Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Derailment on the Nevada Sub

Wednesday afternoon, a Union Pacific container freight derailed 48 of 51 cars about 50 rail miles east of Fernley, north of Fallon on a stretch where the railroad parallels US-95. According to media reports, at least 30 freight trains and 3 Amtrak passenger trains were affected. Amtrak actually suspended all service between Emeryville and Salt Lake City, busing passengers instead. (I'm sure glad I wasn't riding on those days; I would not fancy riding a bus all the way to Salt Lake City.)

We hadn't been paying close attention and thus didn't catch word of what had happened until after a grain train pulled into Fernley siding and parked, and when the eastbound California Zephyr disappeared from Amtrak's status system. Only then did we turn the volume back up on the scanner (I'd had it down for Day Jobbe conference calls and forgot to turn it back up) and hear the chatter from the dispatcher as they tried to put things back together.

As you can see from the photos in the news stories to which I linked, this was a massive derailment. Several news stories talked about hazardous materials on board, but there isn't a lot of hazmat in a container train. The only leakage was from broken wine bottles. However, the tracks were all torn up, and nothing was going to move on the Nevada Subdivision (Sparks to Winnemucca) until this was repaired. Nothing, that is, but the locals serving places like Fernley and Fallon. They had the railroad almost totally to themselves on Thursday. Based on what I heard on the radio, UP must have gotten some sort of temporary patch in place almost immediately, but only for the super-priority "Z" train that came through. Everything else was parked. Besides Fernley, there was another train parked in Thisbe siding, the first one west of here toward Sparks. The only trains moving toward the derailment site were maintenance trains with rails and ballast, and aside from the locals, the only thing riding the rails were maintenance crews and their hi-rail vehicles.

Riding the Rails
On Wednesday afternoon (before the grain train parked here at Fernley and thus before we even knew there was a problem east of here) we spotted a maintainer putting his truck onto the rails. Fernley is a convenient place for doing this, as they can mount on the "house tracks" here. In this first photo, you see the maintainer getting his truck positioned on the rails.

Riding the Rails
Next, he uses a crank to lower rail wheels from the truck to engage the rails on the rear of the truck...

Riding the Rails
...and then the front. After making sure the truck's rail wheels are engaged and the rubber tires (which also touch the rails) could propel the vehicle, the maintainer closed the derails (these prevent loose cars on the side tracks from accidentally rolling onto the main) and the mainline switch and backed onto the UP main.

Riding the Rails
After closing and locking the mainline switch, the maintainer took off to the east. I don't know if this was directly related to the derailment work or not. I see things like this happen fairly often as the maintainers can best access many parts of the line only by rail.

It was a pretty quiet day on the railroad here yesterday, what with only the locals running and no passenger trains. However, this morning while I was working away on the Day Jobbe, I heard trains starting to get moving again.

Restoring Normal Service
It's not a very good photo, but this is the trailing end of a westbound maintenance of way train with ballast, rails, and ties. I assume this was the train that brought replacement material to relay track in the area of the derailment. Even as the rail train disappeared west toward Sparks, the grain train, supplied with a new crew, lurched to life and trundled east, resuming its interrupted journey.

There were plenty of trains today, including the eastbound California Zephyr. It would appear that things are back to normal on the Nevada Sub.
Tags: amtrak, fernley, trains, union pacific

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