Ridin’ that Train, High with Propane

Four years ago, this newspaper story caught my attention: ‘Railroad sues over millions of rail ties it calls defective‘ especially since it was about the Norfolk Southern Railway. Why? Because of that Norfolk Southern high trestle over the Parkway West near Pittsburgh, Pa. that has LPG railcars crossing it on a daily basis, and sometimes, even parked LPG railcars on that trestle, during our drives into the city.

“Norfolk Southern Railway blames an Alabama company that produced its railroad ties of failing to use proper protective coating on more than 4.7 million of them, the railroad said in its lawsuit filed this month in U.S. District Court in Alabama.”

USA Today – October 30, 2017

“From 2009 to 2014, Boatright provided Norfolk Southern with nearly 5 million railroad ties, and virtually all of them were installed in the railroad’s network, the lawsuit said. About 4.5 million of them are described as cross ties; and 193,000 are switch ties. Also included in the total are about 72,000 inferior bridge ties, according to the suit.”

USA Today – October 30, 2017

This morning I just happened across this news video from last week, and it got me thinking again about that high trestle carrying LPG railcars in a highly populated area, and wondering if any of those bridge ties are defective. A similar derailment in that area would be catastrophic.

Why? Because if LPG railcars are involved in a train wreck, it can lead to a BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion) as seen in this eye-opening video:

There was a derailment above the Station Square ‘T’ station in Pittsburgh a couple years ago, shutting down that section of public transit for several weeks. There have also been a couple other derailments in western Pennsylvania over recent years, but luckily, none of them have involved a BLEVE, since many 100-car LPG trains run through the very heart of Pittsburgh.

The increase in LPG railroad traffic is due to several new cryogenic gas plants being built in western Pennsylvania over the past 15 years, namely the huge Houston, Pa. gas plant, with its nearby load out facility in Westland, Pa:

The Shell Cracker Plant in Monaca, Pa. will add to the rail traffic around Pittsburgh, once construction of the plant is completed in 2022. Here we see some of the railroad spurs under construction there in these June 2021 aerial photos by Marcellus Air:

There’s been much talk about the Pittsburgh region becoming a petrochemical hub and the groundwork has mostly been built. Now it will just take ‘drill baby drill’ over the next 50 years, to feed all the tri-state area cryogenic plants, export pipelines, and the new Shell cracker plant, with fracked shale gas liquids.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: