Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Terrific diary as usual!

Your maps expose one of the issues with passenger rail in the U.S.: The lack of redundant routes. There are only a few places where passengers can be diverted to other trains, and in the west, there are not even enough tracks to allow trains to be diverted.

This situation was highlighted here in Colorado last week when we had two freight train derailments. The first, a couple of miles from my house in Colorado Springs, was of a coal train. 16 cars at the end of the train, carrying around 1600 tons of coal, just basically fell over. The coal is contaminated with dirt and all has to be put in a landfill because it can't be burned in a powerplant now. Since they shut down the alternate route in the early 1970s, the entire front range freight system was stalled during the cleanup.

Then, the next day, there was another derailment west of Denver. This one was a bit more puzzling, because unlike the Colorado Springs event, which took place in a yard where there are lots of turnouts, the Denver one was on a section of continuous welded rail. That's probably why the investigation is expected to take so long. Again, an important route was blocked for half a day.

It's interesting that in both cases it was cars at the end of the train. I'm not familiar with how your European freight coupling systems work, but we still have quite a bit of slack between the cars. On our long western train, the cumulative slack at the end of the train can be several feet, all of which can be taken up or let out in one gigantic jerk. That's the real reason that we don't have cabooses any more...

So there are two engineers possibly in trouble for improper train handling...

by asdf on Mon Dec 14th, 2009 at 10:34:40 PM EST

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