Letter from the Manhattan College Train Club

It’s not everyday that a story covering an American railroad makes headline news
across the country, let alone news regarding a freight railroad. The past few months have
been historic in this sense, in which the world saw two issues directly related to American
freight railroading: one regarding a potential nationwide freight railroad worker strike,
and now the East Palestine Ohio derailment.

At 8:55 PM on February 3rd. 2023, 51 cars of Norfolk Southern Train #32N de-
railed in the small town of East Palestine, OH due to a mechanical issue in one of the ax-
les. 11 of these cars contained hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, benzene and

butyl acrylate, which immediately combusted and resulted in a fireball producing smoke
that traveled for miles to neighboring towns, prompting a quick evacuation of everyone
within a one mile radius. 70 different emergency agencies from surrounding counties
were called to try to fight the fire, but they too were soon evacuated due to chemical
exposure from the burning of these hazardous materials, which resulted in letting these
chemicals burn out for two days until they no longer posed an immediate threat.
Despite the magnitude of this crash being one of the worst in American history,
many mainstream media companies did not cover the story until the controlled release of
the hazardous materials three days after the initial derailment. This resulted in high levels
of phosgene and hydrogen chloride gas into the air, which poisoned many farm animals
and fish in the immediate area. While Norfolk Southern is continuing to work with the
Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the town, as well as the National Surface

Transportation Board to investigate exactly how the crash occurred, many sources indi-
cate that the crash could have been prevented through the use of electronically controlled

pneumatic brakes, or ECPBs. However, multiple American freight railroads lobbied
against this advanced form of train brakes back in 2017 in addition to various other safety
measures, including fewer crews, less time to properly inspect freight cars, and running
longer trains, all in the name of saving capital costs. Such actions have resulted in poor
operating conditions that led to threats of a nationwide railroad worker strike in 2022.
The Train Club is committed to informing the public of not only major rail-related
current events such as these, but also to properly report on how such events occurred in

the face of misinformation, andhow such travesties can be prevented. We strongly encour-
age increased safety regulations on all forms of transpo tation, and to establish legislation

that encourages hiring more workers, better benefits, and improving existing infrastruc-
ture over stock buybacks.

From the Manhattan College Train Club (Ferroequinology) E-Board