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Signal Maintainer Acted Appropriately, Union Pacific Says

Federal law forbids rail employees from using electronic devices while on duty.

On July 4, a Union Pacific signal maintainer noticed something unusual in the rails that runs freight through Glenview and Northbrook. The rail worker reported his sighting to a track inspector, who arrived at the scene about the same time

According to Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis, despite the result of that day’s derailment, the signal maintainer acted appropriately and did just about everything he was trained to.

As part of their training, UP employees are instructed to report potential threats to rail safety officers, whether or not the observed threat falls within the employee’s area of expertise, Davis explained.

Other than track inspectors, most UP employees are not specifically trained to identify rail maladies such as the “sun kink” the company said may have caused the July 4 derailment. According to Davis, there are too many different ways rails can become misaligned.

Davis did not say whether the maintainer should have contacted someone else who might have stopped freight traffic that day, possibly saving Burt and Zorine Lindner’s lives.

But had the signal maintainer seen a more obvious problem with the track — missing parts or severely damaged rails for example — Davis said the maintainer could have called a dispatcher or the UP police directly, who could then warn trains in the area.  

Whether additional UP personnel were or should have been contacted regarding the signal maintainer’s concerns is unclear. Kevin Thompson, spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration, said the agency is investigating the incident and will publish its findings within a year.  

“We have the authority … to assess several penalties if we find violations or non-compliance with federal regulations,” Thompson said after the community forum Monday night. “Will we? It depends on our investigation and what we find."

"While the Union Pacific has already mentioned the possibility of a sun kink, we will take that into consideration, but that is not the only avenue we will investigate,” Thompson added.

The signal maintainer reported his observation about the track near Shermer Road via radio, according to Davis. On duty rail employees are forbidden from using other electronic devices, such as mobile camera phones, under federal law.

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JOHN SMITH July 20, 2012 at 09:41 PM
So they say it's a possible "sun kink" people thought it was the bridge could have been. But so far seems like "sun kink" may have been the reason the train derailed. People are so quick to blame the bridge. Sounds like all protocols were so far followed. Also shows people jump to blame UP right away.
BP July 21, 2012 at 05:32 AM
Looking at the top of the bridge there are switches on both rails right there. How does a OPEN rail sun kink here when it wouldn't/couldn't happen my tiny mind asks? http://www.tpscrail.com/products/10east/PDF/RailDOCS-SinglePg.pdf Was this mystery maintainers handheld seized to see if he/she was even in that area?
Rudolph S Caparros Jr January 11, 2013 at 05:34 PM
HazMat Experts and Firefighters petition Dow Chemical and Union Pacific for safe rail tank cars transporting gas chlorine. Secondary containment is a necessary improvement that must be implemented. See--PETITION C KIT for First Responders Comments.

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