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Posted By gary Armitstead on 09/16/2008 11:09 PM
Most legal experts believe that the dollar amount for the upcoming lawsuits would more than pay for a high-tech warning system that would have prevented this accident.




I'm not sure that the "high-tech warning system", called (I think) Positive Train Control (PTC) would have prevented the accident.

My limited understanding is this. The engineer seems to have ignored 2 yellows and a red signal. A yellow in this case (remember, I said I had limited understanding) I think means that you should be ready and capable of stopping at the next signal (if that red signal is red) - this does not necessarily mean a reduction in speed. Hence, would the PTC have slowed the train as a result of the yellow signals? I don't know.

Now, as for the red signal, the PCT would have kicked in *after* the engineer passed it. At this point, the accident was a done deal. Yes, the PCT could have lessened the number of injuries and deaths by decreasing the speed of the metrolink train at the time of the headon, but the metrolink train would have certainly still fouled the main in this scenario.

My opinion is that the money would be *much* better spent on manpower. Here's my reasoning:

From what I can gather from the newspaper, there were 2 metrolink employees on the train - the engineer in the cab and the conducter in one of the passenger cars. These 2 were supposed to communicate by radio to each other confirmation of the signal colors. There's evidence of this communication occuring for all signals with the exception of the 2 yellows and red. The papers seem to indicate that the conductor and engineer didn't communicate at all about the last 3 signals (my understanding is that the conductor has been interviewed but I've not read anything about what was said). This could be attributed to radio troubles or the conductor being busy helping passengers.

This is where another person in the cab would have made all the difference. He would have called out all 3 signals to the engineer and expected a verbal response to each one. it would have been visually obvious to him that the engineer was distracted. And the second person on the cab would have had an emergency brake button if the engineer didn't respond to seeing the red signal. This very well could have stopped the train *before* it fouled the main and there would have been no accident.

Plus, money spent on staff helps the economy in much better ways than money spend on tech (IMHO).

For the record, I'm not a Luddite. I do tech support for a local ISP, and I'm the president of the local Lunix Users Group. I just feel, in this case, that tech is not the answer.

Greg Coit
Arcata, CA
 

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I do agree with you that more people in the cab is "better", but not long ago THREE people in the cab missed a red signal and caused a head-on crash.

I have thought that maybe a lineside device might help... such as a "gate", similar to a highway crossing gate, that drops across the track... maybe flimsy, but of a material that would make enough noise in the train to attract attention. I know that in some countries on some lines the trains have to actually stop and move a gate manually, but I am thinking of an automated system that works in conjuction with the lights to present a physical barrier (however easily overcome) to the passage of the train.

Maybe even a device that would warn any oncomming traffic of the opposing train having passed the signal/barrier.
 

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They could have prevented this with "automatic train stop." It will cut power and apply emergency brakes when the engine tries to pass a red signal.

There is no excuse for this type of accident. I am sorry the engineer died but I feel much worse for the families of the passengers who died.

Banning the use of cell phones for except railroad related business is OK but banning them completely is wrong. Some times you need to use the cell phone to conduct proper business like calling the dispatcher when the don't answer the radio.
 

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Posted By Bill Swindell on 09/17/2008 1:33 PM
They could have prevented this with "automatic train stop." It will cut power and apply emergency brakes when the engine tries to pass a red signal.




Really? This technology sense when a train is approaching a red signal and applies the brakes so that the train stops *before* the red signal? It would surprise me if it works that way.

More likely (again, I'm not an expert), it knows that a train has passed a red signal and applies the brakes. This is a *very* different situation because this would not have prevented the accident. Based on where most signals are in relation to the end of sidings, applying the brakes at the signal would have only slowed the train as it ploughed through the switch (which was thrown against it) and fouled the main. Based on how little time the UP freight crew had, the freight (which was heading downhill) still would not have been able to stop.

Greg Coit
Arcata, CA
 

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Human error accidents are up. You can apply all the technology but people need to pay attention If we can cure human error then derailment will decrease. Cell phone are not necessity for RR as Radios do quite well and when communications are interrupted then the safe course is taken till communications is reestablished. ATS is only required where track speed are over 79 and now regulated by the FRA. The RR rules state that one must be alert at all times this means no reading of news papers sleeping or texing on a cell phone.

If there had been a another head end person then probably this accident could have been prevented. I spent 31 years investigating RR accidents and some of the mistakes made would amaze you. Later RJD
 

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It is used between LA and San Diego now. If nothing else, it would have reduced the closing speed between the 2 trains by 42 MPH. It's not perfect but is is available NOW and would have helped. Also, the stopping device and signal could be placed further from the fouling point of the switch and have stopped the train in time.
 

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Well if you can get the FRA rules changed then they can relocate the signals. In a year you can get the NTSB report and see what there final recommendation is. Later RJD
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·


I had to reduce this photo to get it on this site. But this is from Google Earth. Yiu can plainly see the tunnel portal at the upper left hand corner, the sweeping curve where the collision occurred(location point is at the grassy area to the north of the curve)and the switch and signal at the extreme bottom of the photo. That was the RED signal and switch he went through. This engineer passed TWO Yellow signals to the south of this signal leaving Chatsworth station, probably less than a mile away.
 

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The more you here about this accident the more I think the Metrolink Engineer was dead at the controls or he committed suicide. THis could have been an even worse if the trains colloied inside the tunnel which was only a few hundered yards to the north. All of that frieght train mass plowing into passanger cars with latteral energy release, Fire, no light, smoke, no escape!

Like 9/11 and the World trade center which was populated by 60,000+ workers and the subsequent mortality rate, we can be thankful for some mercy.
 

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http://nl.youtube.com/watch?v=CNuzZI-7h4U&feature=related

Heres an eye opener, cab camera of the accident sight, it begins right where the track converge, you can see the signal, this is where the Metrolink forced the points, from here you can see how tight the curve is and how little time one could react to something ahead.

The more I think about it the more I wonder if the engineer hasnt trying to pick his phone up off the floor and never saw it coming
 

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Posted By Esppe Pete on 09/17/2008 9:03 PM
The more you here about this accident the more I think the Metrolink Engineer was dead at the controls or he committed suicide.




I'm pretty sure that Metrolink trains have "alerters" which means the train goes into emergency if the engineer fails to push a button every so often (I don't know the time interval). Very doubtful the guy was incapacitated - he was just not paying attention to the track and signals. Most likely he was just pushing the alerter button as reflex while he was texting or whatever he was doing

As for the guy who suggested gates at every signal - there are 100 if thousands of signals in this country. Much better (and cheaper) to install something in each loco (which will actually stop a train) rather than each signal (which has no chance of stopping a train).

Greg Coit
Arcata, CA
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
Latest report from KNBC 4 in Burbank was that the Metro engineer was diabetic (I'm a diabetic and it could be possible low blood sugar at the time). Also he had a man jump in front of his engine and commit suicide about a month before this accident. The interview that investigators had with the Metro conductor reported that the conductor and engineer had not communicated at all during the last two yellow signals before the red. That YouTube that Vic posted was taken about the same time of day as the accident and you can see how close that switch and signal are to the collision point.
 

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Perhaps they could take a step back in time to find a possible solution:

When the Key System and the Sacramento Northern used the lower deck of the Bay Bridge to get to the San Francisco terminal, they needed a positive means of stopping trains if the train "passed" a red signal.

Each car had it air brake line routed to a point on the roof (in two places) that led to a glass tube.

Each signal was equipped with a short stiff "arm" similar to a semiphore that would extend out when the signal changed to "RED" such that it would break the glass tube if the train passed the signal; releasing the air and stopping the train.

The train would be unable to move again until the glass tube was replaced and the brake system recharged with air.

That would be a lot more dependable than an electronic system - but would likely tick off the RR because of the attendant time delays in moving the offending train(s).

There would be no hiding for offending engineers/operators.

Jim
 

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Heres a response I found on another website.


"So maybe a little background on Rob is in order. Rob started his career with Amtrak up here, he hired out in Oakland, came from the midwest, St. Louis I recall. In any case, he trained up here, then went down to LA, and went over to Metrolink. In those days, Metrolink was staffed by Amtrak engineers, and when Amtrak lost the contract, the vast majority of Amtrak engineers working there opted to resign from Amtrak and be retained by Metrolinks new outside contractor. Rob was one of those. He was long gone from Oakland when I got up here, rather, I knew him from my UP days as I talked and laughed with him as he ran the UP line to Riverside. Nice guy, really, always had a good joke.
Forensic, when I posted the thread up, it was in no way meant to be offensive to the many innocent victoms of the crash, rather, to pay homage to a guy who, aside from one terrible, bad moment, was a steller, talented engineer. As good as they come. If I offended you in any way, I appologize. It was not my intent.
Obviously, a lot of changes are coming to my workplace as a result of this, and the stress is getting higher out there. The obvious, immediate ones obviously deal with cell phone use, as well as others in the works.
Now the incident itself. Some of you guys are wondering what did happen?? Well, here is what we are hearing from sources we have.
Metrolink 111 made a station stop at Chatsworth, we all know that. then three minutes later all **** broke loose. The scenario is this. Every train when they are going to be stopped, go through a process of being stopped. That process looks like this....
1. Approach Medium= Proceed, do NOT pass next signal exceeding 40mph unless it can be seen that next signal is either clear or another Approach meduim...(this signal is a proceed signal, you can do track speed as long as you have this signal or BETTER, i.e. GREEN.
2. Approach=Proceed not exceedign 40 MPH to next signal prepared to stop BEFORE any part of engine or train passes signal. I.E. do 40 looking for and expecting a red at the next signal.
3. Red= STOP. Period.
One last term, before we look at the scenario is a term called "Delayed in the block." Simply stated, it means it your train at ANY time, regardles of signal indication, stops or drops to a speed less than 10mph, upon resumption of speed, you are limited to 40mph until you can CLEARLY, and the operative word here is CLEARLY see the next signal, if a proceed signal, you may resume max speed. OKAY, now lets talk about 111.
According to the tapes, and to clarify this, ALL conversations are recorded on the railroad. All of them. Metrolinks are recorded at their dispatch center in Montclair, UP and BNSF are recorded at the command center in San Bernadino, where K26 sits and plays God all day. Back to the tapes. According to them, Rob called out all signals, including deprture signals, i.e. "we are leaving the station working on a clear" except for the last two, of course the two most importand of the day. He did not call out the approach medium, or the approach, and he did not call out the departure signal. Hmmmm...why?? That is a sticking point in the investigation, the easy thing is to say he was texting, but it does not cover the large amount of lapsed time. And, where was the conductor???
--->> On a passenger train, the engineer AND the conductor are JOINTLY responsible for the safety of the train and it's passengers, with all ultimate control and authority given to the conductor, NOT the engineer. So where was he? Rule states that ANY siganal less favorable that a clear block MUST be called out to the conductor over the radio, and the conductor must acknowledge the signal. I.E. ...
"Metrolink 111, approach medium, milepost 235.6, over. "
"Metrolink 111, approach medium, milepost 235.6, thank you, out. "
For the last two signals, that conversation apparently did not happen, I think it did, but I could be wrong. And, this conversation did not get recorded either.
"Metrolink 111, highball Chatsworth..."
"Metrolink 111, highball Chatsworth, departure on an appraoch, over. "
"On an approach, thank you sir, out"
So where was the conductor?? Where was his situational awareness?? Why did he not call up to the engineer and ASK him the signal?? Or if he knew what it was, why did he not place the train in emergency?? It was his job to be aware of all of that, and he failed...he was uniquely able to stop the accident from happening, and he didn't. At this point, he in the hospital with two broken legs, trying hard not to answer the hours of questions coming his way from the NTSB, FRA, Metrolink, and UP, and God knows who else. You know the rest.
Now back to "delayed in the block." There has been a RAGING debate in rail circles over which rule governed thier departure out of Chatsworth, the Yellow Approach indication, or "delayed in the block." Because they stopped the train, delayed in the block DOES come into play, right? Wrong. Heres why. Had they had a previous signal of an approach medium or better, they could have taken off not exceeding 40 till they could plainly see the next signal. But they were not, they were on an approach, meaning the next signal WILL be red, do not pass it. Appoach, being the more restrictive rule, trumps delayed in the block, in this case. Both men should have known that. For sure the conductor should have. I will be eager to hear his story. Also, after discussing this with a couple of Amtrak rulies,and more than a few BNSF and Amtrak road Foreman, we have all come to the same conclusion, that the Delayed in the block rule is hybrid form of restricted speed, the operative word in the definition being "exceed". RS carries the same wording, though it is "exceeding""
 

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Does anyone know how long does it take between alerter signals, and how long before a un-aknowledged alerter signal activates the brakes?

I ask because I was unaware the engineer was diabetic, I occured to me, if he had just reset the alerter, then had a sudden case of insulin shock and was incapacitated and he blacked out, and this was just prior to the train approaching the signal block, if he couldnt react to the red signal to slow the train down and it rolled thru the switch and almost immediatly into the UP frieght, was all this possible in the time frame between the alerter resets?
 

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Posted By vsmith on 09/18/2008 9:03 AM
Does anyone know how long does it take between alerter signals, and how long before a un-aknowledged alerter signal activates the brakes?

On NS, it varies depending on the locomotive, but I've had alerters that go off anywhere from 20 to 45 seconds, unless reset by:
Hitting the alerter whisker;
Moving the throttle;
Blowing the horn;
Applying the automatic brake;
Bailing off the indipentand brake

Some of these do not apply to some locomotives. Also, if the automatic brake were applied already (or, heaven forbid, cut out) the alerter would not do anything at all.

As for how long it takes, that depends on a couple things. First is the time that the alerter is going off - this is usually about 20-30 seconds, I believe, thought I've not timed it myself. At the end of that time, the brake is immediately applies, the power cut, and the stop is made as quickly as possible. That can still take some time, depending on the weight and speed of the train.
 
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