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Union Pacific Bridge Collapsed As Inspector Arrived

Union Pacific officials addressed public concerns during Monday night's meeting with Glenview and Northbrook residents.

A signal maintainer at the scene of the July 4 train derailment witnessed a rail abnormality before the accident and called for a Union Pacific inspector, who arrived "about simultaneously" as the bridge collapsed, said David Connell, vice president of engineering for Union Pacific.

The decision to cease freight traffic along the bridge could have been minutes away. However that was too late. The train derailed and the bridge collapsed, killing two people in a car below.

Read Patch's full coverage of the train derailment and bridge collapse .

Ten Union Pacific officials, along with representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois Commerce Commission spoke to a crowd of more than 200 people during a public forum at Monday night.

Rail reps explained the current findings of their ongoing investigation, explained the history of that bridge and addressed questions raised by more than 50 people from Glenview and Northbrook. 

One resident expressed concern that officials said no one was hurt immediately after the bridge collapsed. 

"We had what we believed to be eyewitness accounts when the incident occured that there were no vehicles in the area," said Glenview Village Manager Todd Hileman, who was moderating the Q&A between residents and UP. "We actually had at least one, if not two residents make statements to our police department. ... Obviously they were not correct."

Other residents asked about the integrity of nearby bridges which also carry UP rails, especially the bridge over Willow Rd. 

"Since the accident, we have made another special inspection, jointly with the FRA, of all the bridges in the two villages on this particular railroad," Connell responded. "We found nothing of concern during those inspections, structurally speaking." 

"We were lucky here that this was coal," a woman said to the UP officials, referring to the cargo that freight trains carry in the area. "Do these trains also carry ethanol and other explosive items?"

"It carries all, mix manifest freight," said David Giandinoto, UP's general superintendent of operations in Chicago. "We're required by law. We have a common carry obligation to carry anything that tenders to us. As long as they tender to us in a safe vessel we're required to carry that."

Giandinoto told the crowd UP crews have finished cleaning debris in the area, confirmed that freight is moving along a temporary bridge in two directions at 10 miles per hour and crews have ceased 24-hour work on the site. 

"There has been some questions about train whistles," Giandinoto said, referring to the sound trains must make under federal regulation to alert anyone who may be on the track. "You were hearing those whistles during the evening, we have stopped 24-hour maintenance operations in that area, so you should only be hearing those during the day."

But several people said passing trains still make the noise at night. 

"You can tell us whatever you want to tell us, and whatever the federal rules and regulations are. ... Every night, two, three, four in the morning, those horns keep beeping," one man said to the UP officials. The crowd applauded him in response.

According to Connell, the rail kink UP officials think caused the derailment is rare, and he repeated that the company's investigation has found nothing structurally wrong with the bridge before it collapsed. 

"We believe that we had a heat-related anomaly to the track immediately preceding the bridge, mostly developing underneath the train as it was traveling over the bridge," Connell said. "Eventually one car, one set of wheels made it so far off the rails that the wheels literally fell off."

“When that happens, there’s very little one can do," he added. "We believe it most likely hit the far abutment of the bridge with a lot of force and then all the cars bunched up against that car.” 

The combined force of that collision and mass of cars that piled on the bridge brought down the viaduct that crushed . 

Victims' lawsuit

A few hours before Monday night's forum, , announced his request that National Transportation Safety Board investigate the derailment. He said outside the community forum that "the Federal Railroad Administration does not have the investigative resources of the NTSB." 

"With all due respect to the Union Pacific, which is a fine company," he added, "they have their own corporate interests at stake."

Clifford said the Lindners and the community are entitled to a third-party investigation of the derailment, "and let the chips fall where they may in that respect."

Clifford said members of the Lindner family were not in attendance on Monday.

Previous problems

Early in presentation, Connell addressed the history of that bridge and rails in the area, including a 2009 derailment and 2011 bridge maintenance project. 

“The derailment in 2009 actually occurred from a mechanical issue on a Canadian Pacific train, that the wheels didn’t want to turn … and the wheel came off the rail,” he said. “We saw no structural evidence that that bridge had anything to do with that derailment. That derailment actually occurred a couple hundred feet north of the bridge.” 

According to Connell, the 2011 bridge work was planned years ahead of time, "part of scheduled work that had nothing to do with either accident."

Reaction afterward

State Representative Daniel Biss attended the forum, though he did not address the crowd or UP officials. 

"This is an absolute catastrophe," he said on his way out, referring to the train derailment. "What's important is that we all recognize that on a system this big, things won't be perfect. So we put in place the safeguards so that when imperfections arise people don't die. That's the lesson we have to learn going forward."

Northbrook Village President Sandy Frum said she was pleased with the forum.

"[UP] brought in some people that can make decisions and I'm glad they were here to hear the questions and concerns," Frum said. 

Glenview's Village Manager Todd Hileman said he felt that UP shared what they could with the public. 

"I thought it was necessary to give the community the opportunity to vent and share their feelings and get some answers at least," he said. 

To stay up to date as this story unfolds, "like" either Northbrook Patch or Glenview Patch on Facebook.

Christian Hostetler July 26, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Keith, a pileup of railcars on a bridge does have the ability to bring down a bridge. Look up a derailment in Morristown Indiana a couple years ago. Exact same situation, I dont understand why you are having such a hard time understanding this. Your little car weighs maybe 3000 lbs, one loaded coal hopper weighs about 300,000 lbs, and there are probably 10-15 piled up there. You obviously dont understand the concept of momentum being related to weight and speed. If youre going 10mph they are still going to pile up due to the mass involved, cars dont act the same because they are so small and light. Obviouisly you are naive enough to think that the field is the same environment as in a lab: it isnt. Railroad s are dangerous and these things are always going to happen, even with your "vast" knowledge [sarcasm]. Not everything is as cushy as you chicago lifestyle. If you dont like railroads dont go around them. Works out better for us because then we dont get frivolous lawsuits that make our jobs harder.
Christian Hostetler July 26, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Keith: Here you go. So are you telling me that this did not happen and it is simply a figment of mine and everyones imagination. Amazingly it appears that a sun kink caused a derailment which collapsed a bridge, but, no, Keith says thats not possible, so we must all just be stupid. Face it Keith, you know you are wrong, even with evidence for that you probably wont get it. Obviously you dont understand how many thousands of trains run over those tracks without a major derailment, but then again, logic doesnt work with stupid people. http://www.wthr.com/story/15037103/train-derails-in-shelby-county
Keith July 31, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Christian, You said, “logic doesn’t work with stupid people.” I say that stupid is as stupid does. It’s only you who’s slinging arrows and you seem to persistently misunderstand what I write. I didn’t say the pileup couldn’t bring down the bridge. I said it SHOULDN’T be able to. There is a difference. I still say that the bridge is inadequately designed if railcars can take it off its mounts. Regarding my understanding of momentum, I’ll simply say that my call to Greg for his restraint applies to you and for the same reasons. You said that if I don’t like railroads (because they’re dangerous) that I shouldn’t go around them. Well, it’s you who said they’re dangerous in your replies on 7/26, 7/21, and twice on 7/18. It’s you who claims they’re dangerous because at anytime and anywhere, a sun kink can take out a train with no warning, no predictability, and no prevention possible. Under this philosophy of yours, engineers should just give up their trades because mother nature makes everything impossible to analyze and nothing they do will work. You also said, “Works out better for us because then we don’t get frivolous lawsuits that make our jobs harder.” Christian, is the death of two people a frivolous case? You seem to have a liability-related interest in this crash. Why? Just who is the "us" you refer to? I can't help but wonder who you work for... And you're final comments are simply too irrational for me to bother with.
Christian Hostetler July 31, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Keith, thats not the only reason they are dangerous. I work for a railroad and ive seen guys get crushed between two coupled cars because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of my best friends broke his back because he was thrown off of a derailing car and landed 15ft down on the ground, railroads are dangerous and the people that work for them are aware of that. Sun kinks only happen when its extremely hot and theres no practical way to predict where they will happen. Did you read the story I posted? it was the exact same situation. I got the inside scoop on that incident and a maintainer doing heat patrols was running about 15 minutes in front of them and there was no problem then. On the subject of bridges, do you have any idea how many rail bridges they are? There are so few bridges knocked off their abutments that it is merely a very rare incident. The railroads dont see it to be practical to alter the basic design of rail simply because they have 1 or 2 derailments because of them, obviously its more expensive so unless someone else pays for it nothing will really change. When the railroads get sued for incidents involving the public new rules are established that really only make management happy and make our jobs more difficult. I have no interest in this crash, I dont work for the UP, I dont neccessarily like the UP, but I dont like to see a railroad get beat up because the general public is ignorant on the operations of railroads.
Christian Hostetler July 31, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Keith, watch this video and you will see the massive amounts of momentum. At the 4 minute mark, watch how the rest of the train, not connected to power, keeps moving along. And this train is only going <10mph. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03Nq632eV6I Then watch this one. Notice the momentum of the rest of the train as it slams into the locomotives. The momentum of railcars is exponentially greater than the transfer of energy in a rear end automobile collision, not even in the same league, train cars pile up easily as speed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WADnriWzJes This is a good photo emphasizing the difference between a car and a train: http://www.google.com/imgres?um=1&hl=en&sa=N&biw=1366&bih=643&tbm=isch&tbnid=97DEVA7sv6uDoM:&imgrefurl=http://autoworld.wordpress.com/2009/02/04/train-collides-with-car-carrying-truck-in-kent-washington-cadillac-dts-damaged/car-carrying-truck-collides-with-train-in-kent-washington-cadillac-dts-damaged-img_1/&docid=hWqingABF6cxUM&imgurl=http://autoworld.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/car-carrying-truck-collides-with-train-in-kent-washington-cadillac-dts-damaged-img_1.jpg&w=608&h=408&ei=JBAYUNiiEoOx8AGolICYCA&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=571&vpy=156&dur=395&hovh=184&hovw=274&tx=133&ty=85&sig=106644361506693767579&page=1&tbnh=138&tbnw=184&start=0&ndsp=18&ved=1t:429,r:2,s:0,i:82

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