A railroad tank car once used to transport volatile fluids is now a training tool at Iowa Central Community College.
The 70,000-lb. train car, used to haul liquids throughout the United States until it was in an accident in Gary, Ind., is part of the Rural Emergency Response Training Center at Iowa Central’s fire tower.
Fort Dodge Fire Department Capt. Steve Hergenreter was instrumental in getting the project underway.
During a meeting of the National Fire Protection Association Hazardous Material Response Committee, he mentioned it to fellow board member Danny Simpson, a vice president for Canadian National Railroad.
“I asked him what would be the chance of getting a rail car,” Hergenreter said recently.
The tanker now at Iowa Central was involved in a derailment later the same day.
The public will be able to see it during an open house from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday.
The railroad had to empty the car, decontaminate it, place it on a flatcar and then haul it to a siding in Fort Dodge where it was loaded onto a truck by crane and eventually transported to the Iowa Central training site.
The railroad made sure there was something to put it on.
“They gave us the track,” Hergenreter said. “That was shipped in from Chicago.”
The tanker will see a lot of use.
Iowa Central students, staff from local industry, Hergenreter’s own department and those attending the annual Northwest Area Training Academy will be using the car, he said.
There is an advantage to training on a real tanker, he said.
“They can become familiar with the fittings and working on top of a car,” he said. “It will help keep their skills sharp.”
Though a local tanker emergency would be handled primarily by members of the Region V HazMat Team, the real train car allows first responders to gain experience in recognizing what sort of hazard they might face, in part by reading the placards placed on railroad cars to identify the contents. That information, in turn, allows first responders to take steps to protect the area.
Hergenreter said the train car can also be used for confined space training.
“You can lower a real person or a mannequin into the tank,” he said.
The tank car training will be valuable.
“We’ve had some significant derailments,” he said.
Within Region V HazMat’s nine-county area, Carroll and Greene counties both have a 100-trains-per-day Union Pacific Railroad mainline going through them. Carroll County also has a Burlington Northern Santa Fe mainline. Fewer busy rail lines tranverse its other counties, including Webster County and the city of Fort Dodge.
According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, hazardous materials shipments have increased tremendously since 2006.
Hergenreter said the project would not have happened without help.
“It was done with a lot of generosity from Canadian National and our local companies.” he said.
According to Iowa Central, $14,000 was donated by area businesses, in addition to $115,000 in services and equipment.
McGough Construction, Canadian National Railroad, West Central Co-op/Land O’Lakes, NEW Co-op, POET Ethanol, Cargill, CJ Bio America, Dale’s Petroleum, and Crimmins Welding & Fabrication are some of the major donors.