March 27th, 2015

Beware of Trains

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.

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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.

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