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STARS HazMat Chronicle

December 20, 2021: Train Crash in Marinette County

A chain reaction of vehicle collisions in foggy weather at a railroad crossing in northeastern Wisconsin killed a box truck driver and caused a train to derail, authorities said Wednesday. The crash happened around 11 a.m. in the town of Pound. Authorities said the crashes involved two dump trucks, an empty logging truck, a box truck and other vehicles. Some vehicles were pushed into the train and knocked it off the rails, Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve said.
The driver of the box truck was killed when the vehicle slid under the train. Suave confirmed that fog was a factor in the crash. The crash closed Highway 141 and authorities said cleanup could take until Thursday morning. Pound is located about 40 miles north of Green Bay.

December 13, 2021: CSX Train Derailed by Tornado in Kentucky

Today’s tornado caused a 28-car derailment of a CSX train near Earlington, Ky. An initial report said the cars were empty. However, drone images taken by photographer Jim Pearson show at least one hopper car with a spilled load. There were no injuries resulting from the derailed train. A number of structures were leveled by the tornado, which reportedly was on the ground for more than 200 miles. Authorities are now reporting at least 70 tornado-related deaths in Kentucky, one of six states hit by a total of more than 30 tornadoes.

December 13, 2021: Union Pacific Train Derails in Elmore County

A Union Pacific train derailed early Sunday in Elmore County but resulted in no injuries. Union Pacific spokesperson, Robynn Tysver, said the cause of the derailment is currently under investigation. The derailment happened about 1:30 a.m. on the western edge of Hammett. Approximately 28 mixed freight train cars derailed. One of the cars spilled steel plates.

December 13, 2021: STB Lays Out Rule For Trackage Rights During Emergency Situations

The Surface Transportation Board is adopting a final rule regarding the procedures a railroad accesses the track of another railroad in emergency situations. The rule , effective Dec. 30, 2021, establishes a new class exemption for emergency temporary trackage rights for specific limited situations. It will permit emergency temporary trackage rights to take effect within five days of a carrier filing a verified notice of exemption.
The Association of American Railroads had petitioned the board in October 2020 for the rule. The board largely agreed on the petition’s merits. It felt the change would make the process of obtaining temporary trackage rights in an emergency more efficient and predictable.
The rulemaking was met by some objections. NTSB and The Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers argued that the exemption could threaten rail safety by allowing personnel to conduct operations over an unfamiliar line.  The Surface Transportation Board determined that the exemption would not affect rail safety and does not impact existing FRA safety regulations.

December 6, 2021: TSA Directs Freight Railroads to Bolster Cyber Security, Report Incidents

The Transportation Security Administration issued a directive on Thursday that requires freight railroads to report cyber incidents within 24 hours. Additionally, all freight rail operators will designate a cybersecurity coordinator, develop an incident response plan, and conduct vulnerability assessments. Similar directives were issued for passenger rail and public transit operators.

Homeland Security Representative, Alejandro Mayorkas, stated “These new…requirements and recommendations will help keep the traveling public safe and protect our critical infrastructure from evolving threats…DHS will continue working with our partners across every level of government and in the private sector to increase the resilience of our critical infrastructure nationwide.”

AAR President and CEO, Ian Jefferies, said the final directive had addressed some of its most significant concerns. The association said the industry had already been taking cybersecurity security seriously. “For the better part of two decades, railroads have thoughtfully coordinated with each other and government officials to enhance information security, which has proven to be an effective, responsive way of addressing evolving threats. Let there be no mistake, railroads take these threats seriously and value our productive work with government partners to keep the network safe.”

The new cybersecurity requirements come as ransomware attacks continue to target companies across the country. Some of the attacks left behind devastating impacts on operations.  None of the U.S. freight railroads have experienced a catastrophic incident. However, CSX and short-line operator OmniTrax were both the target of ransomware attacks earlier this year.

December 6, 2021: Fire in Engine of Norfolk Southern Train

A fire that was quickly extinguished in the lead engine of a freight train caused it to block Illinois 130 in Philo for about four hours Saturday afternoon.

“It’s 3 miles long, 212 cars,” Philo fire Chief Keith Schafroth said of the stalled train.

At 12:22 p.m., firefighters were alerted to the fire in the lead engine of the Norfolk Southern train on the tracks that run southwest to northeast through the town.

“It had basically put itself out by the time we got there,” Schafroth said. “We just had to hike a half-mile to get to the train.”

The engine was in the middle of the section between county roads 1800 E and 1900 E, he said. That’s between Philo and Sidney, so Schafroth had alerted Homer and Sidney firefighters as well.

“Fuel had leaked out of the engine, so they had to shut it down,” he said.

Firefighters cleared the scene within an hour and barricades were put up on Illinois 130 north and south of town.

By 4:15 p.m., a new engine had arrived to move the train and the road was reopened.