All cargo that is considered hazardous carries placards to indicate their particular hazard. These are normally seen on Tank cars although can be applied to other types if the cargo being transported is carried in them. These labels are squares turned 45 degrees so as to look like diagonal flags. There are several classes of hazardous materials being transported in the 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's. Lets look at these classes.








These labels have the hazard printed on them but in HO and smaller scales the lettering is unreadable. There is a company Labelmaster on the internet that has a lot of information. These folks make labels and have a lot of pictures of labels on their site. Surf thru their online catalog, a real education...


I attempted to develop one and Mr Chris Barkan very kindly
corrected some of my errors and omissions, here is that email.

There are several errors in the chronology that need to be addressed:

In a message dated 1/22/02 3:45:39 PM, sam@hosam.com writes:

<<  Let's see if I can develop a timeline.  The ICC(Interstate Commerce
Comission) was formed in 1887.  Tank car standards were set by the ICC.>>

The first tank car standards were developed in 1903 by the railroad
industry's Committee on Tank Cars, an arm of the Master Car-Builders'
Association (MCBA), one of the predecessors of the AAR.


The Bureau for the Safe Transportation of Explosives and Other Dangerous
Articles (aka, the Bureau of Explosives or BOE) was also formed in the first
decade of the 20th Century (ca. 1906) and was also an industry organization. 
They developed specifications for shipping and packaging of hazardous
materials, including the first placard designs.


The ICC adopted by reference the BOE specifications in 1923 and the Tank Car
Committee specs for tank cars transporting hazardous materials in 1927.  In
general, they didn't create anything new, they formalized the relationship
between the industry practices and the regs.

I strongly disagree that government is generally good at developing
standards.  The industry experts who use the standards are good at developing
them.  RR industry standards have been, and continue to be, developed and
maintained primarily by industry, not government.

Mechanical interchange standards are maintained by AAR, and recommended
practices for track and structures by the American Railway Engineering and
Maintenance of Way Association (AREMA), the successor organization to AREA.

To be sure, there are some requirements for track and equipment that are DOT
regs, but the majority are industry.


The AAR was formed from the American Railway Association (ARA) and several
other organizations in 1934.  The ARA was itself formed from several
predecessor organizations (including the BOE I think) in 1919.  Overall,
these organizations trace their lineage back to the original formation of the
MCBA (in 1869 I think).


Perhaps oversimplifying a bit, when the USDOT was formed, the safety-related
responsibilities were transferred from the ICC.  ICC and retained authority
for economic regulation.  The actual authority for tank car and hazmat regs
within DOT resides with the Research & Special Programs Administration
(RSPA).  Enforcement authority for rail transportation-related aspects lies
with FRA.  The regs still incorporate by reference large portions of the
AAR's tank car specifications, which continue to be maintained and updated by
the AAR tank car committee.  Regulators from both the US and Canada
participate in these meetings but do not have voting authority.  Of course
government always has the authority to supercede, but in general the approach
is for industry to determine needs and respond to them without the need for
govvernment intervention.  Government definitely lets industry know if it
thinks there is a problem.


I don't know when the change occurred, but placards are now the 
responsibility of DOT.  I would guess it dates back at least to the formation
of DOT, and possibly earlier.  This makes sense because placard designs is
standard across modes, so a RR industry association might not be appropriate
for maintaining these.

One final comment in response to another message stating that firefighters
need to know what they are dealing with in an accident.  This is true, but it
is not the local emergency responders responsibility to do anything more than
initial basic response, such as establishing a perimeter, coordinating
evacuations, etc.  Because of the wide variety of hazmats in transportation,
the special skills necessary for safe response to all of them cannot be
expected of local departments.  This lesson was tragically learned in several
incidents in the 1970s when local responders rushed to their death into
situations for which they were inadequately trained or prepared.

Nowadays, hazardous materials specialists are called in to handle the actual
response.  A topic of ongoing importance is the best way to quickly and
efficiently establish a command post and effective lines of authority for the
wide variety of agencies and organizations that may need to be involved in an 
incident (sometimes more than 20!)

Chris Barkan
S.A. McCall