Re: [SystemSafety] Lac-Megantic disaster

From: Peter Bernard Ladkin < >
Date: Thu, 11 Jul 2013 07:17:01 +0200


There are a lot of questions. The BBC is saying that the locomotive was left running as the train was parked 7 miles up the line, to power braking systems; that fire services powered down the locomotive in the course of extinguishing a small fire; that the train started moving downhill shortly after that:  

[begin BBC quote]

The train, carrying 72 cars of crude oil, was parked shortly before midnight on Friday in the town of Nantes about seven miles (11km) away.

Local firefighters were later called to put out a fire on the train.

While tackling that blaze, they shut down a locomotive that had apparently been left running to keep the brakes engaged.

Shortly afterwards the train began moving downhill in an 18-minute journey, gathering speed until it derailed in Lac-Megantic and exploded.

[end BBC quote]

Questions.
1 (HaroldThimbleby) Powered braking systems on freight are often air-powered. But they are fail-safe - losing power means they engage. So what system here requires power to remain engaged? 2. Fire services called to a plant usually have an operator's emergency number to contact about plant details, and the operation of unattended running equipment. Is there no such system for freight trains? Why not? 3. That an engine attached to a train with HazMat on board could be left running and unattended. 4. How the railroad company could tell at this stage whether and how many handbrakes were or were not applied.

BTW, this is another accident situation predicted explicitly by sociologists Perrow and Clarke ( The Next Catastrophe, Princeton U.P., 2007, resp. Worst Cases, U. Chicago Press 2005), as with flooding Mark 1 BWRs. But they were more concerned with Hazmats such as chlorine and hydrogen fluoride than oil.

It should give engineers pause that sociologists are better at identifying hazards than they are. (Except for computer networks, of course, where I think Bellovin's 1992 paper on possible TCP/IP exploits takes some beating for prediction.)

PBL Prof. Peter Bernard Ladkin, University of Bielefeld and Causalis Limited

On 11 Jul 2013, at 00:26, Harold Thimbleby ....... wrote:
> <a comment about air brakes>
>
> .... BBC News iPad App .......
>
> Engineer blamed for Canada blast
>
> A rail operator's chief executive blames a local engineer for a runaway train that derailed and exploded in a Quebec town, killing at least 15.
>
> http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-23264397

Prof. Peter Bernard Ladkin, University of Bielefeld and Causalis Limited

On 11 Jul 2013, at 04:03, Matthew Squair <mattsquair_at_xxxxxx

> Bigger picture is that there's been a modal shift of oil transport to rail due to restrictions on pipeline construction, which drives a greater operational tempo in rail movements in turn.
>
>
> On Thu, Jul 11, 2013 at 6:44 AM, Gergely Buday <gbuday_at_xxxxxx

>> http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-23264397
>> 
>> Rail World boss Ed Burkhardt: "It is very questionable whether the hand brakes were properly applied. In fact I'll say they weren't". [...]
>> 
>> "He said he applied 11 hand brakes. We think that's not true. Initially we believed him but now we don't." [...]
>> 
>> The fire department and the train's owners have appeared in recent days to point the finger at one another over the disaster.
>> 
>> - Gergely
>> 
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systemsafety_at_xxxxxx Received on Thu Jul 11 2013 - 07:17:13 CEST

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