Oil train derailments are becoming more common, mainly because of the very large number of oil trains, often with over 100 tank cars, taking oil out of the Bakken fields and bringing it to coastal refineries or storage facilities.
You are certainly aware of the recent Amtrak derailment in Pennsylvania. From Reuters:
An Amtrak train in Philadelphia was traveling at more than 100 miles per hour, over twice the speed limit, when it entered a curve in the tracks and derailed, killing seven people and injuring more than 200, federal investigators said on Wednesday.
Now, Patrick Kerkstra at Philadelphia Magazine (Citified) is reporting that the train may have come dangerously close to colliding with an oil train.
There’s a terrifying sight in the background of some photos from Tuesday night’s horrific Amtrak derailment: a series of black rail cars, the color and shape of Tootsie Rolls.
They look like standard rail tanker cars, and while we don’t yet know for certain what was in them, it probably wasn’t corn syrup. In fact, there’s a good chance those tankers were filled with crude oil.
(The image is at the top of the post.)
Kerkstra notes that between 45 and 80 of these trains pass through Philadelphia weekly.
Another photograph at Philidelphia Magazine shows the derailed Amtrak trains crossing a track with at least one oil car on it, but a few hundred feet up track, and other oil trais on adjoining tracks that were not overrun by the Amtrak train. Looking at that photo, it appears to be dumb luck that there didn’t happen to be any oil train cars right where the Amtrak train cars eventually came to rest.
Another photograph, tweeted, shows what looks like the lead Amtrak car, which travelled much farther from the tracks, just a few feet from an oil train.
— Andrew Sharp (@RexBainbridge) May 13, 2015
This is Conrail’s train yard. When asked what was in the tanker cars, Conrail is reported to have claimed that this information is confidential. The Philadelphia Magazine report indicates that an unattributed NTSB person was told that the oil cars were empty. Empty oil cars are, of course, not necessarily empty of explosive fumes and residue, and this report is not confirmed.
The fact is, it didn’t happen. But another fact is, apparently, that it could have.