July 25, 2013

Letters to the editor: Train 'parking' policy factor in tragedy

I am writing in response, not only to the front-page item "Railway's Maine lines inspected recently" (July 17), but to most of the coverage of the tragic train derailment in Lac-Megantic.

click image to enlarge

Smoke rises after railway cars carrying crude oil derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 6. A reader blames the derailment on “the ridiculously dangerous practice of parking a train on a main running line,” rather than on a siding or in a rail yard.

2013 File Photo/The Associated Press

Everything I have read so far misses the point: The ridiculously dangerous practice of parking a train on a main running line is simply an accident waiting to happen -- and has now happened.

It relies entirely on the braking systems of the engine and train, and of course on the train crew. This practice, commonplace all over America and apparently in Canada, has never been allowed in the U.K., where a train has to be parked on a siding or in a rail yard, with the relevant switches set and locked so that it simply cannot run onto the running line.

Why is it allowed here? Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway CEO Ed Burkhardt, with his railway interests in Britain, should know better.

Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree and heaven knows who else sounding off about inspecting Maine's rail tracks is completely irrelevant. Anyone can see that an unmanned train running away down an incline is nothing to do with track condition.

It is simply a matter of gravity, however perfect the track: Of course it derailed at the tremendous velocity reached by the time it got to the town, probably on a curve or switch that should be navigated at very low speed.

So saying "track conditions were cited as the primary cause of 10 of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway's 19 derailments" is just another red herring thrown into the mix.

I would support the enactment of a law forbidding this practice, albeit too late for the citizens of Lac-Megantic, whose tragic plight I find it hard to get out of my mind.

Chris Small


Letters about recruiter vote make unfounded comparison

Gov. LePage has too much time on his hands, since he took time to write all of the Democratic legislators, disparaging them for their votes against his specious bill regarding allowing military access to high schools.

Had he checked, he would have known it was a non-issue since federal law mandates access to schools.

Having created the issue, the governor went on to name seven schools that limited access, only to have several of the schools deny that such a policy existed.

LePage obviously designed the bill in order to be able to charge all Democratic legislators with disrespect for our men and women in uniform. In doing so, he compares the legislators to a tiny fringe of the anti-Vietnam War movement. This is especially egregious, since one of his letters was sent to a decorated Vietnam veteran.

Since LePage brought up Vietnam, I think it is fair to ask where he was during the war.

He and I turned 19 at the time that the war was escalating. LePage spent the war in college and graduate school, which usually protected the individual from the draft.

During this era I actively opposed the war, but this came after I was honorably discharged from the Navy. I respect both the soldiers and the anti-war demonstrators, but I don't respect those who favored the war but left the fighting to others.

The governor has shown us one more thing from this incident: Not only is his brain not connected to his mouth, it's not connected to his hand, either.

(Continued on page 2)

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