Old 05-30-2007, 04:10 AM   #1
BobWeaver
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Default Boxcar on unit tanker trains

Hi all -

I've noticed a trend among unit tanker trains, be it ethanol, propane, whatever, and that is a different car directly behind the lead locomotives. Many times it is a box car, as in this picture:

http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=188788

Anybody know the reasoning, or is it just coincidence?
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Old 05-30-2007, 04:27 AM   #2
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I'm sure it's some kind of safety deal, but not sure of the specifics...
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Old 05-30-2007, 04:29 AM   #3
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There is suppose to be a buffer between the crew and anything dangerous like a unit ethanol or propane train. If it were to blow up, then there is a higher chance that the crew won't be injured or killed since they're an extra 60' away. Its a min of 3 cars (2 locos, 1 car; 1 loco, 2 cars). I'm not sure how long the train must be to require this buffer car.
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Old 05-30-2007, 02:12 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SD70MACMAN
There is suppose to be a buffer between the crew and anything dangerous like a unit ethanol or propane train. If it were to blow up, then there is a higher chance that the crew won't be injured or killed since they're an extra 60' away. Its a min of 3 cars (2 locos, 1 car; 1 loco, 2 cars).
Interesting, never knew it worked like that, and come to think of it I have seen photos of trains with more than one buffer car.
Quote:
I'm not sure how long the train must be to require this buffer car.
I don't think there is a certain length but what they are carrying.

There is usually one at the end of unit tanker trains also for the same reason, in case a train rearends the other.
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Old 05-30-2007, 02:43 PM   #5
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Railroad rules include a number of requirements for blocking certain commodities including keeping some tank cars away from open cars with shiftable loads (e.g., load of steel on a flat car).

A general rule is to keep haz mat shipments at least 5 cars away from a locomotive or occupied caboose. If the number of cars in the train does not permit this then at least one buffer car is required.
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Old 05-30-2007, 06:56 PM   #6
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Andrew,

Your buffer on the rear is for in the event of a set of helpers being added mid-route. The buffer is already there and all the have to do is couple on and go.
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Old 05-30-2007, 08:06 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Blaszczyk (2)
I don't think there is a certain length but what they are carrying.
I only say length may be a factor is because a local tank train that carries diesel or unleaded gasoline from a refinery in Anacortes to Seattle (about 60 miles) and it usually conists of 6 to 10 tank cars and 2 GP38's, no buffer cars.
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Old 05-30-2007, 10:47 PM   #8
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Thanks for your replies. I guess that would in fact make sense to provide a "comfort zone" if you will around hazardous cargo
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Old 05-31-2007, 12:28 AM   #9
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Would it be safe to assume that this is not a dangerous chemical being transported, then?

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Old 05-31-2007, 12:54 AM   #10
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The rules maybe different in the states ... but if the train is 100% hazmat then the buffer car isn't required. They must have had two extra box cars kicking around to add em on.
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Old 05-31-2007, 04:06 PM   #11
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Quote:
Do not place a placarded car nearer than the sixth car from an engine
(working or not working) or occupied caboose/business car. If the train does
not have at least five buffer cars, the available buffer cars must be placed to
protect the engine (working or not). If there is an occupied caboose/business
car in the train, the buffer cars must be divided equally to protect both the
engine and caboose/business car. At least one buffer car is required.
That is directly from UP Form 8620 HazMat handbook regarding the majority of loaded tank cars. Basically it says you MUST have at least 5 buffers, or all available.
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Old 05-31-2007, 05:52 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimThias
Would it be safe to assume that this is not a dangerous chemical being transported, then?

No, it could still be a dangerous chemical, liquid, gas, etc. There was a shot in the newest Railpace of a P&W loco and one tanker of anhydrous something that starts with an 'a'. (Will look it up when I get home.) Like Mike said, if its a short run than a buffer might not be needed.

Mike, my apologies for the misunderstanding, I got it now! BTW, that sounds like it would be a cool chase. Short unit trains are always fascinating.
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Old 06-01-2007, 07:11 AM   #13
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It depends on the chemical, not the length of train, or the distance.

The only time Buffers are not required are in switching operations, then there is a whole new set of rules.
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Old 06-04-2007, 02:44 AM   #14
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If all cars in the train are dangerous ... you don't need a buffer at all ... that's how it is in Canada ... is it like that in the US?
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Old 06-04-2007, 05:23 AM   #15
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It depends on the type of car...

If they're all **DANGEROUS** boxcars, then no buffers are required, if theyre tankers, then yes buffers are required.
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Old 06-04-2007, 07:23 PM   #16
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In Canada, on CN ... ANY type of dangerous car. CN tuns unit tank trains of dangerous cars all the time and there is never a buffer. If the whole train is dangerous tanks a buffer is not required. A buffer is only required if there is one and its only gotta be one car.
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Old 06-05-2007, 05:31 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Blaszczyk (2)
No, it could still be a dangerous chemical, liquid, gas, etc. There was a shot in the newest Railpace of a P&W loco and one tanker of anhydrous something that starts with an 'a'. (Will look it up when I get home.) Like Mike said, if its a short run than a buffer might not be needed.

Mike, my apologies for the misunderstanding, I got it now! BTW, that sounds like it would be a cool chase. Short unit trains are always fascinating.
Probably Anhydrous Ammonia.

It doesn't matter how short the run is, you must have at least one buffer car at all times. I work a roadswitcher that goes 10 miles out of town and switches some industries and we always take one buffer car. Of course, sometimes the crew "forgets" the buffer car so you might see a train without any.
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Old 06-06-2007, 01:26 PM   #18
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Then I guess it is different in the states and on other roads than CN in Canada. Cause if you got all dangerous you don't need a buffer. I will bring my rule book home after my next trip and type out what it says.
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Old 06-06-2007, 06:48 PM   #19
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I couldn't find the specific rule, but from what I've seen they usually have "unless not possible" clauses attached to rules like this. So the RR can throw a boxcar or two in there, unless they don't have anything sitting around the yard to use. I may be completely off and there might be more stringent rules considering hazmat shipments.
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Old 06-06-2007, 09:51 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Traisessive
Then I guess it is different in the states and on other roads than CN in Canada. Cause if you got all dangerous you don't need a buffer. I will bring my rule book home after my next trip and type out what it says.
If your train is all dangerous what difference is one or two buffer cars going to make? It's kinda like wearing a helmet to skydive. I don't think the helmet will make much difference either.
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Old 06-06-2007, 11:35 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Blaszczyk (2)
There was a shot in the newest Railpace of a P&W loco and one tanker of anhydrous something that starts with an 'a'. (Will look it up when I get home.) Like Mike said, if its a short run than a buffer might not be needed.
Did it look anything like this?



(by the way, should I submit this image to railpics? I wasn't sure if it would get rejected or not)


Quote:
Originally Posted by EMTRailfan
If your train is all dangerous what difference is one or two buffer cars going to make? It's kinda like wearing a helmet to skydive. I don't think the helmet will make much difference either.
Bad analogy.
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