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April 7, 2008

Weyburn Trail Derailment

While driving home from Minot this morning, there came news of a train derailment south of Weyburn, and that CP Rail had advised that a grass fire was complicating matters.

I took this from the detour route;

trainderail.jpg

Sure, that's a grass fire...

Ed Minchau, in the comments - "Holy freaking hell. Hans, that's not just N2O4, it was also NO2. When those two combine with water you've basically got Red Fuming Nitric Acid. And N2O4 is one helluva strong oxidizer - Kate, I hope you didn't get within a mile of that accident, either N2O4 or Red Fuming Nitric Acid are both toxic as hell. It's the reason that the space shuttle has to sit on the ground for an hour and a half after landing before the astronauts can disembark, as the ground crew has to make sure that none of it is leaking or still present in the maneuvering system nozzles.

Yeah, about a mile. I think that was the evacuation radius they mentioned later in the afternoon, now that I think of it. It was the "grass fire" claim that made me laugh. Anyone within 20 miles knew that weren't no grass fire.

Posted by Kate at April 7, 2008 6:18 PM
Comments

and here I thought I was emailing you breaking news.

Posted by: allan at April 7, 2008 6:36 PM

must be Saskatchewan Bud.

Posted by: Fred at April 7, 2008 6:42 PM

How do we know that you didn't enhance the smoke in Photoshop, Kate?
;^)

Posted by: andycanuck at April 7, 2008 6:56 PM

Train load of rocket fuel? You were too close, Kate. That's major bang, that stuff.

Posted by: The Phantom at April 7, 2008 6:57 PM

Was that a tire fire or just the diesel burning?
Most grass fires I've seen don't have black smoke.

You should have stood on that little pile of rocks to make sure what was burning. It would have given you enough elevation to see clear to Winnipeg.

Posted by: Joe at April 7, 2008 7:05 PM

Boy, Saskatchewan sure is flat.
NeilD

Posted by: NeilD at April 7, 2008 7:20 PM

maybe its a Cheech and Chong Grass fire?

Posted by: MrPaulDecker at April 7, 2008 7:22 PM

dinitrogen tetroxide - a solid rocket fuel propellant.

Hmm, Kate when are you launching your ICBMs from the silos located under Delisle crop circles?

Delisle, Sask. .... Canada's answer to Area 51!!


Hey you should be using ethanol propellant, which is a 'greener fuel' and readily available from Saskatchewan farmers stills. Reliably tested on the V2 rockets in Peenemunde.


Cheers

Hans-Christian Georg Rupprecht BGS, PDP, CFP

Commander in Chief

Frankenstein Battalion

2nd Squadron: Ulanen-(Lancers) Regiment Großherzog Friedrich von Baden(Rheinisches) Nr.7(Saarbrucken)

Knecht Rupprecht Division

Hans Corps

1st Saint Nicolaas Army

Army Group “True North”

Posted by: Hans Rupprecht at April 7, 2008 7:35 PM

Speaking of which, that's what I like about driving to Minot - going past the missile silos.

It helps me reconnect with my roots.

Posted by: Kate at April 7, 2008 7:36 PM

Andy,
Last I checked Kate didn't work for the CBC.

Posted by: Jon at April 7, 2008 7:37 PM

Tut tut. It is, I am sure, a grass fire. A small amount of grass soaked in alot of fuel. Possibly with a burning wreckage atop.

Posted by: Eric at April 7, 2008 8:34 PM

...Hey! I see the doggie that ran away three days ago!

Posted by: tomax7 at April 7, 2008 8:42 PM

Holy freaking hell. Hans, that's not just N2O4, it was also NO2. When those two combine with water you've basically got Red Fuming Nitric Acid. And N2O4 is one helluva strong oxidizer - Kate, I hope you didn't get within a mile of that accident, either N2O4 or Red Fuming Nitric Acid are both toxic as hell. It's the reason that the space shuttle has to sit on the ground for an hour and a half after landing before the astronauts can disembark, as the ground crew has to make sure that none of it is leaking or still present in the maneuvering system nozzles.

Posted by: Ed Minchau at April 7, 2008 8:49 PM

Hans, Dude. Do you have to add all that to every post?

Posted by: Weasel Farmer at April 7, 2008 9:05 PM

that feul stuff would sure make yer RICE ROCKETT go like stink:-)))))

Posted by: GYM at April 7, 2008 9:10 PM

Note though that nitrogen dioxide gas converts to dinitrogen tetroxide gas at low temperatures, and converts back to nitrogen dioxide at higher temperatures, so they're really the same thing. Plus, we also know that dinitrogen tetroxide is a useful reagent in chemical synthesis. Furthermore, "RCMP say [the train] was hauling..." doesn't tell us how much. One car would suffice (or less, it could have been some cylinders in a box-car).

So while I don't want to obstruct anyone's droll wit, and this doesn't do that, I will say that I doubt that this was a train-load of rocket fuel. Not that anyone was saying that.

Posted by: Vitruvius at April 7, 2008 9:31 PM

I get a little nervous around welding tanks Vitruvius. The very idea of a tank car full of that stuff makes me wanna hide. I've seen too many examples of what high speed metal fragments can do, and then there's the overpressure to consider.

Remember the Thiokol rocket plant in Nevada? Blew up and broke nearly every window in Las Vegas. It was farther away than Kate was from that fire.

I don't know much about rocket fuel, but I remember that. I also remember how far the O2 tank is away from the H2 tank at the Kennedy launch site. Pretty frickin' far.

Posted by: The Phantom at April 7, 2008 10:01 PM

Google BLEVE
NeilD

Posted by: NeilD at April 7, 2008 10:16 PM

Yes I do agree, Phantom. My only point is that, as it is the norm here at SDA to look for weaknesses in news reports, I'm just noting that if there was only a cylinder of the stuff (which would be consistent with the reports to date), then that would mean a one-mile evacuation zone would probably be appropriate. Our hazmat guys are actually pretty good these days.

It turns out our software is used by engineers responsible for real plants that make, among other things, dinitrogen tetroxide, hydrazine, and phosgene (it's used to make foam cushions). So, though chemical engineering is not my field, after twelve years of this I'm starting to get a sense of scale for some of this stuff. The Thiokol plant was, you may note, bigger than a cylinder of gas.

Yet your point remains well-taken, Phantom, as shown in this video from the Chemical Safety Board on the matter of the dangers of rocketing propylene cylinders:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_ZLQkn7X-k

Older CSB videos can be found in this 2007-06-02 SDA comment:

www.smalldeadanimals.com/archives/006457.html#c175152

Posted by: Vitruvius at April 7, 2008 10:26 PM

The first report I heard (on CBC radio) not only mentioned a grass fire, but the chemical fire. The report included information about two farms being evacuated, a weather station being brought in to monitor wind and other conditions, and an aircraft being brought in to monitor from the air.

A later report said the fire would be allowed to burn itself out.

Kate, you really don't need to exaggerate so much... You'll get the traffic anyway.

Posted by: djb at April 7, 2008 11:09 PM

Ah yes, the loose gas cylinder. I've never seen one go myself, but descriptions from people who have seen it make that one of my Top Ten don't-be-there events.

Then there's the story of the propane powered taxi that exploded someplace downtown Toronto in a repair shop in the middle of the night. I drove by a couple days afterward, the shop was -gone-, right down to to the foundations. Poof.

That's one (1) propane cylinder. My welding sh1t is locked up tighter than an Eyeranian virgin.

Posted by: The Phantom at April 7, 2008 11:32 PM

I actually witnessed the Mississauga derailment. I recall seeing one propane car hurled a few hundred meters into the air. Impressive.

I also remember coming up out of that gulch from Minot towards Weyburn, via Portal. As you can see in that photograph, the wind comes down unobstructed all the way from the North Pole. You have to be determined to make it northwards against that headwind...

Posted by: Shaken at April 7, 2008 11:47 PM

Just think Kate, Ed, you could have had a story that made Halifax harbor look like a cakewalk.

Yeah, grassfire and you need to evacuate for a 2.5 km radius.

I'll take the leprechaun's pot of gold for 100 million please.

Cheers

Posted by: Hans Rupprecht at April 7, 2008 11:48 PM

Just think Kate, Ed, you could have had a story that made Halifax harbor look like a cakewalk.

Yeah, grassfire and you need to evacuate for a 2.5 km radius.

I'll take the leprechaun's pot of gold for 100 million please.

Cheers

Posted by: Hans Rupprecht at April 7, 2008 11:49 PM

Phantom, that PEPCON plant in Nevada was making ammonium perchlorate, also nasty stuff... nine million pounds of it. When the plant blew it registered a 3.5 on the Richter scale and was comparable to a 15 kiloton nuclear blast, by far the biggest chemical explosion ever:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJVOUgCm5Jk

Posted by: Ed Minchau at April 8, 2008 12:11 AM

I'm not in the habit of listening to CBC. I was listening to Gormley on Rawlco. So, didn't think much of a reported derailment and grass fire until one got close enough to see the smoke.

Posted by: Kate at April 8, 2008 12:17 AM

you didn't inhale right?

Posted by: kelly at April 8, 2008 2:41 AM

these things always scare me seeing that CP rail still hauls everything straight thru downtown Calgary. loads of sulphur, propane, oil , all right underneath buildings and in 100 car lots. I witnessed a small derailment right over 5 street back about 20 years ago.watched a train back up thru an open switch , a derailment in slow mo. very cool.

Posted by: cal2 at April 8, 2008 9:24 AM

Fire's out this morning. I can see it from the drilling rig i'm working at. They're gonna be moving some cats in this morning to start working.

Posted by: Gaul at April 8, 2008 10:03 AM

Etching on copper used to use nitric acid, and NO2/N2O4 was produced in considerable quantity. It's one of the reasons why artists used to have to be good practical chemists.
Ferric chloride solution is now more common for etching copper.

Posted by: John Lewis at April 8, 2008 12:07 PM

In beauuuutiful downtown Medicine Hat we have ,right at the bottom of one of the steepest grades on a rail line in Canada, a major railway yard sometimes full of more chemicals than you can shake a stick at . A half million square miles of empty prairie and not enough brains between the city council and the rail company to move it out of downtown.

Posted by: cantuc at April 8, 2008 12:43 PM

This site is too funny... don't believe everything the media tells you... was there!

Posted by: skeptic at April 9, 2008 1:08 AM
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