Showing posts with label train wreck. Show all posts
Showing posts with label train wreck. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I'm a working on...

 Poor Farm Swamp

I was happy to see a railroad worker doing basic maintenance on the tracks running over Station Road recently, the location of two derailments last summer.  Looks like the crew also did some tree work a little further up the tracks as well.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Scary" indeed

Amherst Select Board Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe was hardly soothed by the Town Manager's Report--or I should say update--concerning the twin train derailments and the resulting measures taken by New England Central Railroad to address them.

If the cause of both potentially devastating mishaps was a "high water table" (and that area is indeed a swamp) then simply replacing old rotted ties and fasteners does not address the underlying problem, although it certainly helps.

But if that was pretty much NECRs response--surface hardware replacement-- then if they had refurbished those long neglected rails a few months earlier, would it not have prevented both accidents?

A recent study by UMass Hydrogeologist David Boutt published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters demonstrates that as a result of rising temperatures and climate change, average precipitation in the Northeast has increase by 30% since 1900, and water tables have indeed become consistently higher over the past ten years.

Since this a long-term phenomena, chances are it's not going to reverse itself in the short-term future. Combine this soggy weather trend with the activity of beavers in that low lying area and you have a recipe for returning to the prehistoric days of Lake Hitchcock.

Perhaps when the tracks near Station Road are submerged, NECR or the Federal Railroad Administration will address the real problem.

Let's hope they do so before another accident occurs.

Trains, bike paths, beavers and global warming make for a bad mix

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ghost in the machine

North Whitney Street crossing

I hope the town manager, fresh back from a two week vacation, reads the Amherst police logs as New England Central Railroad made their report twice over the weekend--both times for maintenance issues.

Coincidentally enough the Town Manager is giving an "update on the train derailments" to the Select Board this evening. Spfld Republican Reports

High Street Crossing

Busy Main Street crossing
APD contacted NECR on Sunday afternoon as citizens were complaining the lights and bells had been on for an hour and a half with no train in sight. Again late Sunday night just after midnight another complaint from High Street the next street over for phantom trains setting off the bells and lights.

Well I guess it is better for the alarms to be going off when there's no train a comin' vs not having them go off when a train is barreling through town. I guess...

High Street crossing Monday 10:45 AM with no train in sight

The same mysterious white powder found on Station Road

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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I hear a train a comin'

Station Road South Amherst crossing 1:30 PM

Okay folks, hold your breath. The tracks are about to open for business as usual.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The price of deferred maintenance

Rotted railroad ties don't provide much structural support

As a long time health club owner I know how easy it is to put off routine machine maintenance to save money--especially when revenues are in steep decline. A treadmill belt start to slip occasionally and a new belt costs $300 so you try to let it go just a little longer. The liability exposure is enormous should someone get injured.

And a runaway train can do a world of hurt.
A spike works its way to freedom
This one succeeded
The question is why is this clamp not doing its job?

Somehow I just can't imagine taking a couple hundred yard amble down a runway at Barnes or Westover Air Force base and spotting loose nuts and bolts littering the airstrip.

Looks like some ties were replaced...a l-o-n-g time ago

Monday, June 27, 2011

Strike two!

UPDATE: 8:40 PM Select Board Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe, obviously concerned, asked the Town Manager tonight if Amherst had the authority to prevent the trains coming through town if they don't get their upkeep act together. Unfortunately the answer was "no".
Thank goodness the maintenance program for C-5A aircraft that routinely lumber over Amherst is so top shelf because if one of those babies ever falls from the sky...And if it happened a month ago, like the first train wreck in Amherst, the entire fleet would be grounded until they figured out what caused the mishap and then corrected it.

Two trains derailing within a stones throw of each other in less than a month's time is unacceptable--especially when both occurred within a half mile of Lawrence Swamp where wells are located that supply half the town's drinking water and an overpass where automobiles and bicycles routinely travel directly underneath.