TRAIN SAFETY – A First Responders Petition caused The Chlorine Institute to conduct a five-month study comparing the safety of secondary containment to the chlorine “C”-Kit for chlorine tank cars. The study proved secondary containment to be, by far, the safest technology for containing and preventing releases of chlorine gas. To see secondary containment – Search “CHLORTANKER.”

  5. calchem says:

    WARNING: FIRST RESPONDERS’ use of THE CHLORINE INSTITUTE “C” KIT may cause the catastrophic failure of a chlorine tank car, instantly creating a toxic gas plume with a distance of not less than seven miles. The first mile will have chlorine concentrations of 1,000 ppm, causing death after one or two breaths with no opportunity for escape. To learn more, see PETITION C KIT, click on “First Responder Warnings.”

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