"Why Trains Crash" - PBS "Nova"

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"Why Trains Crash" - PBS "Nova"

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Fri Feb 24, 2017 10:04 am

While possibly this topic belongs to Railroads in Media Forum, it appears to be more directed to an issue within the industry that has been "Page One" more often than it should be.

PBS, as part of their "Nova" series, aired an episode titled "Why Trains Crash".

Having watched the show last night at On-Demand, I wholly this show is worthy of one's time. Of the two named Engineers, Sanchez (Chatsworth) and Bostian (Frankford Jct - 2015), the first was grossly negligent, the other was a conscientious Engineer that was overwhelmed by conditions and lost situation awareness.

Megantic, also addressed at length, was not directly attributed to either employee negligence or situational awareness, but rather to a management culture that was looking to cut every corner and passing out "Brownie Points" for dreaming up new ones. It is hardly the first time in history that lowerlings have fallen on the sword for the deity.

The show further pointed out the deficiency of having Bakken crude being handled as if it were ,say, West Texas. Somebody had to recognize that "Bakken is gasoline", but didn't. Both use the 1267 HazMat Class.

Finally, the shows clearly advocates implementation of Positive Train Control - class of service notwithstanding. Over the period of enactment of RSIA08, the mandate for such, in the aftermath of Chatsworth, all too many incidents have occurred in which PTC could have either mitigated or avoided. For myself, when enacted I held the belief that "there's a guy up front being paid around $125K a year to be the Positive Train Control", but that notion has proven to be faulty, and could even be more so as railroads strive to do more with less. Further, railroads must keep up with the competition; such being that autonomous motor vehicles, autos and trucks, are "going to happen". It will be a sad day for the industry should the day come that highway transportation and travel become safer than rail. As the day comes that "there are no other way commodities (think coal)" diminish, could the day come that someone could say "railroads who needs 'em anymore?"

disclaimer: author now only holds Long position UNP
Gilbert B Norman
Posts: 13570
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 6:52 am
Location: Clarendon Hills, IL (BNSF Chicago Sub; MP 18.71)

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