Downtown Dallas was once the home to the Missouri – Kansas – Texas Railroad, affectionately known as the “MKT” or “Katy” railroad. If you lived in Dallas before the late 1990s, you know this railyard – even if you didn’t realize it belonged to the Katy Railroad. The tracks heading north across the bridge over the Triple Underpass at Dealey Plaza, those used to lead to the Katy railyard. Visible along Stemmons Freeway, the Katy railyard was situated between the former twin smoke stacks of a powerhouse and the iconic Dallas Coors waterfall sign atop the hill overlooking Baby Does Matchless Mine. The area now has been fully redeveloped into Victory Park.
But from 1886 to the 1990s, the Dallas Katy railyard was a hub of activity and for much of that time it was also a likely source of asbestos exposure for railroad workers. Steam locomotives were essentially boilers on wheels. They contained thousands of pounds of asbestos insulation. Even in the diesel era, which began in the 1950s, railroad brakes, heating & exhaust systems – and even boxcar floors/walls – contained asbestos until the 1980s.
The greatest potential for railroad worker exposures to asbestos occurred where major repairs took place – in the roundhouse and back house. However, other exposure potentials still occurred elsewhere with boxcar tear out, brake repair, and even track straightening.
Congress enacted law for railroad workers
Railroad workers who suffer from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma, or asbestosis can pursue claims through a labor/employment law known as the Federal Employers Liability Act or FELA. FELA was enacted by Congress in the early 1900s as a federal law that protects and compensates railroad workers injured on the job.
Notify your physician
If you were employed as a railroad worker in the 1980s or earlier, you may have been exposed to asbestos. Let your physician know you may have had occupational exposure to asbestos and continue to follow up with them for check-ups and physicals on a regular basis. The earlier an asbestos disease is detected the better.