The Lac-Megantic disaster of 2013

The Indian Railways are often the butt of jokes when a number of accidents happen in succession. But it is cold comfort to know that railway operating procedures in developed countries are far from perfect. As in the case of the derailment followed by fire at Lac-Megantic in Quebec province on July 6, 2013.

Here is a  Powerpoint presentation on this accident, which was used in a conference of safety engineering at IIT Gandhinagar in January 2017.

the-fire-disaster-at-lac-megantic-quebec

Note the videos on slides 8 and 9. They are important in understanding the sequence of events. The one on slide 8 is more accurate and is largely based on the accident investigation report. The one on slide 9 has a serious error as it shows the train slipping backwards, with the tank cars leading the locomotives. In fact the train went down the incline in its existing configuration of locomotives followed by other cars and tank cars.

You may wonder if something like this could happen on the Indian Railways. Certainly a heavy goods train would not be left totally unattended on an incline in mid-section. That is exactly what happened here.

There are a number of safety-related issues which have not been covered above, such as the hazards caused by additives used to increase the viscosity of crude oil for transportation.

For further reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lac-M%C3%A9gantic_rail_disaster

http://www.tsb.gc.ca/eng/rapports-reports/rail/2013/r13d0054/r13d0054-r-es.asp

 

 

Advertisements

Cow slaughter on the tracks

While British cattle are larger and heavier than their counterparts in India and other Asian countries, they do not seem to be particularly intelligent, as we see here. Wandering onto a track which is a main route with rated speeds of 225 Km/h is not very smart. Anyway, see this news item from Peterborough in eastern England which refers to an accident on 2 Oct 2016:

https://www.rt.com/viral/361401-train-kills-cows-arsenal/

Sometimes the cows win, as we see from this accident in 1984 in Scotland where a single cow caused a push-pull diesel express to derail with the death of over a dozen humans:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polmont_rail_accident

A picture of the accident site:

http://danger-ahead.railfan.net/gallery/polmont.htm

As you can see from the above Wikipedia article, this was a significant accident in that it brought out the dangers of push-pull trains with the loco at the rear running into an obstruction. If the loco had been in front the accident and number of casualties would not have been so serious.

India has had its share of relatively minor accidents involving cattle and camels, which have caused some derailments but without major damage or casualties. However, unlike the British railways, IR does have a significant number of larger animals such as lions, tigers and elephants.

Tigers and lions do get run over quite often. The relatively small number of lions in the Gir forest may be able to cope with the slow metre gauge trains in their area. But overcrowding has caused them to disperse to areas further away which have heavy broad gauge goods traffic, notably the line to Pipavav port. The results are predictable.

Elephants have caused accidents in several parts of the country, notably in North Bengal and Assam. The worst such accident was in Jalpaiguri district in 2013 which led to deaths of 7 elephants and injuries to several several others: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Chapramari_Forest_train_accident

No humans were affected in this accident.

However, this accident in 2000 near Dehradun did cause some injuries to humans:

 May 2, 2000

18 injured as 3010 Dn Dehradun-Howrah Doon Express derailed after hitting a herd of elephants at  unmanned crossing between Raiwala and Motichur (near the  latter) on Dehradun-Haridwar section. The engine and 3 coaches were derailed. An elephant was killed.