Complaining about the railroads

By John Pierre | Apr 25, 2013

They're still at it.  "They" being the chronic complainers taking shots at the inevitable coal trains slated to run through our Edmonds By the Sea...  a town that became a town because of trains.

I suggest that these complainers date back to when automobiles besmirched the air quality throughout America.  Cars arguably had an ill effect in some areas but where would we be without them?

But the complainers were thicker'n the odor on a skunk with their gang-like objections to such happenings.

What about that nasty old smoke that was left behind on "blast off" as was emitted from the spacecrafts we sent aloft to learn from our universe?

And consider the trail emitted from that smoke spewing 747 on which the development of Seattle and surrounding municipalities (including Edmonds) was largely responsible for our growth to finally be reckoned with as an important area.

What about the proposition that passenger flights be allowed to land and take off from Paine Field?  Does that activity not bring additional life blood to our Snohomish County?

Sooo... people build their homes next to an airfield and then complain about the noise caused by aircraft?  Brilliant!

It is, to us who favor financially advantageous progress, a continuation of our being constantly subjected to the "greenies" among us who oppose nearly every effort to improve our lives.

Oh yes... we could, as some seem to prefer, go back to horses and buggies to please the anti-modernization world but, would that please them?  Nay.  They would have a new target, more easily identifiable both by volume and odor.

Danged horses are hard to train to use a Porta Potty.  What would solve the problem?  Ban the dastardly equine villains.

Coal dust?  Prove it!  I have yet to see any scientific evidence to prove that these trains might cause any damage to our air quality or the beauty of the expensive properties adjacent to the RR.

And if there was some ... so what?  It would be miniscule in its effect on we human beings.

C'mon greenies, admit it.  You don't have a legitimate leg, or coal dust pile, to stand on.

Edmonds is a railroad town and, with any luck and no irrational attacks, will probably remain a railroad town presuming we can overcome, or ignore, the constant anti-train lobbies by those who stand defiantly against anything that resembles progress.

Whooo whooo! Or, as Constance Towers said to John Wayne in the movie Horse Soldiers, "Ding dong... ding dong."



Comments (2)
Posted by: Nathaniel R Brown | Apr 25, 2013 09:49

Is it time for the Beacon to instigate a policy banning name-calling?


Mr. Pierre has joined hands with Mr. Keeler to brand people concerned with the environment and the quality of life in Edmonds as “greenies” who “constant complainers” taking “pot shots” at coal train and “stand defiantly against anything that resembles progress.” We all learned years ago in the playground that once you belittle someone they no longer count. Effective in the playground – but in an adult community where we have to live together and find common decisions, it’s nothing more than not-very-subtle way of shouting down your opponent. Not very neighborly!


Mr. Pierre then goes on to the silly strawman argument that “greenies” want to go back to horses and buggies. I guess those of us who believe that a cleaner, quieter environment is a good thing should just shut up, sit back and content ourselves with the gradual, steady loss what we once took for granted, and the next generation can “go content with what we spoiled.”


I am proud to call myself an environmentalist, and glad to share the clean air and water with Mr. Pierre that might not have been possible without a good deal of constant complaining by greenies who stood defiantly against pollution. And I will try very hard not to speak of “weekly groans” by "constant curmudgeons" and their “pot shots” and “constant complaining” about “anything that resembles progress” in cleaning up and maintaining our wonderful environment here in Edmonds.

Posted by: Eric B. Livingston | Apr 29, 2013 16:07

Mr. Pierre’s column “Complaining about the Railroads” came to my attention last week when a friend emailed me a link to it.


After reading it a few times I began to think Mr. Pierre was just trying to get a raise out some of the readers.  Sort of seeing who might rise to the bait, so to speak.   Ok, I’m silly enough to give it a shot.


Firstly, the online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “Curmudgeon” as:

  1. Archaic: miser
  2. A crusty, ill-tempered and usually an old man

Example of Curmudgeon: only a curmudgeon would object to the nursing home's holiday decorations

It can also be pointed out that only a curmudgeon would complain about complainers.


Ok, Pierre is a weekly columnist and has to write about something.  Having been a columnist myself for a short time when I lived in Connecticut, it gets to be very tough to grind out 600 +/- words every week and get the editor to accept the column without re-writing  it 2 or 3 times before deadline.


The biggest lesson I learned from that brief experience is fact checking.  Fact checking is a lousy, boring, dirty job, but it needs to done.  It is also the writer’s responsibility to do it.


So, I took it upon myself to do Mr. Pierre’s responsibility and after a bit of research, I learned there is some scientific evidence that might “prove that these trains might cause any damage to our air quality or the beauty of the expensive properties adjacent to the RR.”


In the Journal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics; I found a paper which studied Wind tunnel study of coal dust release from train wagons; authored by A.D. Ferreiraa, P.A. Vaz.  In the second paragraph of the introduction is this statement:

“In terms of chemical composition coal does not represent any major dangerous pollutant but, as considerable coal dust quantities may be lost from train wagons due to Aeolian erosion, they are capable of producing a considerable environmental impact on some residential or agricultural areas, particularly those crossed by the railway or located near to it.”[1]


The International Journal of Coal Geology has this study: Coal dust dispersal around a marine coal terminal (1977–1999), British Columbia: The fate of coal dust in the marine environment by Ryan Johnson and R.M. Bustin.  The last sentence of the abstract is:

“Coal distribution would likely affect those benthic flora and fauna, most susceptible to coal dust coverage and possible anoxic conditions that might arise during coal oxidation within very close proximity (0–100 m) to the coal-loading terminal.”[2]

The second paragraph says this about coal dust:

“However, Roberts Bank is not naturally a deep-seaport and is located in one of the most ecologically important estuaries on the west coast of North America. The construction of the coal terminal has had numerous effects on the local ecology, and the release of coal dust has had a detrimental impact on the region.”[1] (ed. - Robert Banks is a coal terminal)


It really got interesting when I found these papers:

  • Study on Control of Coal Dust of Coal Trains Travelling Along the Daqin Railway[2]
  • Preparation, Evaluation and Application of Dust Suppressant in Coal Railway Transportation[3]
  • Study on preparation of dust suppressant used in coal transportation[4]
  • How to Use Overlay Agents to Control the Pollution Caused by Stack raised Dust[5]

Yes, these papers are in the English language version of the Journal of the China Railway Society, but what makes these papers so interesting is that the Chinese are painfully aware of the problems of transporting coal via the railroad and the pollution caused by coal dust.  They are working their brain cells to the bone to solve that problem.


Finally, on the Sightline Institute website ( ) Eric de Place writes:

“Coal dust escapes from the open-top rail cars used for transporting coal and can create safety and congestion problems for rail traffic. In 2005, for example, coal dust that had accumulated in ballast, the layer of crushed rock that supports rail tracks, caused derailments. Coal dust deposits sometimes even cause spontaneous fires.

“The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) has studied the problem and found that as much as a ton of coal can escape from a single loaded coal car, while other reports show that as much as 3 percent of a coal car’s load, which is typically 100 tons or more, can blow away in transit.[6]

“The US Department of Transportation classifies coal dust as a “pernicious ballast foulant” that can weaken and destabilize rail tracks.[7]

Regardless of how much fun it is to be a writer and have an opinion column, the columnist must base his/her opinion on facts; otherwise they've wasted the reader’s time.  However, the beauty of the 1st Amendment is that, while curmudgeons have the right to their opinions and to express those opinions, I’m guaranteed the right to not read those opinions or care about them.






[6] Eric de Place, “At Least the Website is Clean,” Sightline Institute blog, August 10, 2011,

http://daily.sightline. org/2011/08/10/at-least-the-website-is-clean/

[7] Surface Transportation Board Authorizes Tariff Rules on Coal Dust but Strikes Down Specific BNSF Tariff,” Troutman Sanders LLP, Washington Energy Report,





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