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Hulcher, Corman Clear Derailment in Kansas City

Trucks, Trailers Arrive at Derailment Carrying Caterpillar, John Deere Iron.

Sat November 23, 2013 - Midwest Edition
Richard Miller

Around 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 31 a Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) locomotive was attempting to push some loaded grain cars into a siding in Kansas City, Mo., near the Missouri River when four cars derailed and ended on their sides, spilling grain on the ground. The railroad crew immediately reported the derailment to their supervisors who notified local authorities.

Local authorities initially had concerns regarding the materials involved with this derailment. “We are always concerned about the number of hazardous materials that travel through our city. We are thankful we are dealing with only grain with this incident,” said James Garrett of the Kansas City Fire Department.

Around 1 p.m. a convoy of trucks and trailers from the local staging yards of R. J. Corman Railroad Group and Hulcher Services arrived at the derailment. On the trailers were two 583 Caterpillar and two 850J Deere crawlers, a Cat 350D excavator and a Cat crawler loader.

Other flatbeds carried the sideboom cranes, counterweights for the crawlers and light towers. Within the hour the sidebooms and counter weights were attached and were in position to move the damaged rail cars. The crawlers are equipped with padded tracks which allow them to move into position and not damage pavement, rails or ties.

Prior to the 1960’s railroads had their own staff and equipment to clear derailments. Pipeline contractors like Hulcher of Denton, Texas, soon found that their sideboom crawlers were useful for moving damaged locomotives and rail cars.

Today railroads retain outside contractors like Hulcher and Corman to provide the staff and equipment necessary to secure, clear and restore railroad right-of-ways.

Before any rail cars are moved the staff from BNSF and derailment services evaluate the derailed car’s condition. If the grain cars are serviceable they will be lifted by the sidebooms and placed back the on the rails. Damaged rail cars are pulled off the right-of-way using the crawler’s 60 ton (54.4 t) rear winch. Any tangled metal can be cut with the torches racked at the front of the crawler. The spilled grain will be considered lost and the crawler loader will be used to load the grain to be dumped at the landfill. If needed the Cat 350D excavator would be used to provide lift assistance for the grain cars and to move the rail trucks.

In most cases once the right-of-way has been cleared, the rail and supporting ties must be replaced. To expedite the replacement process BNSF has preassembled rail and tie sections called track panels ready to set in place in case of derailments. The panels will be trucked to the accident site and the sideboom crawlers will be used to set them in place. Corman and Hulcher crews will work around the clock to clear the wreck and make the track ready for new rail traffic.

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