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Michael Bethge, Short Line Safety Institute hazmat trainer, speaks to railroad workers at Iowa Northern Railway's rail yard Tuesday in Waterloo,

WATERLOO — Iowa Northern Railway trainers got schooled on hazardous materials training Tuesday.

The Short Line Safety Institute launched an instructor training course this year on hazardous materials at no cost to smaller railroads.

The training was held at Iowa Northern Railway.

Tom Murta, executive director of the SLSI, travels around the United States with training cars to give workers firsthand experience in hazardous materials inspections.

“We have a Safety Train here so they can do ground inspections of the tank cars and other vessels that contain hazardous materials and how to inspect them,” Murta said. “We train 15, and they go back and say they each train five or 10, so then you have 75 or 150 people trained.”

Murta put together a vast array of workers from around the United States to present this training.

“There was over 500 years of rail and hazmat transportation expertise in the room,” Murta said.

The Safety Train came from the Volunteer Firefighter Association specifically for the training. The train has three cars that resemble hazardous material containers for various training exercises.

“This really helps with the smaller companies that don’t have vast resources,” said Bill Magee, general manager of Iowa Northern Railway. “There’s good representation here of pretty much every piece of equipment we would encounter.”

Workers from five other railroads trained alongside the Iowa Northern trainers.

“There’s four from Iowa and one from Montana,” Murta said. “This training’s been scheduled for several months.”

The training includes a classroom portion, as well as a hands-on experience out in the rail yard.

“So they look at the markings on the car, whether the stenciling on the car is correct, if the car is secure, and make sure there aren’t any issues with the car before you pull it out and put it onto a train,” Murta said. “We bring up everybody’s education level.”

The SLSI offers the training using a grant from the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The curriculum was put together in January.

“This was the first year for this program, so we had to start from zero,” Murta said.

Murta hopes to continue the program for many years, and plans to apply for another grant.

The next stop for Murta and SLSI is Manly.

“We’re going to spread out and train as many railroads as we can,” Murta said.

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