LOS ANGELES — An unusually long train that rolled through Southern California over the weekend is raising concerns about public safety and traffic delays.
The 3½-mile long Union Pacific train, about two to three times the length of a typical freight train, left Texas on Friday and arrived at the Port of Long Beach on Sunday. The Omaha, Neb.-based railroad said it ran the train — the longest ever assembled by the company — to test equipment and explore ways to improve operations.
While there are no state or federal limits on the length of trains, regulators monitored its movement to ensure the train had adequate braking capacity. Officials were also on hand in case of extended delays for drivers and emergency vehicles at rail crossings.
No incidents were reported, said Richard W. Clarke, who oversees rail safety at the California Public Utilities Commission.
A spokesman for the California chapter of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen said such long trains could cause potential problems for emergency vehicles, and put train operators at risk.
"If you live in one of the counties and towns on the train route, you've got a 3½-mile train that separates you from your destination," said Tim Smith, state legislative chairman for the union.
Rail crews have many things to consider when running a train, including speed, braking, grading, curvature of tracks and following safety rules, he said.
"It's a lot to handle on a mile-long train. On a longer train the concerns become exponential," he said.
He accused Union Pacific of attempting to run three trains with one crew.
Tom Lange, a Union Pacific spokesman, acknowledge longer trains can lower costs of train crew because the additional locomotives are controlled from the front cab. He asserted that long trains actually minimize the chances of derailment because locomotive power is distributed along the train, reducing stress on couplers and other equipment.
Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at email@example.com.