Monday, July 11, 2011

Another accident waiting?

South East Street Overpass

The $73 million in stimulus spending for high speed rail can't jump start construction soon enough. Rerouting passenger service to tracks on the west side of the Connecticut River revitalized by that stimulus spending, thereby circumventing Amherst, will ensure safe travel for Amtrak customers riding aboard the Vermonter.

But New England Central Railroad plans to maintain business as usual for lengthy freight trains snaking along ancient lines through Amherst. After two freight derailments in less than 30 days--one of them (as far as we know) carrying hazardous materials and both occurring within pollution range of the town's major groundwater supply area that furnishes drinking water--it's time to promote safety over profits.

S0 far this year over 3,500 railway "accidents/incidents" have occurred nationwide with 225 fatalities. The Federal Railway Administration only seems interested in investigating an incident if there's a loss of life or major property damage. In rare catastrophic cases the National Transportation Safety Board becomes the lead investigator.

For these relatively routine rollovers we have to rely on the company itself to perform a thorough investigation. As Select Board Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe pointed out to Town Manager John Musante after the second incident, "Why should we trust them that this isn't going to happen again?"


The long, lonely wail of a distant train, growing louder as it approaches, is something so familiar to me it blends into background noise--even in the dead of night. Growing up on Amherst's Crow Hill you can't help but be familiar with the sights and sounds of the big metal beasts moving cargo or passengers all the livelong day.

Like the University of Massachusetts, the railroad is something that has been here for generations. My great great grandfather Tom Kelley settled in Amherst to work for the railroad--as did a great many Irish in the mid-19th century. Before becoming a "domestic" for the Dickinson family, he labored as a RR "track walker."

So I know what Tom Kelley would have thought had he taken a 150 yard stroll with me due east from the South East Street overpass. And I have no doubt what he would have done: Reported it!


Just south of Station Road (where the first accident occurred):

Mysterious white powder drawing a line from Station Road into Belchertown

My previous walk 150 yards west from the South East Street Overpass


Ed said...

Larry, I again say what I said before -- send your pictures and a brief summary to your Congressman, John Olver, and ask him to get a response from someone as to your concerns.

He lives there, damn it --- close enough to be inside the HazMat evacuation zone depending on which way the wind is blowing -- and I really would be surprised if he couldn't get an answer for you.

Now as to accidents waiting to happen, will the parents of this town please tell their children that pushing their buddies in front of a moving vehicle is a really stupid thing to do???

High end roaches rule said...

"Now as to accidents waiting to happen, will the parents of this town please tell their children that pushing their buddies in front of a moving vehicle is a really stupid thing to do???"

No not that Ed. We need our children to be in the right frame of mind because eventually they'll grow and become this town's insiders.

dominique said...

The Federal Railorad Administration, which has enforcement jurisdiction over rail safety, has a regional office in Cambridge.

Regional Contact Information
Region 1
55 Broadway - Room 1077
Cambridge, MA 02142
Phone - (617)494-2302
Fax - (617)494-2967
Hot Line - 1-800-724-5991

I imagine they might be interested in your photos. Just be careful they don't charge you for trespassing on the railroad right of way. :)

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, I asked my journalism guru about that and we both agreed they most likely would not have me arrested (would only draw more attention)

Thanks for the contact info. I'll send them a flashdrive.

Anonymous said...

Is Larry Kelley the Paul Revere of Amherst?

Anonymous said...

Nice picture Larry! The blur really adds character to your message.

LarryK4 said...

Also indicates the train was moving a tad faster than 10 MPH.

Anonymous said...

Nice phots, but they don't explain much. FRA standards for Class 3 Track (40mph for freight 60 or passenger) require 3 crossites in every four to be good ones. If you don't like the FRA standard, you should take it up with Washington. Derailments occur for numerous reasons, many of which are not related to track issues. The fact that two of them happened in Amherst is just a roll of the dice.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you now have left photographic evidence that you were clearly tresspassing on railroad property. How do we know you didn't do something to cause these accidents? Perhaps you have some hidden adgenda or issue with the railroad itself?

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, I came up with a way of making ties rot instantly.

My only agenda--and it is far from "hidden"--is a concern for public safety; as I, my family, and friends all live here, and have for a very long time.

ugh said...

Dont forget that the bridges and over passes usually have a double set of rails to prevent a de-rail from going over the side. as a former rail worker I can tell you the local railroads do the very minimum to get by AND THATS IT, But on a different note, a train can pull 1200 ton of material with four engines. In order to move that much freight with out a train it would require 300-400 trucks all with running engines and with eighteen tires that all require 25-30 gallonsof oil, with eighteen sets of breaks emmiting bad dust, heavy gear oil and anti freeze (trains use straight water) and freon, etc. And lastly those harmful chemicals would still be moved, but moved on the road in front of the house instead of the track behindthe house and amherst roads are far worse than the rail.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, I noticed the tracks were in much better shape up where they cross over Rt 9/College Street, (where Amherst College repainted the overpass in their purple-and-white official college colors) over to Main Street and High Street as well.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I asked my journalism guru about that and we both agreed they most likely would not have me arrested

No, they could do what UMass does -- call it a "suicide attempt" and get you locked up on the 5th Floor of CDH.

You really want a good story to investigate: look into this. And how many Section 12s do they do a year -- they admit to 75 but I suspect it is a multiple of that...

Follow the money....

Anonymous said...

I say again -- have John Olver forward the pictures to the FRA and say that he got them from a constituent -- he doesn't have to say who and it could be a railroad worker (or union guy) who sent it to him. This sort of thing happens all the time.

And if the FRA came back and said that the track met specs, then you have it officially and in writing.

And I always did wonder about the double rails on bridges, I thought it was to hold the ties down as there wasn't ballast....