Thursday, July 11, 2013

Assabet Close to Home

With unsettled weather (perhaps including thunderstorms) in the afternoon forecast, I decided to paddle the stretch of the Assabet River closest to my home where I could get off the water quickly, if necessary.  I launched at the Acton Canoe Launch which is below the Powder Mill Dam and headed downriver to Damonmill Dam.  The recently high water levels were a thing of the past and finding water deep enough to accommodate my boat's modest draft was challenging in spots.  Fortunately, I was in a smooth-flowing section when I quietly glided upon this foraging fellow...
He checked me out before lifting his tail and heading into the brush...
If I gave him any fright, he returned the favor by bounding up from behind on my return trip.  I believe he got the better of our exchanges.

Other wildlife encountered were a blue heron, a belted kingfisher, and several good-sized carp patrolling the shallows.

Reaching my turnaround point at Damonmill Dam the first raindrops were felt.  By the time I reached my takeout I was drenched, and it actually felt good on such an oppressively humid afternoon.

My trash haul from this 1.25 mile stretch of river enjoyed the rain shower as much as I did...
There were 35 recyclable containers (4 redeemable) and 35 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish such as nip bottles, plastic bags and Styrofoam.  YTD = 3452

Being a life-long railfan, I've been following the tragic developments in the Quebec village of Lac- Megantic where a runaway and unmanned freight train crashed into the downtown area last Friday night.  The ensuing explosion and fire claimed many lives.  As in many accidents, a chain of events was set in motion that seems, in hindsight, almost impossible to have occurred.  One contributing factor may have been the issue of a one man crew. It appears that only one man was assigned to operate a freight train hauling 72 tank cars (each car holding 30,000 gallons of crude oil) and 5 diesel locomotives.  When he reached the end of his allowable time limit, he was expected to park the train and insure that enough brakes were set to prevent the possibility of it moving.  He left the scene with things seemingly OK.  Later, a fire broke out on one of the locomotives and local firefighters put out the blaze and shut down the locomotive unaware that doing so resulted in a loss of adequate air pressure for the braking system.  Apparently, not enough hand brakes had been set to hold the train in place without air pressure.  This tragedy will most likely result in many changes to existing railroad operating procedures.  Hopefully, expecting one man to operate a freight train of this size and cargo type will be a thing of the past.

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