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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FRA: Failure to maintain track, equipment caused UP train derailment


Union Pacific Railroad's failure to maintain track and track equipment resulted in the derailment of a crude-oil train in Oregon earlier this month, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced in a report released yesterday.

The train was transporting Bakken crude oil for the U.S. Oil & Refining Co. and operating on UP's Portland Subdivision when 16 tank cars derailed near the town of Mosier, Ore., on June 3. The train originated in New Town, N.D., and was on its way to Tacoma, Wash., when the derailment occurred.

During the derailment, a coupler car struck and punctured a tank car, which led to a fire that burned for several hours, according to the report.

The derailed tank cars performed as expected based on tank-car performance metrics. The cars on the train were DOT-111s that had been modified to the Association of American Railroads' CPC-1232 standard, and were equipped with full-height head shields and metal jackets with insulation. The cars did not have thermal protection, and are commonly referred to as "jacketed 1232s," the report stated.

FRA investigators found multiple lag bolts in the UP track were broken and sheared, leading to tie plates loosening from the ties. The loosened plates allowed the rails to be pushed outward as trains traveled over the track, resulting in an area of wide gauge, which led to the derailment, the report stated.

"Broken sheared lag bolts, while difficult to detect by high-rail, are more detectable by walking inspection combined with indications of movement in the rail or track structure and/or uneven rail wear, and are critically important to resolve quickly," the FRA concluded.

After the derailment, the FRA took several actions to inspect and ensure safety along the route.