Locomotive Tank Failure Program Expands

The Federal Railroad Administration issued an updated Safety Advisory yesterday explaining that there is now an expansion of the program begun in 2005 to check some 2,700 locomotives' main reservoir tanks for evidence they could catastrophically fail. The tanks are manufactured by R&R Metal Fabricators, Inc. and installed on General Electric Transportation System (GETS) locomotives; GETS reported in early 2005 that 5,826 of the tanks were manufactured between 1985 and 1995, and that four had ruptured while in service.

The rupture is "a rapid splitting and deformation of the reservoir tank along the longitudinal seam," which could seriously injury or kill anyone in the vicinity of the tank at the time of the failure, FRA said in Federal Register notice.

No other locomotive manufacturer has produced locomotives equipped with the suspect tanks, which can be identified by an "R&R" name plate attached to the skin of the tank. GETS notified FRA on Sept. 12, 2007, "that its earlier instructions to inspect and measure the reservoir tanks and replace only those that fail to meet the criteria proved to be only partially effective in identifying the at risk tanks," the notice states, adding that GETS has now advised all known owners and users of the affected locomotives equipped with the involved reservoir tanks to replace them by Sept. 30, 2008, and may do so for no cost by contacting Len Baran, GETS product manager, at General Electric Transportation Systems, 2901 East Lake Road, Building 14-410, Erie, PA 16531, or at Len.Baran@trans.ge.com.

The FRA contacts for information is George Scerbo, a railroad safety specialist in the Motive Power and Equipment Division of the Office of Safety Assurance and Compliance (phone 202-493-6249) and Michael Masci, a staff attorney in the Office of Chief Counsel (202-493-6037).

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