Rail car tips, backs up Jefferson

There were no hazardous materials on this particular hopper car, said the West Sacramento Fire Department

NEWS-LEDGER — NOV 2, 2011 —

By St eve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

A derailed train car caused a major traffic problem during the lunch hour on Oct. 21, blocking the Jefferson Boulevard/Stone Boulevard intersection and causing a detour and major back-ups.

“It wasn’t a rail line issue, it was one particular car,” said Gary Fredericksen, a division chief with the West Sacramento Fire Department. The car’s chassis system failed and “the wheels turned sideways and it jumped off the track,” he added.

“There was no damage to the hopper at all – it just kind of leaned sideways off the track, and it didn’t spill any product.”

The car was carrying urea, a granulated fertilizer product which is not considered hazardous.

  Police, fire, and port officials responded. The rest of the train was quickly disconnected from the derailed car and its two adjacent cars just west of Jefferson Boulevard – but cars triggered the crossing guard arms and kept them stuck down, blocking busy Jefferson Boulevard traffic.

“Traffic backed up clear to West Capitol in one direction, and up onto the freeway. It went clear back to the (high) school in the other direction,” said Fredericksen.

Officials created a detour using Park Boulevard and the Lake Washington Boulevard bridge crossing until they raised the crossing guard arms and later removed them. Train traffic was halted until the mess was cleared up. Eventually, the tilted car was righted.

The same rail line is also used to haul hazardous materials, including anhydrous ammonia for the Agrium fertilizer plant on Channel Drive.

Could an ammonia car have suffered a similar accident? Would it have been dangerous?

“Luckily, those cars are sealed,” answered Fredericksen. “The speeds there are so slow you’re not going to have a big explosion or fire. The anhydrous ammonia is all sealed inside there, pretty well roll-proof. If you had a big gash, you could have a big vapor cloud,” he said.

A car versus ammonia car accident could create such a problem, he agreed.

The ammonia cars are regularly inspected and the Agrium plant is very safety-oriented, added Fredericksen.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2011

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