Railroads warned about the problems long trains can cause; six states including Iowa have proposed train length limits

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Federal regulators are warning railroads that the long trains they favor can cause all kinds of problems and contribute to derailments, so they want the railroads to ensure their training and operating procedures account for that.

The Federal Railroad Administration stopped short of recommending in a safety advisory issued Thursday that railroads should limit the size of their trains, but they suggested a number of precautions including making sure engineers know how to handle monster trains that might stretch longer than two miles. 

Regulators also said railroads need to make sure that locomotives don’t lose communication with devices at the end of a train that can help trigger the brakes in an emergency.

The derailments mentioned as examples of the problems that can accompany long trains included the derailment of a Union Pacific train in Rockwell here in north-central Iowa in March 2022 that involved 35 cars that were carrying grain and corn.  In each of those cases, the way cars in different parts of the train pulled and pushed against each other contributed to the derailments.

The states proposing limits on train size this year include Iowa, Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada and Washington.