By B. Smith
The 1990 oil boom is creating a lot of traffic on the LCN RR. Rumors are the FRA may visit any day now, and with a regional chemical supply dealer taking over the local dealer in Pecos, the LCN’s Operations Manager felt it was a good time to refresh the LCN train crew’s awareness of handling placarded hazardous material shipments in a train. West Texas Oil Field Fluids has indicated that it will be receiving numerous sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid tank car loads in the coming months spurred on by the increased drilling activity in the Pecos area.
The crew was on the ball and picked up five empty LCN hoppers to serve as buffer cars (sometimes called spacer or cover cars) to place between the engine and the hazmat car. But this run often includes an occupied caboose.Putting the caboose on the end would violate FRA rules as the caboose needs it own buffer cars. If they were no additional buffer cars available, the tank car would have needed to be placed in the middle of the train to protect both the engine and the caboose. A business car on the end of the train is treated as a caboose.Now if the crew of our train picked up a flat cat loaded with steel beams and placed it next to the placarded tank car, the FRA would get ready to issue the LCN a fine. Putting the flat car ahead of one of the empty hoppers would work, as long as the flat car is not next to the engine where its shifting load could endanger the crew in the event of an accident.Now placing a reefer with an operating temperature control unit or internal combustion engine will bring out the FRA’s fine book too. The train crew needs to separate the tank car and the reefer with one of the empty hoppers.An open top car (including bulkhead flats) when any of the contents protrude beyond the car ends are not to be placed next to a placarded car, or engine, or occupied caboose/business car.