Dean Smith, 72, sits in his car by the tracks north of Seattle.
It’s a dark, rainy Tuesday night, and Smith waits for an oil train to come through town. These trains are distinctive: A mile long, they haul 100 or so black, pill-shaped cars that each carry 30,000 gallons of crude oil.
Smith has been monitoring oil trains in his community for about a year, noting each one on a website he built. He does it because the railroads share little information about oil train traffic with Washington state. They don’t have to because they’re federally regulated.