Freight, commuter trains collide in Los Angeles

SecretWeapon Sep 13, 2008

  1. Sten

    Sten TrainBoard Member

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    all I can say is where are the catchpoints, then all that would of happened was the derailment of the Metrolink service through the catchpoints after he SPAD on the signal, assuming of course the home wasn't displaying false clear.

    sorry for using australian terms but

    catchpoints :- a single blade on coverging lines to purposely derail a train to prevent conflicting movements

    SPAD :- Signal Passed At Danger

    Home :- A signal that protects a permanent risk ie set of points. In NSW speaking this signal would be a Home Starting - last controlled signal before a section also protecting the risk.
     
  2. Mike Sheridan

    Mike Sheridan TrainBoard Member

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    Like all great ideas unfortunately there is a catch (pun intended).

    Catchpoints (trap points) involve yet another layer of mechanical and electrical equipment - cost, maintenance and reliability are up, up and down respectively. Think how many sets would be needed ...
    They can also be dangerous. They constitute a facing point which considerably increases the danger of an accidental derailment, which in itself could be fatal.
    Likewise, per my previous post, most SPADs are not dangerous per se, and few actually result in an accident. Derailing every SPAD would cause (in total) enormous damage, cost and disruption to the railway and almost certainly cause a number of injuries and fatalities. So on balance you don't catch every signal and accept that sometimes 20:20 hindsight shows that in that place at that time it would/could have been useful.

    Despite what people say in glib statements the fact is that safety IS always a compromise and you CAN put a price on a human life. Car drivers do both all the time without batting an eyelid.

    Before anyone jumps on me, I'm not saying safety isn't important, just that life has to continue. Safety that stops people getting to work or shops, or stops us making anything, is going to give us a poor, starving population. There has to be a balance and 'safety' devices like catchpoints can tip the scales either way.
     
  3. Gats

    Gats Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I would suggest wherever passenger and freight inter-operate over single track, at least. Reliability is rarely a factor provided properly designed equipment is installed and maintenance routines are maintained (no pun intended). The cost of installation and on-going maintenance of a set of catchpoints is insignificant to the cost, both in personal and financial terms, that will be bourne by this one accident.
    But rather than catchpoints, how about a simple train protection or control system? TPWS in the UK, even as a stop-gap measure, is as simple as it gets and is effective in what it does - stops trains when they pass a signal at stop (TSS), or are above the braking curve's recommended speed at a pre-determined point approaching a signal at stop (OSS). ATP beacons and balises are just as simple.

    The driver undertakes the risk analysis. Sometimes inexperience, fatigue, conditions or just plain stupidity negates any risk mitigation that could take place sometimes with dire results to the driver, or unfortunately others.
    And mostly our driver has the relative luxury of having multiple paths to choose from when the risk becomes reality.

    On the other hand, with a passenger train, the passengers undertake the decision process whether to enter the train or not, but once inside are solely in the hands of two individuals - one seeing where the train is going and controlling it's actions, the other charged with knowing where the train is. The scope for multiple paths does not exist for a train as it does for a car. Therefore, wouldn't it be prudent to consider the possibility of an accident occuring and placing as many impediments in the train's (now dangerous) path as practicable?
    And the cost? How much will the end cost be for MetroLink, Veolia and the state for the sake of somebody's cost cutting and percieved reliability and maintenance problems?
     
  4. Westfalen

    Westfalen TrainBoard Member

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    I've just started reading this thread, I should get off the N scale part of the board more often. Interesting reading as an engineer who has had a SPAD albeit a minor one, and seeing the posts by railroaders and locals familiar with the area to get a view not seen in the limited media coverage here. All you guys have pretty well covered everything. One thing I notice that seems to be common the world over is a railroad official arriving on the scene almost before the dust has settled to blame the engineer. It may turn out that he was at fault but that's for the official inquiry to decide, from what I read the fault could lie anywhere at this stage.

    Regarding catch points, they are a feature of every passing siding on single track in Japan where there is passenger service, on top of their ATS automatic train stop system, I guess its a matter of how much a country is willing to invest in its rail system.

    Of interest is this bulletin to train crew issued by Queensland Rail yesterday, there has been some publicity here regarding SPADs recently, but I wonder if our management has been looking at the news reports from L.A.

    "Please be advised a Business Instruction relating to the use of mobile phones, I pods, MP3 players, other listening devices and similar communication/information equipment will be issued in the coming days.

    I essence, all mobile phones, I pods, MP3 players, other listening devices and similar communication/information equipment are to be turned off prior to entering a Driver/Guard compartment.

    Turning off mobile phones, I pods, MP3 players, other listening devices and similar communication/information equipment includes not having the equipment in any silent or discreet capacity as well as not receiving and/or sending text messages whilst QR Passenger Traincrew are undertaking their duties.

    Breaches of this policy will be managed in accordance with QR's People Performance Framework and Discipline Process.

    The only exception for the use of mobile phones in a Driver/Guard Compartment is in the event of a failure of the Train Control Radio. In these emergency situations the train must be in a stationary position of safety prior to turning on and using a mobile phone.
    "
     
  5. Mike Sheridan

    Mike Sheridan TrainBoard Member

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    And such traps would not have prevented the LA accident where (as I understand it at present) the train ran a red on the main line. Trapping the exit from a siding is less problematic as the speed is likely to be low and so the derailment will be fairly safe. Trapping a fast line is adding one significant danger while reducing another.

    I'm still astonished that these passenger trains have no driver monitoring (like an AWS as gats mentions) beyond a deadman switch and someone in the back of the train that can't easily see out. They do have a deadman switch don't they?
     
  6. Mike Sheridan

    Mike Sheridan TrainBoard Member

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    I think the sheer number of points required would probably make the extra costs (which will be incurred on an ongoing basis) substantially greater than the one off accident cost, a large part of which will be passed to insurers anyway. BTW, I'm assuming that this standard would be applied to all passenger carrying lines, not just Metrolink.

    As to reliability ... well, in recent years there have been at least two major UK passenger train accidents caused by poor maintenance of facing points. They are a liability.
     
  7. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

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  8. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

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  9. Paul McGuffin

    Paul McGuffin TrainBoard Member

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    Probe looks at whether Metrolink engineer's split shift played part in deadly crash

    Boy, what a work week. Metrolink is just like all other RR's.
    My last four trips, on a 310 mile freight pool, the shortest was 14 hours, the longest 18 hours. I retired then. I have been told of crews being on UP trains over 20 hours. Have all of you heard of "Limbo Time?" This has been a problem for years, the FRA will NEVER do anything about it. I was a pilot on an FRA Railcar back in 2003. I ask the officials about the Limbo Time issue. He told me, their (FRA) hands are tied. I guess that meant the FRA is in the carriers pocket.
    "Yes...we're addressing the issue." Does that sound familiar?
    "Vote for me!" ... yea, sure.
    PM



     
  10. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    Paul,
    Mr. Sanchez's timeline creates a question, at least in my mind.

    He is officially off the clock from 9PM until 6AM, which gives 9 hours.

    However, I assume following.......

    1/2 hour drive home, arrive 9:30,
    1/2 hour eat supper, finish 10:00
    1 hour relax, talk w/wife, review mail, bills, etc., and get ready for bed, finish 11:00

    Wake @ 4:30
    1/2 hour toilet, shower, shave, dress, finish 5:00
    1/2 hour eat breakfast, pack kit, etc., finish 5:30
    1/2 hour drive to LAUPT, arrive 6:00

    This realistically gives the man about 6-1/2 hours for actual sleep, assuming he did not have to deal with an unscheduled domestic problem of any kind. Only 6-1/2 hours of sleep, continued for a 5-day work week, will accumulate significant sleep deprivation.

    I have read many articles and studies on sleep deprivation, regarding many different professions, all of which concluded that it was rarely acknowledged, yet was an extremely dangerous condition. I would be interested in your opinion on this subject, having had a long career as a road engineer.
     
  11. cajon

    cajon TrainBoard Member

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    Actually Metrolink engineers have it relatively easy compared to some of their freight counterparts, especially off the extra boards. They only get 8 hours off between tie up & a time to be back at work. They call it "turning & burning". They can make a ton of money but forget any kind of life much less decent rest.
     
  12. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

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  13. Paul McGuffin

    Paul McGuffin TrainBoard Member

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    I have read many articles and studies on sleep deprivation, regarding many different professions, all of which concluded that it was rarely acknowledged, yet was an extremely dangerous condition. I would be interested in your opinion on this subject, having had a long career as a road engineer.

    My opinion is sleep deprivation is like driving drunk. The FRA, NTSB, Railroad industry know there is this problem. They chose to put their heads in the sand. The FRA because, IMO, they are in the carriers pocket. The Railroads chose to ignore it because on MONEY. It will mean hiring more people. Hiring more people; that's really funny. I wonder in the last few weeks, on the UP LA Division, how many crews were on the trains more than 12 hours, just sitting, waiting for a relief or just at ride to tie-up. I can hear all the excuses now...we have no rested crews to relieve you, we forgot to call a crew, we forgot to call a ride for you. Now, lets take a look at this same UP LA Division, as of September 2008. I ask, how many Engineer are cut back as Conductors now, even better, how many Engineers are on the the reserve board, being paid to stay at home? I was on the Reserve Board for three months, in 2002, best railroad job I ever had.
    Back in 1988, I was working the Palmdale Cutoff, Bakersfield to West Colton Pool. Some of us volunteered to do a work rest cycle study for two weeks. We were paid $50 for keeping track of eveything from rest to working. I never heard any results of the study. I understand Canada has a system where you protect a certain window of hours each day. Kinda of like the airline pilots working reserve (rr extra board).
    Limbo Time should be against the law on the railroad, not cell phones.
    PM
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 18, 2008
  14. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks, I was afraid you would say that, but was hoping you would not. When you are sleep deprived, all it takes is one or two major problems in your life to cause a significant lapse of attention on the job.

    My experience was similar during the early days of the Apollo Program when we were working 6-12s and 4-6 hours many Sundays for nearly 4 years. After 60-65 hours in a week, we also felt as if we were "driving drunk", though we called ourselves the "walking dead".....not fun. :tb-wacky:
     
  15. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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  16. Gats

    Gats Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    True, but there is more than the one off financial cost involved here. The human cost needs to be figured into it and it is not just those affected by the loss of a loved one or friend but those who use, or would consider using, the services, and those directly and indirectly employed by the service provider and their agents and even the businesses affected by the loss of an employee.
    The passing of these costs onto insurers only passes them indirectly onto you, me, and the guy next door no matter where in the world we live.
    As for applying a standard, I don't think there should be a distinction made between the types of passenger lines but a good start would be commuter lines particularly where they interface with freight.
    I'm not saying catch points are the be all and end all of train protection. They play their part as a drastic last resort. A system of control prior to reaching the catch point, or where it would be placed, should be considered and not just on commuter/passenger trains.

    Potters Bar and Grayrigg. Poor maintenance procedures and supervision for both and I believe blurred responsibility lines in regards to Grayrigg. But without facing points you have a very restricted rail system. Hence the previous comment of maintaining the maintenance routine.
    The sheer number of passenger movements around the world on a daily basis, including those at speeds most rail systems dream about, is massive, so the question I have - how many accidents occur a year solely due to properly maintained points of any type?
     
  17. Paul McGuffin

    Paul McGuffin TrainBoard Member

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    The worst thing for me, on the railroad, was to wake up at 7am., second out on the board. Boy! I am going to work a daylight trip. Then, go on duty at 4PM or later. Let's just say, for the record, 4pm. Well, most of the time, that meant at 4am, 12 hours later, you were sitting on the same locomotive; as far as the FRA was concerned, Dead Under The Hours of Service act. Oh, but now we have "Limbo Time." Give to us by the US Supreme Court, back in around 1994, a nine to zero ruling, by the highest court in the land. Wow! When was the last time you ever saw a nine zip ruling from any appeals court, must less the US Supreme Court? I could have presented a much better case for the BLE, than the lawyer they used. Limbo Time means, you're not on duty but your not off duty. No violation for the Hours of Service though (12 hours). Some of us got paid, some, depending on when you hired out, didn't. It's now 4am. as instructed buy the dispatcher in Omaha. you have tied your train down in some siding 100 miles form your off duty terminal. Oh no, don't start thinking this is some anomaly, going belly up 100 from you tie up or home terminal. It happens all the time. But, the lawyers forgot to tell the Supreme Court this fact. It's now 6am. as you watch the sun rise, the same sun that you saw set the day before. Maybe that's how they got the name for the old Sunset Limited. I don't thinks so. Let's say it's our lucky morning and here comes a relief crew. We are in the taxie or carryall and off to our tie up point, remember,100 miles away. Naturally, you fall fast asleep on the way. Trust me, that's not really quality rest. Nor is the four hour break that the Metrolionk Engineers has ever day. Oh, that's right, he has a two hour nap.....BS! Did your read that FRA, NTSB, Hack Politicians? I'll say it again, that's not quality rest. Why do you think airline pilots don't work under these conditions? I'll tell you way, those same FRA, NTSB and even more so, those Hack Politicians have to fly on those airplanes. Get my drift. Back to our train trip... We finally arrive at our tie up point 16 hours later. Now you railfans will start to understand why the varnish wears off the job very quickly. Don't get me wrong; running trains is a real kick. I loved it. And, there were days that were shorter. But, at least on the UPRR, they were far a few between. Just remember, THE RAILROAD IS NOT A JOB....IT'S A WAY OF LIFE. Ask any railroad wife. I will say this, we all use to piss and mone at the Southern Pacific.But compared to the Big Yellow Machine, SP was Mother Tressa.
    PM
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 19, 2008
  18. Mike Sheridan

    Mike Sheridan TrainBoard Member

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    I think Paul's post above indicates where the 'human' cost figures in business accounting. The lawyers and insurers are left to haggle over it in court as and when.

    Yes, but as above, they then don't figure on the railroads' balance sheets. So the 'loss' to them of the incident is much less than the media headline figures you see. The cost of a fatal car accident in the UK is apparently £1M or suchlike, but no one party gets to stump it up - it's diluted over many different balance sheets, so no one party has a real (financial) incentive to fix it. I'm not saying it's right, it's just where we are in our current state of civilization.

    True, but they are only used where neccessary. If a trailing point will do the job, then that is preferrred. (In the UK facing points on passenger carrying lines also HAVE to have a facing point lock.)

    Ah! Probably none, but there is a subtle assumption in there.
    "properly maintained" means that several people have done their jobs correctly (the maintainers themselves of course, but also those who schedule and keep records of the maintenance and those who make and supply parts, etc). If you assume all those people will do good, then you must also assume that dispatchers, engineers, conductors, etc, will do good too, in which case we wouldn't be having this discussion.
    Most (maybe all) of the devices and rules developed for train safety, from men with flags to the present, have been as a result of accidents caused by human error. You have to assume people will fail sometimes, so systems are designed to prevent or mitigate the potential fallout. At Chatsworth enough of those systems did not work (or were not used) to result in an accident.
     
  19. sp4009

    sp4009 TrainBoard Member

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    Rest... sometimes hard to come by. There have been many, many times where I've had a good night's(or day's) sleep only to sit on the board for 12-14 hours before going to work. The body is designed to be awake for 16 hours. Imagine a situation as Paul describes, by the time you tie-up, you've been awake for 24 hours. You get 8 hours off(10 if on duty over 12 hours). Most crews get an hour and one half call. That equates to 6 hours 30 minutes to "rest" from the time you physically tie-up. By the time you check into the motel, have something to eat, wind down, etc... you've burned 1-2 hours of your "rest" time. Now you have about 5 hours to "rest" before the phone can ring. Not my idea of "rest." Does this happen every trip?? No, I've rotted in the motel for 30-40 hours, slept twice, went to eat 3-4 times... I like having 14-16 hours off at the away terminal. Gives me a chance to wind down, eat, watch a little T.V., check the forums, sleep 7-8-9 hours, get up, eat, shower, etc... then get called to work.

    Home terminal is a little different. If you have at least 8 hours on duty, you can tie-up for "rest." Amount of time varies depending on what board you are working(10-14 hours), railroad you work for, local agreements, etc... We have a "guaranteed" 8 hours rest if on duty less than 8 hours, this means you have 9 hours 30 minutes off. Now add in daily chores around the house, errands, family time, etc...

    Our trips have been averaging 7-9 hours after the carriers hired "velocity experts" to analyze "velocity" in the terminals and over the road. 90% of the time, when you come on duty, your train is ready to go, paperwork is printed, etc... A few years ago, every trip was as Paul described. 12, 14, 18 hours every trip. Made a grip load of money, but home life suffered... had to call in "sick" just to go to the grocery store...
     
  20. Newman

    Newman TrainBoard Member

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    Hytec...looked at your post about his off duty time...I think it is right on, with one little exception....the wife part, Rob Sanchez was gay and lived alone...so 30 mins back in his pocket for sleep....;)
     

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