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In response to the Chris McGuinness 'Crazy Train' article



The title of Chris McGuinness’ Nov. 26 article itself is absurd. “Crazy Train”?? Really?? Is the author a fan of Black Sabbath? Maybe the late Randy Rhoads? Ozzy Osborne? Or is the author biased against the project??

Second, the article contains some fairly useful info but doesn’t go far enough. For instance, (excluding Amtrak trains) there are NO through freight trains that run between Los Angeles and the Bay Area. The only actual freight train (non oil) that runs in Santa Barbara County is the “local” between the LA area and Guadalupe, mostly to service the interchange with the Santa Maria Valley Railroad in Guadalupe. Other than the “local” and the current Wunpost to Carson oil trains, there are no other freight trains plying the rails in Santa Barbara County. In San Luis Obispo County, it’s only the current oil trains and the “local” from Watsonville to Paso Robles and back that runs a few times a week.

Third, it might come as a complete shock to some newer residents but in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the then Southern Pacific Railroad ran as many as four freight trains each way per day through San Luis Obispo, sometimes more. Why is that significant in the discussion of the Phillips 66 project? Because many of these trains did indeed carry hazardous chemicals and flammables. But except for the Grover derailment later on in 1986 there was never an issue with serious derailments. And back in the late 1970s and during 1980s, the track WASN’T in the best of shape due to Southern Pacific’s dubious financial condition. That has changed under Union Pacific. They have spent millions of dollars upgrading the tracks between Moorpark (end of Metrolink territory) and San Jose.

Unfortunately, the general public never seems to notice the improvements, and neither do those against the Phillips 66 project because they don’t know what they are looking at. 

Fourth, there is one thing Union Pacific SHOULD do if more oil trains ever operate on the line. Union Pacific should add additional defect detectors to supplement the ones they already have, spacing them closer together. The detectors currently in use are for dragging equipment (i.e., tie-down chains, brake rigging, low-hanging air brake hoses) and for overheated wheels and wheel bearings. Also the installation of at least two wheel impact load detectors (WILD) should be considered (can detect excessive wheel flat spots and cracks).

Finally, everybody needs to remember oil trains are NOT new to California. Before the current oil trains through San Luis Obispo started 15-plus years ago there were these: In 1973 Chevron and Southern Pacific joined forces to operate a weekly unit oil train from Salt Lake City to Richmond (near Oakland) due to the Arab Oil Embargo. In 1983 SP started a daily oil train from near Bakersfield to Carson for Shell Oil. Both ran for a decade or more and never made the national news.

-- Allen Meyers - Santa Maria

-- Allen Meyers - Santa Maria

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