Nov 30, 2007
So did he pass a restrictive signal? Or?
I read an article this morning that quoted the engineer as pretty much saying he knew what the signal indicated, but just plain and simple ignored it. That engineer had to have been high, drunk or suicidal.
not only will he (or they) get an extended vacation, he(or they) are liable to get an extended stay at the "Vertical Bar Hotel".
Today's Trains Newswire said the event recorder showed they were doing 40 mph in a 15 mph restricted zone. They went into emergency 9 seconds before impact, and were still doing about 35 at impact.
Sadly, this incident will be fodder to late-night comedians for many weeks, giving a bad name to thousands of concientious accident-free engineers.
CHICAGO (AP) - An Amtrak train was going about 25 mph over the speed limit - despite a signal indicating another train was on the same track - moments before it hit a stationary freight train, injuring dozens of people, federal officials said.
The Amtrak train's engineer told investigators he realized the speed limit was 15 mph in that stretch of track but accelerated to 40 mph anyway, National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Robert Sumwalt told reporters Sunday.
The speed limit on that portion of track, which is usually 79 mph, had been reduced to 15 mph by a red and yellow "restricting signal," indicating another train was on the track, the official said.
Moments after accelerating, the engineer noticed the freight train ahead and applied his emergency brakes; the passenger train then skidded about 400 to 500 feet and slammed into the freight train at about 35 mph, Sumwalt said.
Sumwalt declined to assess blame or say human error caused Friday's accident, and he did not say why the engineer might have been speeding.
"Part of our investigation is to figure out why that signal (indicating the 15 mph limit) was not obeyed," Sumwalt said.
Federal authorities on Sunday wrapped up two days of investigations, which included interviews with crew members and reviews of data from event recorders, as they tried to determine why two trains ended up on the same track.
Investigators will try to reconstruct the crash and may dismantle the locomotive to figure out what went wrong, Sumwalt said.
The analysis will likely take months.
"We're not here to point fingers," Sumwalt said. "We're here to find out what happened so we can keep it from happening again. ... This is the very beginning of this investigation."
Most of the 187 passengers on board the Pere Marquette traveling to Chicago from Grand Rapids, Mich., walked away without major injuries from the impact, which catapulted people from their seats.
The accident sent 71 people to hospitals. Three people - one Amtrak crew member and two passengers - were hospitalized overnight and released Saturday.
A police surveillance camera recorded the accident, and the NTSB will review the footage, Sumwalt said. Investigators didn't plan to make that footage immediately available to the media, he said.
The accident caused $1.3 million in damage, federal authorities said. Most damage to the passenger train was concentrated at its engine, where two of the five Amtrak crew members were, authorities said.
The train's three double-decker passenger cars remained upright.
The Norfolk Southern freight train was traveling from Elizabeth, N.J., to Chicago, and neither of two workers aboard was hurt.
Was just reading a news story- Which stated the engineer may have been "confused" by a signal aspect. If true, seems like some further training was needed, for him to be operating there.
I don't know about that. Train wrecks aren't that funny. Now, if the engineer had been on an interstate tear trying to revenge himself upon an estranged lover and had been wearing diapers to avoid having to take breaks to go to the bathroom, kind of like that ex-astronaut the cops picked up in Florida earlier in the year... THEN it would have been funny.
Also, most of those late night shows are in re-runs for the duration of the AMPTP/WGA standoff.
Well, today's Trains Newswire adds a new wrinkle to the mix........
Amtrak engineer may have been confused about signal indication
December 4, 2007
CHICAGO - The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating whether the engineer of an Amtrak train that slammed into the back of a stopped freight train properly interpreted a signal, the Chicago Tribune reported.
According to the Tribune, the dispatcher gave the engineer of the train a red over yellow signal prior to the collision. According to the operating rules in place on the Norfolk Southern line on Chicago's South Side where the accident occurred, red over yellow would be a restricting signal. Under that indication, the train would be permitted to proceed no faster than 15 mph, and must be prepared to stop short of any obstructions in its path, such as the stopped freight. The locomotive's event recorder indicated the engineer slowed to cross from one track to another, as the signal indicated, but then accelerated and was traveling 40 mph until nine seconds prior to the collision, when a crew member applied the train's emergency brake.
Colored signals indicate different things on different railroads. The Amtrak train in question, the Pere Marquette from Grand Rapids, Mich., travels over two railroads on which the same signal appearance (signal aspect, in technical terms) can mean two separate things. And while Amtrak isn't releasing the name of the crew members involved, it has said the engineer was somewhat new.
"Signals mean different things at different places," said Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the NTSB. "We don't yet know if there was confusion or a distraction, but we are looking at what the engineer was doing at the time the red over yellow was displayed. We are trying to determine what the different interpretations could have been."
I wasn't making light of the wreck. I get sick and tired of late night comedians, especially Leno, portraying railroads, Amtrak in particular, as objects of ridicule whenever anything out of the ordinary occurs.
I agree. Leno is all too ready for a quick hop on the back of Amtrak. Not sure what his bug is about them. Oh well. That time of night, is for RR hobby. Or a good video. To heck with him! :thumbs_down:
One problem with the statement from the Chicago Tribune. The dispatcher doesn't give the signals. The dispatcher lines the route's and cue's the signal system to indicate the signals. The signal system is what gives the signals that are displayed. There are many checks that go into effect when ever the system is cued to display a signal. The system chooses the signals to display by checking the blocks ahead.
If my memory is correct there were two crewmen in the engine at impact. I wouldn't want to be either of them. A lot of people will be asking them questions for which there will be no good answers. At the very least I suspect they will be fired and they could face prosecution for negligence and face jail time not to mention a bunch of new regulations that will come down on the engineers nationwide under the guise of the government doing something to make the world safer.... or become management. I have no sympathy for them either way. They screwed up and needlessly jeopardized the lives of their crew and passengers. Safety is a sacred trust where our passengers can board and ride ride our trains with never a thought about whether they will be safe throughout their journey.
This trust was violated by the actions or inactions of the crew in the locomotive and, in this case, there is no excuse.
Engineer running was about to expire on 12 hours, relief engineer was in the cab to take over at that point. I guess she didn't have to after all. Both were relatively new engineers, and both came from the same class.
This is a sad but frequently occurring problem in contemporary railroading: The concept that a railroad (passenger of freight) can take anyone off the street, run them through an engineer's class (also read trainman's/conductor's class) and have a trained engineer who is technically competent enough and has the proper judgement to run heavy trains, filled with dangerous chemicals and/or people at high speeds through complex situations with the situational awareness needed to keep themselves and others out of trouble. More and more engineers are being shoved out of class with a minimum of experience to run trains on their own and get into trouble within the first five years of their careers.
Not everyone (and that includes those who already work for the railroad) should be promoted above their station. Not every brakeman has the competence to be a good conductor and not every conductor has the ability or desire to become an engineer. These crafts required hugely varying abilities and commitment which not everyone has or wants yet the railroads ignore this and push students through classes and into an environment (long hours and little supervision or supervision that borders on terrorism) that can kill.
It is very possible that neither engineer in the cab that day was capable of running that train safely to its final terminal. The result was obvious.
This has me wondering about the source of their training.
It sounds like there is some bad management going on in railroading, too. I can't figure out where some of these screwball ideas come from, but every so often all sorts of middle managers in all sorts of companies will start crowing about some latest management technique and claiming that it will solve everything.
Unfortunately, if you take a bunch of green employees and run them hard for twelve hour shifts things are going to start getting screwed up or missed or done poorly. There is one thing that all workers need if they are to remain awake and alert and that is sleep. That has got be considered.
Still... blowing past a signal and going well over the authorized speed was just dumb.
This seems to be SOP in business today. Probably coming from college/university time. Where too many instructors have too little, or no real experience.
We saw it happen at my wife's company a couple of years ago. New mid-levels came in. And did the usual. To make themselves look good, by artificially increasing the bottom line, they took away bonuses, changed medical benefits to a lesser value, cut raises, lowered entry level wages. The result? A large turnover. New hires of lesser ability. And the company must spend $$$ on new trainees, who often don't stay. Plus, they can't do the same quantity of work, and must pay massive $$$ in overtime.
Exactly my point, Ken. Some mid-levels just don't understand that a lot of these jobs take training and experience, and you can't make up for everything with a couple of eight-hour classes.
I am glad my company is still enlightened enough to realize that to keep us around they've got to treat us right, and in turn we will treat the company right. At least, that's what I do. My boss recognizes that it takes at least six months to get any new hire up to speed.
Well most training time comes directly from union contracts. I do agree that everyone isnt cut out to be a engineer. I have no problems with it and i enjoy doing that part of the job. Having the gut feeling of what your Freight train is going to do is something you get over time. But knowing what a 5 car Amtrak train is going to do any monkey off the street can figure that out. Very Little to no slack at all. Good air brakes plus dynamic that is more than enough to stop the train before you get into the back of another train at restricted speed. It all falls on the engineer at the time who blatently disobeyed the rules and took the lives of his or her crew and passengers into his or her own hands. Their is one person to blame and it is engineer. If they did not feel qualified on this stretch of rail they should have let the dispatcher or a supervisor know. Instead they decided to go 15-20mph over the perscribed speed limit and make a lot of passengers rich at the company's expence. It doesnt matter how much seniority you have if you want to pull a stupid move you will.
Watched the video today. The engineer was going 40mph around the curve. There were trains on both sides of him moving in opposite directions and there was no way that the Amtrak train would have been able to see the parked train ahead and stop short of it. I guess the restricting signal was not joking about occupancy in the block.