Rail Industry

For decades Americans have worried about our dependence on foreign oil and gas.  By 2005 we were importing 60% of our energy, but in 2008 a new technology called horizontal hydrologic fracturing or “fracking” raised the promise of energy independence. 

U.S. crude production is up 50% and  imports have fallen 35%.  But getting oil from a massive shale deposit in North Dakota to refineries is raising serious concerns about public safety.

City of Lynchburg

Within hours of a rail crash in Lynchburg on April 30, inspectors for the state and federal governments and CSX were on the scene – trying to figure out why 17 cars derailed and one ruptured – producing flames, smoke and a significant oil spill. 

Getting official answers could take 18 months, but there are clues that suggest a cause for the accident and a future course of action to improve rail safety. 

Natural Resources Defense Council

In just over a year, North America has seen a dozen serious accidents involving trains that derailed while carrying flammable crude oil.  One of those accidents, in Lynchburg, caused a massive fire and oil spill.  In most cases, fire departments didn’t know what they were dealing with, since railroads have kept that information secret, but the federal government is now requiring them to inform states when trains of 35 cars or more, carrying  oil from North Dakota or Montana, are coming through. 

Meeting on Rail Safety

Jun 2, 2014

The derailment in Lynchburg of a CSX train carrying Bakken crude oil in April could have been much worse … and procedures and policies should be revised to mitigate future risk. 

That’s the conclusion of a hearing in Richmond led by U.S. Senator Mark Warner… along with emergency responders, public agency heads, and corporate officials.  One focus was on the vulnerabilities of transporting oil—and how to prevent such accidents from ever occurring.

Cotton to Silk

Apr 17, 2014
Norfolk Southern Corporation

An oral history project and a soon-to-be released book tell the story of African American Heritage on the Roanoke-based Norfolk and Western Railroad.

The memories are those of 20 retired and current black employees of N&W, which later became Norfolk Southern.

The railroad was a microcosm of America itself—and the stories illustrate the momentum of equal opportunity.

Oral historian Sheree Scarborough has been running on tight deadlines.