Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby STrRedWolf » Sun Feb 04, 2018 12:18 pm

Trains Mag did a 2-page spread with three stories on the Cascade 501 Wreck:

  • A basic story with what we already know: Train going 78 in a 30 when it derailed, 3 dead out of the 78 passengers, NTSB investigating and reminded folks PTC would of prevented this.
  • A highlight story on the Siemens Charger that was involved in the crash.
  • A highlight story that doesn't dig too deep into the training and qualification of engineers. In other words, background piece.

Given the lead time on print... it may of been too early for them to really investigate.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby Tommy Meehan » Wed Mar 28, 2018 4:28 pm

Below is the lead to Don Phillips' recent TRAINS Magazine column about the Cascade wreck that was inadvertently cut from the column as published. It is available on certain websites. (I don't know which ones. I got it via a private group.) One significant fact: the locomotive engineer on the derailed train told investigators, "a series of mistakes" led him to believe his southbound train was still well north of the restricted speed curve. The other point of interest, the engineer is a railfan photographer and a very accomplished one. In fact he took photos of the Amtrak Cascade trains on the section that was slated to lose passenger service when the bypass opened.

The engineer told [NTSB investigators] of a series of mistakes that led him to believe he was north of the accident site. He said that as soon as he saw the 30-mph sign at the start of the curve, he realized where he was and applied brakes, but seconds later the train derailed.

One of the more fascinating facts is that the engineer had a side business doing commercial photography work. VIA Rail Canada hired him to take publicity photos, and he gave presentations to various groups of professionals and railfans. A source, who said he did not want to be named, said he had known the engineer for many years. “I figured after he got hired at the railroad his passion would simmer a bit because of being exposed to trains day in and day out as part of the job. With him it didn't seem to.”
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby DutchRailnut » Wed Mar 28, 2018 4:34 pm

Just about every railroad has rules prohibiting any side business if it interferes with work/rest cycles.
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby Tommy Meehan » Thu Mar 29, 2018 1:40 pm

I'm curious about the exact nature of the "mistakes" and I would expect that eventually they will be explained in the NTSB report. NTSB also usually establishes how crew members spent their time in the day or two prior to an incident. I tend to doubt that they will find the engineer wasn't well-rested due to time spent on railfan photography but who knows.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby justalurker66 » Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:50 pm

I expect that we will see a work/sleep history with a comment of "was well rested" or "was not well rested". I doubt we will get too many details of what he was doing outside of work/sleep.

The series of unfortunate mistakes has already been touched on in this thread. It is as simple as forgetting where one is on the railroad and missing several reminders (mileposts, advance speed signs, speed signs and other landmarks). I expect the NTSB will spend more time on the amount and quality of the time spent on training for the new route. I expect the training regimen will be the #2 cause of the wreck (with #1 being the NTSB's favorite tune - PTC).
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby David Benton » Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:09 pm

Not to mention not seeing a sharp curve approaching till the last seconds. I think they need to look into wether having a second person in the cab(who is not normally there ) is actually quite a distraction. From memory , around 1/2 of these kinds of accidents in the past have had a trainee or other person in the cab . I think we all know from our lines of work , having someone watching or talking increases the chances of making a mistake.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby Tommy Meehan » Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:46 pm

Again, looking at this from both sides, the training seems to be adequate for most engineers. An accident like this, as terrible as it was, is extremely rare. This was a 14-mile route with one serious speed restriction. Things happen quickly at 80 mph.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby justalurker66 » Fri Mar 30, 2018 11:38 am

Tommy Meehan wrote:Again, looking at this from both sides, the training seems to be adequate for most engineers. An accident like this, as terrible as it was, is extremely rare. This was a 14-mile route with one serious speed restriction. Things happen quickly at 80 mph.

There are too many horror stories about the "familiarization" rides used to train people for this segment of track. Too many people packed into the cab for all to see. Runs at night when the daytime landmarks cannot be seen. Perhaps there needs to be a new definition of "adequate".

I am glad that the accidents are extremely rare. Rare does not mean that the accident level is acceptable.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby JimBoylan » Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:04 pm

The crash happened before dawn, so wasn't night time training appropriate?
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby justalurker66 » Sat Mar 31, 2018 10:20 pm

JimBoylan wrote:The crash happened before dawn, so wasn't night time training appropriate?

The accident occurred after dawn. Before sunrise but after dawn. Night time is darker.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby Railjunkie » Sun Apr 01, 2018 12:14 am

If you learn the RR at night you should have no problem during the day. Why?? Because your looking for things you can see during both. This is not to say a few daylight trips wouldnt have hurt either
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby Tadman » Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:50 pm

To draw some comparisons to air - a statistically safer mode of transport - I think the current training paradigm is a joke. My pilot friends have to spend weeks in the sim when they transition between different equipment. While pilots are type-rated and engineers are territory-qualified, the need for familiarity to promote safe operations remains the same. Clearly, there is little familiarity created when a big group of engineers rides backwards or in the dark a few times to be considered qualified. I can't believe anybody thought that was ok. That's nuts.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby justalurker66 » Sun Apr 01, 2018 2:29 pm

Railjunkie wrote:If you learn the RR at night you should have no problem during the day. Why?? Because your looking for things you can see during both. This is not to say a few daylight trips wouldnt have hurt either

It could be argued that the railroad was not learned. The engineer had "book knowledge". He knew there was a curve and what he needed to do when he approached that curve but if "book knowledge" was enough then hundreds of railfans would also count as "qualified" for that section of track. Even those who have never set foot in the cab of a train.

We (the NTSB, the FRA and society in general) expect engineers to have more than "book knowledge". We expect them to have experience.That is what being qualified is all about. Seven to ten trips in either direction (no memory of how many trips?) and only one prior trip in that direction with this engineer at the controls. That counts as "qualified"? How far apart were the seven to ten trips? Were they all done in one night? Did the engineers learning the route have a clear view of the tracks so they could see landmarks? How many people were in the cabs during the training runs? Is one prior trip in that direction enough to declare the engineer "qualified"? "Qualified" by the book or having enough experience to safely run the train?

In my opinion I would expect higher situational awareness during the first passenger run (and the second run in this direction attempted by this engineer). The trainee conductor in the cab should have been a benefit. They both knew (by the book) that there was a curve coming up where the train needed to slow down. They both should have noticed the advance warning signs and mile markers as they approached the curve. I tend to pay more attention to the details of something when I am learning than after I have done the job 100 times.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby ApproachMedium » Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:03 am

Railjunkie wrote:If you learn the RR at night you should have no problem during the day. Why?? Because your looking for things you can see during both. This is not to say a few daylight trips wouldnt have hurt either


Let me tell you from somebody whos qualified on hundreds of miles of railroad, it looks different during the day and the night. Completely. We are told to ride ONLY during the day, and those who have any sense will tell you that just once or twice you should ride at night and see the difference. it really wakes you up. But dong it in the dark is a very dangerous idea. There is a lot of detail to be missed. Landmarks that might not be able to be seen. the idea is you know where you are during the day and once the sun goes down you should be able to make out all of the silhouettes.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby dowlingm » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:41 pm

ApproachMedium wrote:Let me tell you from somebody whos qualified on hundreds of miles of railroad, it looks different during the day and the night. Completely. We are told to ride ONLY during the day, and those who have any sense will tell you that just once or twice you should ride at night and see the difference. it really wakes you up. But dong it in the dark is a very dangerous idea. There is a lot of detail to be missed. Landmarks that might not be able to be seen. the idea is you know where you are during the day and once the sun goes down you should be able to make out all of the silhouettes.
Approach, let's start by saying I'm not going to dispute your expertise on the railroad as it exists.

That said, we live in an age where passenger vehicles are being outfitted with GPS, LIDAR, ultrasonics, cameras and in some cases Heads Up Display assistance. The expectation is assistance to the driver in knowing exactly where they are at all times and in all weathers, in a far more complex and uncontrolled traffic environment than a rail line, if not outright automatic control over a mostly "dumb" environment. I don't think the average passenger has any idea how much people who operate locomotives lack all of these aids on-vehicle, relying on their wits and memory for landmarks and non-illuminated signs.
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