Walking with his daughter from a Friday night football game in New Brighton, Pa., Fire Chief Jeffrey Bolland heard what sounded like a jet overhead and saw an orange glow in the distance.
Twenty-three rail tank cars of ethanol derailed on a bridge above the Beaver River on that night in 2006, setting off an explosion that burned for 48 hours. Some of the black, torpedo-shaped cars tumbled into the river.
No one was injured, but 150 people were evacuated and a nearly multi-million dollar cleanup ensued in the city about 30 miles Northwest of Pittsburgh.
The rail cars in the accident were DOT-111s, designed in the early 1960s and originally used to haul non-hazardous materials such as corn syrup. Now, they are the worker bees for the glut of crude oil and ethanol being transported across Pennsylvania and the country.
“The same old clunkers are still out there,” said Fred Millar, a Washington, D.C., consultant to the rail industry. “They’re Pepsi cans on wheels.”