This letter concerns last week’s “About Town” column. In it the author makes some astounding statements. As a 27-year railroad veteran who worked for two different railroads in eight different states, I had to write this to correct his comments.
In the first instance, he states that the 1 1/2 miles long coal and oil trains will take fifteen minutes to go through town. These trains will be the same length as the grain trains currently passing through town. Do they take fifteen minutes? Let’s do the correct math: at thirty miles an hour it takes two minutes to go one mile. Therefore, a 1 1/2 mile train would occupy the crossing for three minutes! As business picks up so will the speed in order for the line to handle it, thus shortening the time.
Next let’s talk about the blowing coal dust myth. As pollution laws for burning coal were enacted in the 1970s, the power companies shifted to low sulphur strip-mined coal out of the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana. This coal has 90 percent less of the acid rain-producing sulfur of other types of coal. This desire for easily mined coal as well as the simple habitat restoration procedures produced a climate of growth not unlike today’s Bakken oil shale boom.
Early on, it was realized that coal blowing off the top of the hopper cars was creating problems for the railroads. This dust was fouling the roadbed ballast which impeded drainage and caused the track to deteriorate. The railroads sued the mines and the result was that in the early ’80s the mines were required to spray each load with a surfactant which sealed the coal from the wind and water. Today over 150 trains are loaded daily and coal dust is NOT an issue! Even without the above information, any impartial writer should figure out the Fortune 500 companies don’t expose their track, equipment, locomotives and employees to unsafe conditions like this.
The proposed oil trains are also provoking inaccurate and slanted information to be published. The idea that today’s tank cars are unsafe is absurd! In my career, I never saw one punctured in a derailment. Crude oil is very thick and does not flow easily.
Don’t let false information from hysterical opponents influence you about this important issue!