Toxic, explosive tank car train derailments: When will tragedy visit Elk Grove?

Deteriorating rail ties in Elk Grove. | 

By Michael Monasky | Guest contributor |

Two Union Pacific freight trains shuttled black toxic liquid cars through Old Town Elk Grove on Saturday, February 18, 2023. At about noon, 23 toxic tank cars passed; at about 12:30 pm, another 37 toxic black tank cars made their way. That’s 60 toxic tank cars within an hour. What’s worse, these cars were part of exceptionally long trains which spanned multiple miles, which can be especially difficult to bring to a full stop.

Cross ties for the rails in this corridor are old, cracked wooden beams; pictures reveal a technology over a century old. The Trump administration reversed the Obama mandate, due to be completed by 2023, to install electrical/electronic controls on the century-old pneumatic brake systems. The Biden-Buttagieg administration has not restored these vital freight rail infrastructure improvements.

Julie Grant, an activist at the Allegheny Front, said:

  • The fracking industry is growing;
  • crude oil and hazardous materials are shipped by rail every day;
  • vinyl chloride is needed for PVC pipe and other building materials;
  • there are more hazardous tankers with fewer regulations;
  • these materials find their way through major cities;
  • railroads are deferring maintenance, while trains don’t usually go through rich peoples’ backyards;
  • from 2011-2021 railroads have invested $121B in stock buybacks while reducing the workforce by 30 percent and lobbying against electrical/electronic brake upgrades to railcars.

According to Julia Rock, a journalist at The Lever, railroads have:

  • slashed workforce 30 percent in the last decade;
  • failed to upgrade old pneumatic brake systems with electrical controls;
  • lobbied against safety rules;
  • exhausted workers with oppressive work rules such as reduced staffing, repetitive on-call, and few to no sick leave days;
  • reduced brake inspection times from four minutes to one minute per car.

 “Something far more catastrophic will happen.”

                        -Julia Rock, The Lever (

When will a train derailment and explosion happen here in Elk Grove, California?

When it does, expect a report from a remote location.

How will rail neighbor Sacramento County Supervisor Pat Hume react to a mandatory evacuation order?

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