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Is Asbestos Still Present in Older Trains?

Did you know that asbestos was used within railroad locomotives, cabooses, and other train cars through the 1960s? Several components of these vehicles contained the deadly carcinogen both inside and out. This has raised some concern for those visiting locomotives in museums featuring older trains.


In New Jersey, one man is worried that whitish-gray fibers he spotted on one locomotive at the Paterson Museum may put children and adults at risk for serious asbestos-related diseases. The locomotive is one of two at the museum; the other had asbestos removed over 20 years ago.

According to, "railroad companies used asbestos insulation on mains, pipes, boilers, brakes, gaskets and in the electrical and heat insulation in the walls, ceiling and flooring of railroad cars." Although the trains are no longer used, the asbestos used within them can still affect those that get close to them at museums. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure.

It is not only older trains within museums that pose risk to the public. Hundreds of Metro railcars in Washington DC were recently reported to contain asbestos. The city is working to properly dispose of the asbestos-containing parts and then retire the railcars. While the city says they do not pose risk to the public, train operators and riders fear for their health, with one individual stating that they will "be avoiding those (railcars) as much as possible."

If you work with or around older train cars, whether they're operating or not, be aware that asbestos might be present.

Sources: NBC | | Asbestos Network

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