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Concept for a Safe Oil Train

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, February 27, 2014 1:53 PM

Why do I get the feeling that this whole system is getting overly complex and still doesn't address the issue of where all the kinetic energy will goQuestion

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, February 27, 2014 2:00 PM

That's exactly what I mean.

The 'wireless' connection has antenna strength determination at each end.  All the cars 'handshake' regularly to see what they're adjacent to -- this lets any computer that can reference the network understand how the cars are ordered.  IF cars are switched or changed, the result is immediate.  If the train separates for any reason, the system will know it (and accommodate).  If you want to buffer the history, you can probably store the entire history of what either end of a car has been connected to.

There needs to be backup redundancy that does not share a common mode (e.g., no OFDM for noise reduction masquerading as independent multiple channels) and this is one place a wired (or wired with wireless terminal links) system may be attractive.

The capacitive-coupling system IBM developed years ago (for exchanging people's business-card information when they shook hands, of all things!) would work nicely for this general level of data exchange, over a 'making up the air hose' connection...

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Posted by Euclid on Thursday, February 27, 2014 2:12 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH

Why do I get the feeling that this whole system is getting overly complex and still doesn't address the issue of where all the kinetic energy will goQuestion

The most of the kinetic energy is dissipated through braking as it normally is in stopping a train.  Some of the kinetic energy is dissipated through the resistance of cars running while derailed.   

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Posted by Euclid on Thursday, February 27, 2014 6:17 PM

BARFlyer
Euclid, suppose your train engine derailed? suppose your train engine hit another train car ahead of it, or engine?

 I like your theory, and in fact it has plenty of merit and existing proof on many of its concepts,but it will need supplemental Help with MOMENTUM, which IS the biggest challenge here to avoid jack-knife. Dragging a derailed truck along may or may not work depending on what derailed it. On a curve you might end up with the whole train on its side if it kept moving. Experimenting with scale cars and load sensors can be a real eye opener when it comes to the amount of force this problem is fighting..  Its Great to see people thinking and getting it out there

BARFlyer,

This concept will only apply to mid-train derailments.  It cannot help with head end collisions with other trains or motor vehicles, or any type of event that causes the head end to derail.  It also cannot help with rear end collisions. 

With mid-train derailments, the system will help mitigate the derailment damage to varying degrees.  And there will also be mid-train derailments that are not helped at all by the concept.  Location of the train will play a big role in the success or failure of the system.  A successful outcome could be prevented by bridges and trestles being snagged by the derailing cars, for instance.

So it is not a panacea.  But I think the damage it would prevent would make it worthwhile, especially if that damage ruptures tanks cars and burns people to death.  This system would be completely unnecessary if tank cars were made invincible to the destructive forces produced in a high speed derailment.  But I don’t believe that is practical. 

The value of hauling the crude oil is limited by the market value of the refined products.  So, I don’t think the value of hauling crude oil is high enough to justify the cost of encapsulating its volume in a rupture-proof container during shipping.  On the contrary, for instance, the value of hauling nuclear waste is high enough to justify the cost of encapsulating its volume in a rupture-proof container. 

So, if you can’t put the oil in a rupture-proof container, you can work on reducing the forces that would rupture the container.          

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Posted by Euclid on Sunday, March 2, 2014 12:42 PM

Here is a quote from Progressive Railroading (February 2014) from an article by Toby Kolstad titled, There's a lot at stake in the tank-car design discussions:

“There is one common denominator to all the tank-car derailment tragedies of late that has hardly been mentioned:

Train speeds all exceeded 40 mph. High-speed derailments almost always involve dozens of cars piled into a very small space; in derailments at slower speeds, cars tend to stay coupled together and upright.

Limiting the speed of trains with blocks of haz-mat tank cars to 25 mph would reduce the catastrophic consequences of derailments involving these cars by almost 100 percent. That would be far more effective than the 56.6 percent reduction estimated by the AAR's own research for the tank-car changes they have suggested,…”

[My emphasis added]

 

It is interesting that the article focuses on the problem of tank cars piling into a very small space, and the preferable alterative outcome of having the cars stay coupled together and upright.  This is precisely the objective of this safe oil train idea that I am proposing; that is, to avoid the outcome of piling cars into a very small space; and achieving that by pulling on them while they stay coupled together. 

The article says that preventing the cars from piling into a small space will eliminate the catastrophic consequences of oil train derailments by almost 100%.  I assume the author means rupture and fire when he refers to catastrophic consequences. 

The article says this improvement would be far better than what will be achieved by the AAR proposed tank car changes to make the cars more crashworthy.   So the author is on the very same page as I am, but he arrives at that page by reducing train speed, whereas I arrive at that page by the method detailed in this thread.  The author goes on to say that reducing the speed limit is not an acceptable solution, although he does not say why that is so.  Overall, I believe that the article has identified the problem, but not the solution.    

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, March 2, 2014 1:02 PM

He seems to say that reducing speed to 25 mph is not acceptable,  but to 35 or 40 maybe.

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, March 2, 2014 2:55 PM

Euclid

Here is a quote from Progressive Railroading (February 2014) from an article by Toby Kolstad titled, There's a lot at stake in the tank-car design discussions:

“There is one common denominator to all the tank-car derailment tragedies of late that has hardly been mentioned:

Train speeds all exceeded 40 mph. High-speed derailments almost always involve dozens of cars piled into a very small space; in derailments at slower speeds, cars tend to stay coupled together and upright.

Limiting the speed of trains with blocks of haz-mat tank cars to 25 mph would reduce the catastrophic consequences of derailments involving these cars by almost 100 percent. That would be far more effective than the 56.6 percent reduction estimated by the AAR's own research for the tank-car changes they have suggested,…”

[My emphasis added]

For the record, here is the full article from Progressive Railroading

It seems to me as if he's primarily discussing the need for increased structure (and its cost and weight) rather than ever seriously considering that a reduction in speed is an answer.


... the article focuses on the problem of tank cars piling into a very small space, and the preferable alterative outcome of having the cars stay coupled together and upright ...  preventing the cars from piling into a small space will eliminate the catastrophic consequences of oil train derailments by almost 100% ... this improvement would be far better than what will be achieved by the AAR proposed tank car changes to make the cars more crashworthy.

 

The article, I think, does not 'focus' on these things so much as mention them as rhetorical devices.  He appears to me to be commenting on the RSI proposal... with the point of his reductio argument being this:

" ... However, a 25 mph speed limit is as impractical to railroads as insulating and jacketing all existing tank cars in haz-mat service is for rail-car lessors."  (emphasis mine)


The author goes on to say that reducing the speed limit is not an acceptable solution, although he does not say why that is so.

If a focus in modern railroading is to accomplish 'one-speed' operation at a cost-effective speed that maximizes 'throughput' ... anything that disrupts that speed by moving more slowly is just as damaging as something moving more quickly (e.g. Amtrak) -- now with the added pain that a slow-moving disruption takes longer to clear a given stretch of track.  Do I need to go into the increased cost involved in eight-hour mandatory recrewing when the train goes a maximum of 200 miles per crew, with all the latencies and uncertainty going with change locations, added van time, etc.?

I think the article DOES say that the solution involving mandatory armoring and jacketing is perceived as relatively unattractive, and it certainly does point out an important cause of the problem in a way that 'plays into the hands' of someone advocating a differential-braking solution.  I'd be tempted to write a letter to Progressive Railroading that succinctly makes the point that there ARE at least in theory ways to reduce potential damage in 40-mph-plus accidents down to levels of 25-mph-and-below, and we should investigate them as 'solutions' to the present quandary regarding 'safer' tank-car oil transport. 

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Posted by Euclid on Sunday, March 2, 2014 5:20 PM

The author does indeed dismiss the 25 mph speed limit, and I do understand why the speed reduction is a non-starter in the industry.  And in so dismissing the 25 mph speed limit, the author dismisses the goal of preventing tank cars from piling into a very small space because he only connects that outcome with a 25 mph speed restriction.

However, I take him to mean that achieving that goal of preventing cars from piling into a small space would be far preferable to strengthening tank cars.  He says that preventing the piling of cars into a very small space would prevent 100% of the potential catastrophes whereas strengthening tank cars will only prevent 56.6% of potential catastrophes.  So he cites the best solution, but says that it is unattainable because the industry will not accept the speed reduction. 

I would say my solution is attainable, but it will not prevent 100% of potential catastrophes.  This is because it will not prevent tank cars from piling into a very small space in the event head end collisions with other trains; or head end derailments due to other causes; or rear end collisions with following trains.  And it will not work in some mid-train derailments, depending on extenuating circumstances.    

This the first time I have seen a quantification of the safety improvement from tank car strengthening.  It would be interesting to learn whether my idea would prevent more than 56.6% of the potential catastrophes.  Also interesting would be the result of combining my idea with the strengthening of tank cars, and the amount of time needed for each of the two approaches.

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Posted by tree68 on Sunday, March 2, 2014 5:34 PM

Euclid
This the first time I have seen a quantification of the safety improvement from tank car strengthening.  It would be interesting to learn whether my idea would prevent more than 56.6% of the potential catastrophes.  Also interesting would be the result of combining my idea with the strengthening of tank cars, and the amount of time needed for each of the two approaches.

A third question is the relative cost of the two approaches, and hence the return on investment.  

The replacement of tank cars with cars built to the new standards is already underway, and will be complete when manufacturing facilities are able to complete the required number of cars.  At any rate, the cars will be generally be replaced at or about the time they "life cycle" out.

The addition of some form of enhanced braking system, whatever it may be, will require not only that the system be installed in cars currently being built, but all cars currently in service must be retrofit as well, not to mention associated hardware, software, and communications.

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Posted by Deggesty on Sunday, March 2, 2014 5:47 PM

At 25 miles mph, there is little danger of pileups? Then, the solution is to lay a third track for oil movements, so the oil trains will not get in the way of the trains moving fasterBig Smile.

Johnny

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Posted by Euclid on Sunday, March 2, 2014 7:03 PM

tree68
The addition of some form of enhanced braking system, whatever it may be, will require not only that the system be installed in cars currently being built, but all cars currently in service must be retrofit as well, not to mention associated hardware, software, and communications.

I am not sure I understand your point.  The overall objective would be to have all tank cars meet the new strength standards, but it would not require them all to meet the standards before any safety increase is realized.  Each car made or converted to the new standards will increase safety. 

The same could be said for this new brake concept except that the safety increases would have to be in something like 100-car increments.  This is because the individual cars in a train must all be converted to the new braking system before they can operate that system.  So each new 100-car train will increase safety.

If the entire tank car fleet must remain as loose cars (not captive or dedicated to specific trains in any way), then it would require the entire fleet to be converted to the new brake system before it could begin operation.  Or, at least, it would require all the cars in any random train to end up with all loose cars that happen by chance to be equipped with the new brake system.

But I assume that the entire fleet is not loose cars right now, and does not have to be all loose cars.  If a conversion were made to this new brake system, I expect the converted cars will immediately be grouped together so they can run as trains as early as possible and utilize their new brake system. 

So both the car strengthening and this new brake system would be an incremental process gaining advantage with each increment.      

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Posted by tree68 on Sunday, March 2, 2014 7:42 PM

Euclid
I am not sure I understand your point. 

Introduction of one "new" car to a train increases the overall safety of that train by some percentage.  Once all the cars in a train meet the new standard, the safety factor is increased to that ~56% figure cited earlier.

Since the cars are being placed in service as they are built, there is no additional cost, over and above the increase per unit due to the improvements.  Once a car rolls out the door of the factory, it becomes part of the improvement of safety.  The return on investment is actually quite high.

As you note, a new brake system must be completed in full-train increments.  That must necessarily include enough rolling stock so that trainsets can remain complete - a bad ordered car must be replaced by another similarly equipped car, so it's not even 100 car trainsets - you need spares of both cars and suitably equipped locomotives.

Now for statistics - a train made up of all new cars is supposed to be ~50% safer than one made up of old cars.  If we assume that the proposed brake system increases safety by ~50% we now see a 75% increase in safety.  And that last 25% was far more expensive to achieve than the first 50%.

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Posted by Euclid on Sunday, March 2, 2014 8:31 PM

tree68

Euclid
I am not sure I understand your point. 

Since the cars are being placed in service as they are built, there is no additional cost, over and above the increase per unit due to the improvements.  Once a car rolls out the door of the factory, it becomes part of the improvement of safety.  The return on investment is actually quite high.

As you note, a new brake system must be completed in full-train increments.  That must necessarily include enough rolling stock so that trainsets can remain complete - a bad ordered car must be replaced by another similarly equipped car, so it's not even 100 car trainsets - you need spares of both cars and suitably equipped locomotives.

I don’t see much hardship in the need to add the improved brake in full train increments when the overall objective is to convert the entire fleet.  Even the strengthened cars will probably go into service in blocks of multiple cars.  Suppose the entire production of either strengthened cars or cars made with the new brake was 200 cars per day.  How much real benefit would be realized by the ability to put the strengthened cars into service one at a time during that day, versus having to wait half a day for each 100 car train with the new brakes?

You say that the return on investment on strengthening one car is quite high.  I don’t know how high it would be, but one strengthened car in a 100-car train will not have much return on investment considering that there will be 99 other cars available to rupture and start a fire if the train happens to derail. 

Cost certainly enters into the solution in many different ways.  I do not expect that what I am proposing will be cheaper per car than strengthening them.  Probably if they adopted what I am proposing, they would also strengthen the cars.  With all that is at stake, they need a solution that is as near to 100% effective as possible.  And considering the risk of losing the oil business, the cost of the near perfect solution could be justifiably very high.  Slowing down the oil trains has a cost, and so does rerouting them.  Oil train derailments pose the risk of extremely high cost.  So does the effect of oil train disasters on the regulators. So I have no idea how much cost is too much for any given safety measure. 

Part of what I am proposing is a solution that appears to match the problem for the purpose of convincing the public and the regulators.  In my opinion, the strengthening of tank cars for a 56% less chance of the random incineration of a large number of people is not a convincing solution to the problem.  Accomplishing that over ten years as the oil traffic booms to higher and higher levels makes the solution seem even less convincing. 

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Posted by tree68 on Sunday, March 2, 2014 9:51 PM

Euclid
In my opinion, the strengthening of tank cars for a 56% less chance of the random incineration of a large number of people is not a convincing solution to the problem.  Accomplishing that over ten years as the oil traffic booms to higher and higher levels makes the solution seem even less convincing. 

Yet you say yourself that your proposed solution is less than 100% and will, in fact, only work under certain circumstances.

A single car not failing during a catastrophic derailment may be enough to prevent the ignition of the product, even if other cars do fail.  Might be one heck of a spill, but the chances of it catching fire are just that much less.

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, March 3, 2014 4:07 AM

If conditions are not right, most of the time brining the train to a stop as qukcly as possible and as uniformlhy as possible will be the best approach.

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Posted by Euclid on Monday, March 3, 2014 3:05 PM

tree68

Euclid
In my opinion, the strengthening of tank cars for a 56% less chance of the random incineration of a large number of people is not a convincing solution to the problem.  Accomplishing that over ten years as the oil traffic booms to higher and higher levels makes the solution seem even less convincing. 

Yet you say yourself that your proposed solution is less than 100% and will, in fact, only work under certain circumstances.

My point lies in the word, “convincing,” and the key sentence preceding what you quoted, where I said, “Part of what I am proposing is a solution that appears to match the problem for the purpose of convincing the public and the regulators.”

I am not asking for a perfect solution in order to be convinced that it is enough.  All I am saying is that, to my ears, the proposal to make tank cars somewhat safer over ten years seems laughably insufficient as a solution to the public perception of this oil train crisis.  And in my opinion, the public and the Senate hearing will have the same reaction. 

In this sense, all I am referring to is the feeling of the solution matching the problem in the proposal stage.  The problem sounds bold.  I think it calls for a bold sounding solution.  I don’t see this as a contest for the best solution.  For all I know, the stronger tank cars could be more effective than what I am proposing.  But I think they need all the solutions they can find and put together in order to match the gravity of the problem. 

And a big part of that problem is convincing the politicians, public, and regulators, at this time, that the industry has an adequate solution, rather than expecting them to wait ten years for the results.  There is a lot to lose if they are not quickly convinced.

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