How often are switches put in the wrong position?

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How often are switches put in the wrong position?

Postby SouthernRailway » Thu Dec 11, 2014 8:29 am

Out of curiosity, how often to track switches/turnouts get put in the wrong position: either sending a train onto the wrong track, or causing a derailment (or stopping a train)?

Surely mistakes happen, and especially on high-traffic stretches of track, switches must be put in the wrong position at least sometimes.

If a switch is in a wrong position and would result in a derailment if a train tried to cross over it, do signals stop a train from approaching?

Thanks.
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Re: How often are switches put in the wrong position?

Postby Gadfly » Thu Dec 11, 2014 10:18 am

SouthernRailway wrote:Out of curiosity, how often to track switches/turnouts get put in the wrong position: either sending a train onto the wrong track, or causing a derailment (or stopping a train)?

Surely mistakes happen, and especially on high-traffic stretches of track, switches must be put in the wrong position at least sometimes.

If a switch is in a wrong position and would result in a derailment if a train tried to cross over it, do signals stop a train from approaching?

Thanks.


Not that often. Mainline's are usually protected by signals, and the dispatcher will see that there is a 'fault'. If the signal is set against a train, he can't go in that block, generally. Yards and 'dark territory' are different. Misaligning switches is a sure fire way to get run off, so crews do their best NOT to do that IF they can help it. :-)
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Re: How often are switches put in the wrong position?

Postby litz » Thu Dec 11, 2014 3:16 pm

It's taken very seriously ... so seriously, in fact, that after several high profile accidents, the FRA published an entire Emergency Order (#24) specifically for main track switches.

The check and balance system in place for tracking switch movements, and reporting their positions, is designed specifically to make it near impossible for a switch to be left lined in the incorrect position.

Incorrect, in this case, meaning, anything other than lined for straightaway movements on the main line.

Fines for violations are significant (5 digits), and consequences from the employer equally steep.
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Re: How often are switches put in the wrong position?

Postby Watchman318 » Mon Dec 15, 2014 3:13 pm

Our local line is DCS except for an interlocking at one drawbridge. When cancelling their NORAC Form D, employees will tell the dispatcher "All mainline switches lined normal and locked." If they don't remember to say it, the dispatcher will ask them if they lined all the switches for the main when they were done working.
It's kinda like airline pilots doing a checklist. It could still get messed up, but it sure reduces the possibility.

Now there have even been cases, back into the 1920's, of somebody throwing a switch under a moving train. In the inquiries that followed, none of them could explain why they did that at that particular time. Image
Some railroads made a rule about getting your mitts off the handle and stepping away from the switch stand until all wheels were clear of the switch. Some employees who didn't want to be "one of those people" adopted that rule on their own. ;-)
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Re: How often are switches put in the wrong position?

Postby Desertdweller » Mon Dec 15, 2014 5:06 pm

I have seen several instances of this during my career. It usually happens in a yard, at night, when there is a confusion as to what switch leads into what track. It is usually the result of inattention or unfamiliarity with track layout.

Usually, when that happens, someone realizes the mistake and the movement can be corrected before anything bad happens. When something bad happens, it is the result of a wrong switch lined followed by a blind shove. Blind shoves are the number one cause of switching accidents. In one case I know of, this resulted in a customer's building being knocked down.

I also know of one case of a switch being thrown under a moving locomotive. This is inexplicable, probably the result of someone trying to hurry their work. In this case, the employee involved was unable to explain why they did it.

There have been cases where a switch had been lined correctly, then the switchman suddenly will decide it is wrong, and line the switch wrong at the last moment. Because of this possibility, and to help avoid injury at a switch in case of derailment (which is more likely at switches), several railroads I have worked on require that an employees operating a switch stand back about 20 feet from it while equipment is passing over it.

Les
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Re: How often are switches put in the wrong position?

Postby MichaelB86 » Tue Dec 23, 2014 11:07 pm

If you DO happen to run through a switch in the yard or somewhere. The scissor jack in the back of a Renzenburger van, carryall, town bus...or whatever you want to call it is PERFECT for fixing the bar that moves the points. :-D
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Re: How often are switches put in the wrong position?

Postby bcgfdc3 » Fri May 15, 2015 10:29 pm

If a train runs through the backside of a wrong switched switch, can the weight of the train just push the points out of the way or will the wheels ride up over them?
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Re: How often are switches put in the wrong position?

Postby Desertdweller » Sun May 17, 2015 1:22 am

Generally, that is what happens. There are even switches (called spring switches) designed to operate that way.

If the switch being run is not a spring switch, the wheel flanges will still shove the points out of the way, but will bend the throw bar doing so.

A powered switch that locks the points in place might cause a derailment, but would certainly be damaged. If you think you have run a switch, the important thing is to keep going until all cars have cleared it. If you stop and try to back up, you will probably go on the ground. Don't turn minor damage to a switch part into a derailment.

Les
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Re: How often are switches put in the wrong position?

Postby Fishrrman » Fri May 29, 2015 8:53 pm

Younger folks will probably not remember the "Number 22" switch stands, also called "run-throughs" or "rubber switches", because so many have been replaced now with "iron" (i.e., non-run-through) switchstands.

You could trail through a "run-through" switch, regardless of its position, and it would "flop-over" to the correct alignment.

There was a standard operating rule that if you ran through a flopover, you had to run "all the way through it" so that the entire train cleared before reversing direction, to be sure that it actually aligned itself properly...
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Re: How often are switches put in the wrong position?

Postby Engineer Spike » Sat Jun 20, 2015 3:41 am

In Canada the number 22 switches are indicated by diamond shaped targets. They are intended to be run through, so the movement has less switches to throw. In a crossover, just throw the first facing point end, and trail through the other. The rule is for at least one car to go completely through, to ensure the gizmo locks inside the stand.
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Re: How often are switches put in the wrong position?

Postby mmi16 » Wed Jul 29, 2015 5:39 pm

MichaelB86 wrote:If you DO happen to run through a switch in the yard or somewhere. The scissor jack in the back of a Renzenburger van, carryall, town bus...or whatever you want to call it is PERFECT for fixing the bar that moves the points. :-D

While a scissors jack may be able to line up the switch points of a run through hand throw switch - it can't fix the switch lug that gets broken in two when the switch gets run through - replacing the broken switch lug requires MofW to get involved and their involvement will lead to discipline for the crew that ran through the switch.

If a power operated switch gets run through - there is a ton more evidence of all the rules violations that caused the incident.
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