Railroad Tank Cars to be Fitted with Training Wheels

An oil tanker train, that could be made much safer with training wheels.

SMALL TOWN, Montana – Burpington Southern Manta Re Railroad (BSMRR) announced today that it is taking a major step to improve the safety of tank cars transporting crude oil on its rail system.  A number of high-profile accidents have occurred throughout North America involving derailments that resulted in spills and fires.  Property damage and loss of life have been high and pressure from state/provincial and federal regulators to address the problem is intense.

Mr. Roland Stock, Vice-president of Safety and Excuses at BSMRR explained the initiative.

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Mr. Stock, kneeling near a train.

“The principle is the same as the training wheels on a child’s bicycle.  The outrigger wheels prevent the bicycle from falling over despite the inexperience and mistakes of the rider.  We’ve extended this concept to our tank cars used to carry crude oil.  Each tanker will be fitted with outrigger wheels that will keep the car upright in the event of an accident.” – Mr. Stock, VP Safety

Mr. Stock explained further that a great many technical challenges had to be overcome while designing the system.  “Since the outriggers won’t be actually running on the rails but rather on the track bed, they have to be made out of hard rubber.  An electronically-controlled laser range-finder and hydraulic system raises and lowers the wheels to maintain near-contact with the track bed.  Of course, in certain circumstances, such as encountering a crossing signal or a track switch, the wheels will fully retract.  The system only deploys when the train’s speed is 30 km/hr or higher.  Then, if the car tilts more than a few degrees off vertical the system locks the hydraulics and the outrigger wheels prevent further tilting.”

Not everyone is pleased with the company’s solution.  Mr. Luce Kabuse, representing the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, claims that the whole concept is ridiculous and the money it will cost would be better spent on track repairs, signal upgrades and pay raises for locomotive engineers.

Ms. Hortense Delilah Pantiwaste of the Citizens Opposed to Whatever (COW) was properly aghast.

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Ms. Pantiwaste, with COW

“Why can’t they just leave that horrid oil in the ground where it belongs?  I see spots of oil on driveways all over town and it is very unsightly.  And now the railroads are going to steal the training wheels off all our grandchildren’s bicycles!” – Ms. Pantiwaste, COW