Oil Trains In The Northwest

OPB’s coverage on the transportation of oil by rail in the Northwest.

The Union Pacific Railroad says it has completed its investigation into an oil train derailment in the Columbia River Gorge.

More than a dozen train cars derailed in the town of Mosier on June 3, starting a fire, forcing about 100 people to evacuate and spilling oil into the ground and the city sewer system.  

“The fastener system that connects the railroad tie to the rail is what failed in this incident and is what caused the derailment,” said company spokesman Justin Jacobs.

Multiple metal fasteners, called lag bolts, failed in consecutive rail ties. That caused the rails to spread apart as the train rolled over them.

Union Pacific inspects those fasteners on its tracks once every 18 months. Jacobs said in the Columbia Gorge the company now plans to inspect them more often, four times a year.

Union Pacific officials are holding meetings with towns in the Gorge next week.

The railroad said it will not transport oil through the Gorge until its has finished those meetings.

“We do not anticipate any other oil moves in the near future, as we have committed. And we will inform the community when those types of normal operations resume,” said Jacobs.

The Federal Railroad Administration is conducting its own investigation of the derailment.