What happens to the products inside a railcar that gets damaged?

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What happens to the products inside a railcar that gets damaged?
Posted by laluke on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 11:19 AM

I had this thought the other day. I bet a lot of cars get leaks, or damaged over time. And then eventually one time when its carrying products for someone the stuff inside gets damaged.

What happens once its all damaged? Do companies come in and sell the stuff anyway?

 

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Posted by samfp1943 on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 5:24 PM

Depends!  Having been involved in the clean-up of a couple of train wrecks; It seems that the major concern is the reality of a line's insurance, coupled to the products damaged in the wreck.

At one site (South of the Memphis,(Tn) area; the train was on the IC RR, and was essentially a ' merchandise train".  Cargo was variously, alcoholic beverages, a partial load of hunting weapons, and consumer goods.  The cars were righted and rerailed to be pulled off for repairs; the cargo was pushed into long trenches along the ROW.  when it was in the trench, they 'walked the Cats', up and down, esentially, pulverizing the damaged goodsthe job was covered with quite a bit of dirt taken out when the treches were dug.  Graded over, and the following year the ground was row cropped.   

Another time the MoPac was involved, and something on the order of a dozen loads of new cars[automobiles], were involved.  The clean-up crew pulled the wrecked autos out of the rail cars, and placed them in trenches along the ROW. Same as previously reported...Wind-rowed auto were crushed, and then covered with the soil from the digging of the trench. 

In the case of the latter, MoPac had guards on the wreck scene till the cars were deemed no longer good for salvage.  The story we were told by on-site officials was that the railroad's insurance carrier would rather write on check to cover the whole loss, rather than worrying about each auto individually.  Also the car companies seem to feel that 'any salvage of a new car' presents a potential competitor for their 'new cars', not to mention they do not have to worry about the potential of product liabilities to worry about.

 It was the same type deal for the wreck of the MRL train that put those new 737 Boeing fuselages in the river up in Montana, in 2014.  See linked article @

https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-737-fuselages-scrapped-by-montana-recycling-firm/

Sam

 

 


 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 6:05 PM

I think this has changed, perhaps dramatically, with the rise of 'factors' who deal in secondhand and damaged goods.  A very prominent example of this is the 'Big Lots' stores that frequently deal in bang and dent returns; an insuror would be able to sell entire carloads (or container loads) of "wrecked" merchandise to recoup some of the money it paid out in settlement, and this might in fact be a prerequisite in at least some insurance coverage terms (precisely to prevent the sort of 'steamrollering BMWs' that might otherwise occur; it was recognized half a century ago that if you assembled a Volkswagen out of spare parts sold by dealer parts departments it would cost you ten times or more the list price of the car, and the same is true of all the parts recoverable from a given wreck ... if sold via a secondhand dealer with limited or no warranty, or on eBay caveat emptor.)

Part of the situation involves the physical recovery of the damaged goods or components.  It wouldn't be worthwhile to pay to have a boxcar load of half-broken bottles cleaned up and expensively moved offsite to where cleaning would divulge how many were 'still good'.  Might however be worthwhile for large flatscreen TVs, especially ones still having high demanded margins.

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Posted by MikeFF on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 6:44 PM

In the 60's I was a DJ for a country station in Syracuse, NY and did weekend remotes from Syracuse Damaged Freight and Salvage.  Damndest collection of stuff you ever saw...everything from peanut butter to furniture.  I got a lot of bargains, but drew the line at repacked flour.  Mostly it was what survived the catastrophes relatively unscathed.

Mike

 

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Posted by greyhounds on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 8:11 PM

Freight claims for damage were a problem.

There were customers who would try to game the system.  They would claim damage on undamaged shipments in an attempt to reduce or negate their shipping costs.  Sometimes their fraud would include railroad employees who authorized the payment of the claims.  These employees would get a cut of the proceeds. 

A sure way to get Loss and Damage claims was to haul a load of cigarettes.  They'd claim the TOFC trailer leaked and there was some water damage.  They would claim such damage even when it hadn't rained en route.  So we bought some cigarettes.  There was no legal way to resell the "damaged" smokes so they wound up being dumped (which really meant a lot of people got free cigarettes at railroad expense.)

Generally, at least in the past, the railroad would buy the damaged goods.  Often they could be resold at a discount through a broker who dealt in such things.  We baked a load of bananas once.  (The reefer unit quit in a hot summer.)  The load was sold to a broker.  I didn't want to know what he did with the bananas.

My Ex wife worked in distribution for McDonalds.  McDonalds sells what it sells, but they insist on quality and cleanliness.  They do not tolerate resale of anything off condition.  The carton has their name on it.  

So the old N&W spoted a reefer car of supposedly frozen fries to a McDonalds distributor in Cleveland.  The proper temperature had not been maintained (unfrozen fries) and the load was rejected.  The N&W paid and technically owned the fries. (Which were in cartons marked "McDonalds.")  The N&W freight claims guy (they're generally total jerks) ignored the customer's wishes and sold the off condition fries to a salvage broker.  This cost the railroad the business.

The shipments were switched to TOFC to Chicago then truck to Cleveland.  The N&W salesmen ask her when they could get the business back.  She said:  "When I get done punishing you."

"By many measures, the U.S. freight rail system is the safest, most efficient and cost effective in the world." - Federal Railroad Administration, October, 2009. I'm just your average, everyday, uncivilized howling "anti-government" critic of mass government expenditures for "High Speed Rail" in the US. And I'm gosh darn proud of that.
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Posted by ruderunner on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 8:42 PM

say Sam, where and when were those cars buried? I have an excavator and trailer, I might be looking for parts for some vintage automobiles....

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Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 9:32 PM

Saw a derailment with autoracks (before they were completely covered).  All of the automobiles were right where they were before the derailment - and the rack cars were on their sides.  Gotta believe that stuff got bent on those autos that would make them pretty much junk.

A major auto manufacturer used to take the vehicles they used for testing out to a dump area and ran them over with a dozer, as already described.

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Posted by aegrotatio on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 9:59 PM

They really buried merchandise on the property?  How long ago was this?  I can't believe this is allowed to happen today due to environmental concerns.  I also have a hard time believing there is enough land along the railway that can be used to bury wrecked merchandise, not to mention the digging and the random debris fill would compromise the integrity of the railbed.

 

 

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Posted by 54light15 on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 10:55 PM

When I was a kid on Long Island, New York someone taped a rail spike to the top of the rail. In the late 1960s as I recall. A passenger train was derailed and two coaches were total losses. I don't recall if there was a loss of life. Anyway, the LIRR buried the two wrecked coaches alongside the ROW. The papers and politicians made such a stink about it that they were quietly dug up and later scrapped. 

I used to work in a Sears garage. Whenever anything was returned as defective such as a television, A guy in the garage would smash the hell out of it with a sledge hammer and then put it in a dumpster. Defective furniture would be slashed to ribbons. Tires that would have a defective white wall would be returned and then slashed up too. There were people that would do some dumpster diving but never found anything to return to the store. "I lost the receipt" didn't cut it.  

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Posted by mudchicken on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 11:28 PM

At least into the 1990's. Saw lots of beer disposed of that way as well, with the locals weeping at the loss.

More than a few autos wound up as school auto-shop troubleshooting victims with titles that could never be transferred or allowed to be tagged as roadworthy.

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Posted by samfp1943 on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 11:32 PM

ruderunner

say Sam, where and when were those cars buried? I have an excavator and trailer, I might be looking for parts for some vintage automobiles....

 

Been quite a few years back...As I recall, they were burried very deep, and there was not much left for even salvage, pretty much ground up by the Cats...By the time they were dug up, they'd be 'returned to the earth"  These events happend in the time before environmental rules were given much thought.

 I am sure some of The RJ Corman guys, or others in that business could tell you similar tales. 

   The salvage business used to be really big out here, at one time. Now, not so much. Much of it is close out merchandise from failed store operators, or merchandise pulled from shelves because their expiration dates are running towards their end.    In the carpet and flooring business it is smaller lots of discontinued goods, or manufacturing screw up. Salvage goods are definitely the domaine of "Caveat Emptor".

[P.S. The 'before' was in the 1980's, and before, the UPRR merged MKT RR in 1988. The Katy was a prime resource for salvage [and derailed(?)] commodity operators...]

Sam

 

 


 

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Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 6:38 AM

I think I read that Harbor Freight got it's start in the salvage business.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 7:11 AM

Out in the area near my old neighborhood, there were several operations that handled salvage from derailments.  One in particular was Railway Salvage in Hammond.  It was located in an old station building on the IHB a few blocks east of Hohman Ave.

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Posted by LithoniaOperator on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 12:43 PM

I have reason to suspect that around 47 years ago, some rolls of Owens Corning Fiberglas from a boxcar with a defective latch and stuck-open door, in the yard of a railroad I may have then worked for, possibly made their way into my possession and were used as insulation in a hippie van. That's all I'm saying.

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Posted by CShaveRR on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 1:02 PM

Spilled bulk commodities were usually the railroads' responsibility.  They would salvage as much bulk corn as possible from a good-sized spill before it got a chance to rot.  I doubt that it was resold, though if it were picked up before it could be contaminated there might be possibilities along those lines (sorry; not my department!).  

One commodity that caused a lot of problems was bentonite, carried in covered hoppers.  Any leaked stuff would cause hazardous footing in the yard where the car might sit for a few hours.  The leak could come from a poorly-closed hopper gate or from a gash in the car sides.  We (mostly the ground-pounders) were told the the way to take care of a leak in the wall of these cars was to use an ordinary small drinking-water bottle--very readily available--and squirt the contents onto the leak.

I recall one load of corn syrup that we almost "bought", because we were accused of causing the damage that caused it to boil away!  Fortunately, there was no way that even careless handling (que, moi?) could have caused this--it was improper operation of the heating coils at the point of loading.  The car wound up as a solid mass with no way to get it out of the tank without scrapping the car.

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Posted by LithoniaOperator on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 3:32 PM

I was on duty once when a long cut of cars was delivered by a connecting railroad. Included near the end were six open-sided auto racks. I don’t know what the height is from the rail to the roof of a top-deck-riding ‘70s American sedan. But I do know that it is apparently two or three feet more than the underpass that sorry-looking mess had ”cleared” getting from the other road’s yard to ours. Nasty. Looked kinda like the Christmas trees at the dump on January 3rd; tinsel hanging everywhere.

It didn’t take long for the blame game to commence!

 

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Posted by jeffhergert on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 5:15 PM

Parts of a load rejected by a receiver may get salvaged, but now a days with liability the big watch word, I'd bet most items get destroyed.  Especially food stuffs.

About 14 or 15 years ago we had a derailment at Carroll, Iowa.  There where a few autoracks of Cadillac Escalades involved.  Some autoracks where badly damaged, a couple only had a wheel or one truck off the rail.  All those involved, even those with only the wheels off the rail had their Escalades completely scrapped.  Not even allowed to be parted out.  Fortunately, the other side of the tracks had a salvage/scrap yard that was close by.  They got the job of cutting everything up.  Some box cars of tomato sauces were also involved.  (They were definitely not going to salvage anything from those cars.  They were really banged up.)  The whole area smelled of tomato sauce for a few days after the tracks were opened up. 

Jeff

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Posted by greyhounds on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 7:31 PM

If the railroad dents a beer can it will not go to retail.

And the case/six pack is bought by the railroad and dumped.  So, be careful with the beer.  Oh, by the way, if the beer freezes this one (or keg) is on you too.  

"By many measures, the U.S. freight rail system is the safest, most efficient and cost effective in the world." - Federal Railroad Administration, October, 2009. I'm just your average, everyday, uncivilized howling "anti-government" critic of mass government expenditures for "High Speed Rail" in the US. And I'm gosh darn proud of that.
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Posted by samfp1943 on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 8:35 PM
Posted by CShaveRR[ Carl said in part:] "...Spilled bulk commodities were usually the railroads' responsibility.  They would salvage as much bulk corn as possible from a good-sized spill before it got a chance to rot.  I doubt that it was resold, though if it were picked up before it could be contaminated there might be possibilities along those lines (sorry; not my department!)..."
 
In recent years, as this technology has advanced, one will see at the site of a derailment; large vacuum truck rigs. These trucks have the capability to unload cars, even those that have 'landed' in extreme positions, due to a derailment.          They are capable of the recovery of many types of dry bulk loads, and in some cases, pooled liquids, in spilled cargos(?).
 The derail contractors, love them; they lessen the needs to hand shovel out the cargoes, they can suck up spilled products; as well as,about any dry bulk that will 'flow', or is even scattered about the scene. 
 

Sam

 

 


 

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 10:05 PM

samfp1943
Posted by CShaveRR[ Carl said in part:] "...Spilled bulk commodities were usually the railroads' responsibility.  They would salvage as much bulk corn as possible from a good-sized spill before it got a chance to rot.  I doubt that it was resold, though if it were picked up before it could be contaminated there might be possibilities along those lines (sorry; not my department!)..."
 
In recent years, as this technology has advanced, one will see at the site of a derailment; large vacuum truck rigs. These trucks have the capability to unload cars, even those that have 'landed' in extreme positions, due to a derailment.          They are capable of the recovery of many types of dry bulk loads, and in some cases, pooled liquids, in spilled cargos(?).
 The derail contractors, love them; they lessen the needs to hand shovel out the cargoes, they can suck up spilled products; as well as,about any dry bulk that will 'flow', or is even scattered about the scene. 

Derailment contractors also find it easier to do their jobs with empty cars as opposed to fully loaded ones.  Handling a 30 ton empty car puts far less strain on their equipment than a 143 ton loaded car.

Vacuum trucks for dry bulk commodities have been in use for at least the last 40 years to my personal knowledge.

         

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Posted by BOB WITHORN on Thursday, February 15, 2018 8:44 AM
With autos, the mfg. have them scrapped under supervision. The future possible liability is way higher then cost to scrap. Very much like the Boeing 737's that BNSF dinged up.
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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Thursday, February 15, 2018 10:56 AM

My carrier gets called all the time to accidents in our area with orders for vac trailers and liquid tanks.  Why we can handle just about anything there is that goes in either a railroad tankcar or hopper and we have the equipment to transfer it to other equipment to get it secured.  We also work in tandem with other carriers for stuff we do not haul like asphalt and most other oil products especially Propane. 

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Posted by ChuckCobleigh on Thursday, February 15, 2018 12:09 PM

BOB WITHORN
With autos, the mfg. have them scrapped under supervision. The future possible liability is way higher then cost to scrap. Very much like the Boeing 737's that BNSF dinged up.

Not just liability from end users but these days environmental issues on how cars are scrapped.  Air conditioning refrigerant must be extracted, batteries, oil, fuel, tires, probably, and other pieces parts must be separated out, from what I hear.  No longer can they just be buried in a trench along the right-of-way.

Google Earth has an interesting shot of Tehachapi loop in about 2013 with the autos from the racks that BNSF put on the ground at Marcel when its train rear-ended a UP train.  (Wonder if the UP crew got whiplash injuries? It's a common malady in California on the streets, anyway, usually treated by a lawyer.)  It appears that the vehicles were taken from the derailment site to the loop area on flatbed tows and then loaded on auto carriers for their final ride.

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Posted by ccltrains on Sunday, February 18, 2018 2:28 PM
Sears has a lifetime return policy on hand tools (socket sets, screw drivers, etc) Heard that they add them to remix concrete to prevent their second return.
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Posted by ccltrains on Sunday, February 18, 2018 2:46 PM

Are railroads self insuring or have high deductable policies ($50,000,000 more or less).  Doubt they have zero deductsble policies.  Before the AT&T breakup Ma Bell did not carry property insurance.  What is the worst that could happen?  One exchange put out of service.  This exchange could be replaced for far less than the potential premiums on the total nationwide system.  The same logic could be applied to railroads.  A lot of times companies that are self insuring or have high deductables employ an insurance adjuster to do the leg work on damages.  The insurance company would bill the company for any claims settled plus their profit.  To an outside person it would appear that the insurance company was paying the bill out of their pockets.

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, February 18, 2018 3:09 PM

Class 1's carry Catastrophic Insurance - the deductable is in the millions.

When Hurricane Katrina wiped out CSX's line from Mobile to New Orleans, insurance payments provided a large percentage of the funds necessry to rebuild and restore the line to operation.

         

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Posted by dirtyd79 on Thursday, February 22, 2018 1:35 AM

ccltrains
Sears has a lifetime return policy on hand tools (socket sets, screw drivers, etc) Heard that they add them to remix concrete to prevent their second return.
 

ccltrains
Sears has a lifetime return policy on hand tools (socket sets, screw drivers, etc) Heard that they add them to remix concrete to prevent their second return.
 

Doubt it. I've exchanged ratchets a few times that have worn out and they often replace them with either a refurbished one or brand new. As for the wrenches and sockets they probably send them to a scrap metal dealer to be recycled into new steel. No idea what they do with the screw drivers though.

As for the contents of train cars I imagine more stuff gets scrapped rather than sent to an auction to be bought by stores like Big Lots. Way more liability concerns than back in the day.  

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