Grade Crossings - the real tragedy in railroading

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Re: Grade Crossings - the real tragedy in railroading

Postby Watchman318 » Thu Sep 15, 2016 3:01 pm

I've been away from the forum for longer than I realized. I'd like to address a couple of comments:
Nasadowsk wrote:Of course, with PTC in place, it's all that much easier to design a system that sits at the grade crossing and drops signals if there's an incursion.
Do you mean "drops signals" for an approaching train if a vehicle enters a crossing when the train is about to enter the crossing? I don't think that's going to work too well once the train is in the crossing circuit, which is what triggers the active protection* if the crossing has lights, etc.
It might work if a vehicle was disabled or trapped by other traffic on a crossing, but stopping distance for the train is still going to be a major factor.

Or we can beat the Operation Lifesaver drum because that's been such a smashing success...
Operation Lifesaver Inc. has its "Three E's": Education, Engineering, and Enforcement. All three are needed for both highway/rail crossing safety and anti-trespassing safety. "Highway users"--motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians--need to first receive the OL message, and then they need to heed the message.
Keep in mind that the state chapters of OL, which do most of the public education, are run mostly (or entirely) by volunteers, so that affects how often the message can be shared. A bigger problem is that reception of the safety messages (and acceptance of same) is also largely voluntary. Public service announcements on TV and radio have been and are still being used, but viewers/listeners need to absorb the message. Probably the only time the OL message gets a "captive audience" is if a school requests a presentation for its students. Again, how much of a point the message makes with any individual is up to that individual.
[For the record, I'm not affiliated with Operation Lifesaver Inc. or any of its state organizations.]

When was the last time you saw a motorist slow down and look both ways at a crossing? That's what advance warning signs (W10-1) and pavement markings are supposed to mean, and it's required by law in my state and probably many if not all other states. I'd like to think it's still taught in driver education courses, but in my experience, most drivers don't slow down, let alone "observe in both directions" as the Maine law requires. I've never seen it enforced.

Tadman wrote:I would also posit that a $15b unfunded mandate on the carriers for better grade crossing safety, although totally unfair, would have far better ROI in terms of lives and dollars than PTC.
I think it would be beyond "totally unfair." Highway users running crossings is a "highway problem." Any costs for upgrades of gates, etc., should come from highway funds. As mentioned above, the FRA has a formula for what crossings need upgrading first, and every crossing is ranked according to the need. Funding is distributed to the states, and the states parcel it out according to the formula.
Back in 2010 or so, some crossings on our local (state DOT-owned) line were upgraded from passive warnings to lights and gates. One was on a road that I think is posted 35 MPH for motor vehicles, but has a "less than 90°" angle, so it could be rather scary. The other two were on slow side side streets in residential areas of one town. One of those was on a down-sloped part of the street, and several crossings through that town had been stop-and-protect for the railroad before the lights and gates were installed. One crossing in that town was closed, over little or no objection from residents, but at another street, a woman complained that the new signal mast on one side was too close to her lawn. (She even painted the mast brown one day. It quickly got repainted, and the local police warned her not to do it again.)
"Closed corridors" (as in NC) and grade separation are great, but the cost shouldn't be dumped on the railroads, especially when some "highway users" argue against closing any particular crossings. (The railroads aren't the ones being impatient and disregarding stop signals.)

*"Crossing protection" only protects if highway users pay attention to it. "You can't fix stupid."
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Re: Grade Crossings - the real tragedy in railroading

Postby John_Perkowski » Thu Sep 15, 2016 3:08 pm

ADMIN NOTE:

Grade crossing accidents aren't just Amtrak. They're not just passenger service.

They're not even really just Class I.

Off this goes to be a Global Discussion.
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Re: Grade Crossings - the real tragedy in railroading

Postby 1890rOGERS460 » Fri Sep 16, 2016 12:10 pm

Nasadowsk wrote:Of course, with PTC in place, it's all that much easier to design a system that sits at the grade crossing and drops signals if there's an incursion.

Actually, the technology to do so is so off the shelf and out there, it's pretty sad the industry hasn't gone in that direction already, but apparently grade crossing accidents are just a cost of doing business, even when they incinerate a few of your customers (after all, what's another 10 million to the taxpayers, right?)

I can think of a few implementation routes:

* Vision systems - 2d, 3d, IR, maybe UV.
* Radar of various types.
* Lasers of various types.
* Pressure sensors.
* Magnetic sensors.

Or we can beat the Operation Lifesaver drum because that's been such a smashing success...


The problem with this proposition is that idiotic drivers who try to beat trains at crossing go onto the tracks when a train is too close to stop in time to avoid a collision.Whether by manual intervention by an engineer or by PTC, 1,200 tons of speeding stell cannot stop on a dime.
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Re: Grade Crossings - the real tragedy in railroading

Postby Morisot » Fri Sep 16, 2016 12:44 pm

...adding to 1890rOGERS460's point: .....and the hundreds of passengers on the train get thrown around....and any commuter railroad "schedule" becomes a joke!
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Re: Grade Crossings - the real tragedy in railroading

Postby litz » Fri Sep 16, 2016 2:28 pm

The real problem here is no amount of education or media support is going to replace the sheer terror of being in a locomotive cab and almost (or even worse, actually) hitting someone who has run a crossing.

Unless and until a person has been in that situation, you just really cannot understand it.
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Re: Grade Crossings - the real tragedy in railroading

Postby justalurker66 » Fri Sep 16, 2016 5:21 pm

There is a difference between the fear of striking and killing a motorist and the compassion for someone else experiencing that fear.

People making the decision to violate a crossing and drive in front of a train are not going to be slowed down much by the fear of ruining someone else's day or the lasting effects on that person. They are not thinking of someone else when they violate a crossing (unless they are distracted and never see the danger). They are thinking of themselves - where they need to go and what they want to do to get there. Not the potential emotional pain of someone that they don't know and never intend to meet. And not all violators intend to be hit ... they think they can make it. Maybe get a rush out of beating a train but the intent is not to harm themselves or the train crew.

There is one aspect of thinking about someone else that could help ... and that would be getting people to think about their families and friends. The other people who will be hurt if their gamble of crossing the tracks goes wrong. Perhaps a good campaign would be teaching people to STOP and think about their family and future BEFORE risking their lives. Something that they might care about.

One has to make violating a crossing something that nobody wants to do. That is a challenge.
Last edited by justalurker66 on Sat Sep 17, 2016 1:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Grade Crossings - the real tragedy in railroading

Postby justalurker66 » Fri Sep 16, 2016 5:47 pm

This is the type of training I am talking about ...
http://tracksarefortrains.com/

NS's "Train Your Brain" campaign.
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Re: Grade Crossings - the real tragedy in railroading

Postby mmi16 » Fri Sep 16, 2016 6:05 pm

From at T&E perspective - Grade crossing collisions are not a matter of if. Only a matter of when.
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Re: Grade Crossings - the real tragedy in railroading

Postby BandA » Sat Sep 17, 2016 12:37 am

Making crossings speed sensitive rather than fixed block would help. Or require all trains using a specific crossing to run at a specific speed.

Technological solutions to detecting trespassers or obstructions in the crossing and triggering automatic stop/slow down of the train before the engineer can see the crossing.
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Re: Grade Crossings - the real tragedy in railroading

Postby Morisot » Sat Sep 17, 2016 8:27 am

Making crossings speed sensitive rather than fixed block would help. Or require all trains using a specific crossing to run at a specific speed.


Why should they slow down an express train? The commuters trying to get into the city or out to the East end don't want their 60 - 80 MPH express trains to have to slow down for every grade crossing.
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Re: Grade Crossings - the real tragedy in railroading

Postby ExCon90 » Sat Sep 17, 2016 1:04 pm

... nor should they have to slow down. And in all the discussions about detecting obstructions I have yet to see any answer to the question of how a train can be brought to a stop at a crossing that was not fouled until after the train was too close to stop. If a motorist swerves around a gate while the train is a few hundred feet away and moving at a commercial speed, there is no known way of suspending the laws of physics to allow the train to stop before reaching the crossing.
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Re: Grade Crossings - the real tragedy in railroading

Postby justalurker66 » Sat Sep 17, 2016 1:32 pm

Morisot wrote:
Making crossings speed sensitive rather than fixed block would help. Or require all trains using a specific crossing to run at a specific speed.


Why should they slow down an express train? The commuters trying to get into the city or out to the East end don't want their 60 - 80 MPH express trains to have to slow down for every grade crossing.


Please read the "or". Consistent warning time is possible at crossings. Give a 30 second warning before the 45 MPH freight as well as the 70 MPH Amtrak. If a freight is moving toward a crossing at 20 MPH activate the crossing when the train is 30 seconds away. It has been done.

Fix the crossings so the gates are not down when a train is not imminent. Make the gates warning to "stop now or die" instead of "a train is coming - eventually".
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Re: Grade Crossings - the real tragedy in railroading

Postby justalurker66 » Sat Sep 17, 2016 1:50 pm

ExCon90 wrote:And in all the discussions about detecting obstructions I have yet to see any answer to the question of how a train can be brought to a stop at a crossing that was not fouled until after the train was too close to stop.


There is a point where the train cannot be stopped. A violation after the train passes that point is going to be a lasting problem. But what can be done should not be ignored. Hump railroad crossings with a history of trucks getting stuck ... crossings close to intersections with a history of traffic backed up onto crossings. Detection of problems that are present when the train is still beyond stopping distance would help avoid incidents.

Even if one takes the hard line stance that cars should never stop on a crossing (or the harder line some people have expressed that cars should never be on a crossing) it does not help the railroad to have a crossing incident. The delay slowing or stopping a train to avoid an incident is less than the delay waiting for a coroner or police to arrive and release the tracks after their investigation.

Unfortunately detecting vehicle incursions earlier and preventing them also adds to the length of time that protection is activated before the train arrives. Which means quad gates or other protections (medians, etc) are needed to help reduce the risk of a last minute violation by someone given too much time to consider going through the crossing. There are no easy guaranteed solutions. (Grade separation works fairly well.)
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Re: Grade Crossings - the real tragedy in railroading

Postby MaineCoonCat » Thu Sep 29, 2016 7:21 pm

As an aside; this was a crossing protection idea from the 1930's designed by Alonzo Billups and installed in Grenada Mississippi on Route 7.. Click on the image to enlarge.

Stop-Death-Stop-railroad-crossing-in-Grenada-from-unprocessed-collection-of-Sidney-T.-Roebuck-Highway-Commissioner-of-the-Central-District-MDAH.jpg
Alonzo Billups' Prototype Crossing Signal


Demo video here
Seen behind the motorman on the inside wall of a PCC departing "Riverside" many years ago: "Pickpockets are on duty for your convenience."
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Re: Grade Crossings - the real tragedy in railroading

Postby MaineCoonCat » Thu Sep 29, 2016 8:24 pm

Thought this "TBT" item might be of a historical interest..

Railway Signaling and Communications1.jpg


The whole document may be found here.. This article starts on page 25.
Seen behind the motorman on the inside wall of a PCC departing "Riverside" many years ago: "Pickpockets are on duty for your convenience."
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