Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby Tadman » Thu Jan 25, 2018 3:42 pm

Without editorializing too much on the cause of the crash, a clearer picture is starting to emerge. My sincere hope is that Mr. Moorman, as former CEO of the railroad that literally broke the Harriman Award for safety, will take some time to address the prevailing culture of safety at Amtrak.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby frequentflyer » Fri Jan 26, 2018 9:57 am

Yes, it is what we all knew but hoping it wasn't....................The engineer's fault.

http://nwnewsnetwork.org/post/amtrak-en ... rain-wreck
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby MCL1981 » Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:37 am

Is actually driving the train on the route under supervision only once normal? Serious question, not implying anything. I have no clue what goes into qualifying for a route.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby David Benton » Fri Jan 26, 2018 2:52 pm

Sorry, but The Engineer missed a speed advisory, and approaching sharp curve until the last minute. With no apparent distractions or defects. Millions of motorists drive new routes regularly, can you imagine saying to a police officer you didn't slow down for a speed limit/curve because you had only driven the route once or twice?. I can't see how it is a training issue.If a engineer was on a new route ,I would expect them to be more vigilant than usual.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby Tommy Meehan » Fri Jan 26, 2018 4:42 pm

David Benton wrote:...can you imagine saying to a police officer you didn't slow down for a speed limit/curve because you had only driven the route once or twice?...


That probably happens all the time. I had it happen to me on Rt 17 in New Jersey a few years ago. A traffic light where I didn't expect one and a yellow light of much shorter duration than I expected given the fairly high speed limit. I knew I wasn't going to be able to stop in time and the light was red when I went through the intersection. I was pulled over by a local police officer, he lit me up right away. I told him by the time I saw the light was yellow etc. The officer acted very professionally but he let me off with a verbal warning. Maybe it helped that this was in New Jersey and my plates and driver's license showed I was a New Yorker.

It's not just Amtrak. I exchanged emails a few years ago with a locomotive engineer on the former SP Los Angeles Division. We were discussing the particulars of a train derailment. One thing he emphasized to me was, the modern railroad is a lot different than years ago when hoggers were said to know their route like "the back of their hand." He said today the job is totally different. For instance, the Los Angeles Division encompasses hundreds of route-miles. Crews have to be 'qualified' on routes but that might mean being assigned to a train, a heavy road freight, on a route you haven't seen in months. There are dozens of crews and almost everyone works extra. It's not unusual for engineers and conductors to work with someone they barely know. He mentioned he had just worked a road freight with a helper, and having little idea who the engineer on the helper was. He wrote to me, "I didn't even recognize his name."

The point he was making was, in a derailment that had occurred, the locomotive engineer's lack of familiarity with the route, despite being 'qualified' on it, did play a part, it wasn't the cause, but it was undoubtedly a contributing factor. But on many roads today, that is just reality and it can make the job extremely challenging at times.

The locomotive engineer told investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board that he knew a sharp curve was coming up, but as filtered through the NTSB, he said he "didn't recall" seeing the advance speed limit sign..."In the five weeks preceding the derailment, the engineer had qualified on the Point Defiance Bypass section of track following the completion of seven to 10 observational trips in the locomotive as well as three trips operating the equipment, two northbound and one southbound," said the NTSB investigative update released Thursday. Link
Last edited by Tommy Meehan on Fri Jan 26, 2018 5:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby MattW » Fri Jan 26, 2018 5:02 pm

David Benton wrote:Sorry, but The Engineer missed a speed advisory, and approaching sharp curve until the last minute. With no apparent distractions or defects. Millions of motorists drive new routes regularly, can you imagine saying to a police officer you didn't slow down for a speed limit/curve because you had only driven the route once or twice?. I can't see how it is a training issue.If a engineer was on a new route ,I would expect them to be more vigilant than usual.

Cars also operate on-sight. If you're traveling faster than you can see to stop, then you're going way too fast. Trains, unless under restricted speed, operate much faster than they can see to stop. Route knowledge becomes far more important. Try running a train simulator without any of the helper tools that tell you the next speed and signal. It's still nowhere near like the real thing, but that's as close as most of us will get.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby Tadman » Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:50 pm

MCL1981 wrote:Is actually driving the train on the route under supervision only once normal? Serious question, not implying anything. I have no clue what goes into qualifying for a route.


I'll weigh in that whatever the training is - and it sounds sparse - it wasn't nearly adequate. I spend a lot of time in heavy machinery and good training pays dividends to the company by avoiding costly injuries, equipment damage, downtime, and product damage.

Let's put it this way: how much will this wreck cost Amtrak? 1 Talgo probably written off, 1 Charger in rotten shape, hundreds of millions in injury and wrongful death suits, many Workman's comp claims...

Compare that with running 10 training runs in each direction for more more than 4 guys in the cab at a time.

Y'all know my politics. I am The. Last. Guy. to be blaming stuff on the company, but this bugs me. People cut corners here in my professional opinion. And this is the kind of corner cutting that leads to more regulations, lots more. Betcha the FRA comes out with a new rule here that states a minimum run time or hours on a new route before qualification is achieved.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby STrRedWolf » Fri Jan 26, 2018 9:39 pm

Tadman wrote:Y'all know my politics. I am The. Last. Guy. to be blaming stuff on the company, but this bugs me. People cut corners here in my professional opinion. And this is the kind of corner cutting that leads to more regulations, lots more. Betcha the FRA comes out with a new rule here that states a minimum run time or hours on a new route before qualification is achieved.


I think it'll be more than that, at least an NTSB recommendation for at least three runs per direction, both directions, to qualify.

But I also wonder about what's in the cab. I know Amtrak on the NEC has cab signaling (and maybe speed limit advisories). I don't know if CSX does along similar lines, or out there if BNSF does. I'm interested if they do... or if they just don't bother considering PTC is coming.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby Backshophoss » Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:07 pm

The only western Host RR that uses cab signals on many route miles is UP(their CCSS),BN has cab signals on the "speedway" for Metra trains.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby justalurker66 » Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:41 am

Tadman wrote:Betcha the FRA comes out with a new rule here that states a minimum run time or hours on a new route before qualification is achieved.

The primary focus will be on positive bear control (oops, PTC). The "Train Simulator" helper in the cab that is familiar with the route and is less likely to forget where the train is and what the train should be doing. I'll bet that the NTSB ruling and the FRA response to this incident will say much more about PTC than qualifying.

Any regulation to require a set number of "guided trips" to qualify on a section of track would be further down the list. I realize the railroads do not want to spend the extra money on training that additional guided trips would require but it does seem strange that a person's second time operating in that direction on the line would be solo.


If trains had the same stopping distance as a semi truck or SUV it would be easier to compare the lack of any requirement for highway vehicle operators to "qualify" on a new roads (or new to them roads) to requirements for railroad train operators to qualify on track segments. Trains are designed to be operated at speeds where braking exceeds site distance, relying on signalling and other controls to make sure the path ahead is clear. Highway vehicles are not. Trying to enforce route "qualifying" on highway drivers would be nearly impossible (too many drivers, too many routes). Requiring route qualifying on track segments is much more achievable.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby Backshophoss » Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:07 am

A case (again)where the engineer forgot where he was on basically a new route.
NTSB will focus on the PTC system was not online,installed,but NOT in service,figure some blame will land on BNSF,the Sounder train contractor
for the PTC not online and delaying the needed "backroom" programming of the route and registering the Amtrak,WSDOT,and Sounder equipment
in their system.

As a truck driver,when first starting out,every route is NEW on the first trip,you watch for every sign to help you to prepare for a major uphill/
downhill grade,places to slow down due to curves,etc. Gets slightly easier the next few trips,but still wary on route.
Generally it takes about 5 round trips till you seem to run the route in your memory and understand all the pitfalls along the way.
After passing thru Fort Lewis on I-5,the lanes NB seem to split away from the SB lanes to go under the RR and a few miles untill all lanes join up again
for a slight upgrade,also starts the beginning of a major congestion area passing thru Tacoma city limits.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby 8th Notch » Sat Jan 27, 2018 6:32 am

The whole truck/car comparison to operating a train is comparing apples to oranges, they are not even remotely close! I’m sorry but the engineer is squarely at fault here, and the fact that he said he wouldn’t have never gotten behind the throttle if he was uncomfortable drives my point home. The whole lack of PTC/lack of training can be looked at as contributing factors, however at the end of the day as engineers we are responsible for our actions every time we sit in the seat. If I’m not comfortable with operating my train for any reason then it’s on me to address the proper authority.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby Tommy Meehan » Sat Jan 27, 2018 10:35 am

People cut corners here in my professional opinion. And this is the kind of corner cutting that leads to more regulations, lots more.

I don't know if you can really accuse Amtrak or Washington DOT of cutting corners. None of the agencies make any profit. That seems to me to point to the underlying problem: funding. How can they schedule training if they don't have money budgeted to pay for it? All of these agencies are in a constant battle to make due with the resources they have. I don't know what the industry standard is here. The NTSB reports:
"In the five weeks preceding the derailment, the engineer had qualified on the Point Defiance Bypass section of track following the completion of seven to 10 observational trips in the locomotive as well as three trips operating the equipment, two northbound and one southbound."

Is that considered enough? How many severe speed restrictions were there on this route? The Port Defiance Bypass is only 14.5 miles long. You would presume slowing for the curve over I-5 and the Nisqually River would be a major issue, that an engineer would have uppermost in his mind, "Slow down for that curve." The speed limit on the curve is 30 mph and the rule of thumb is, you can only go twice the posted speed limit without overturning. The authorized top speed approaching the curve was 79 mph so if an engineer doesn't reduce speed they're not going to make it around the curve. That was the criteria Amtrak used years ago on the NEC in deciding where to put speed enforcement in for permanent speed restrictions like curves. Wherever the restricted speed was less than half the authorized speed approaching the curve, that location was coded into ACSES.

On the map below, coincidentally, the mile marker 19.8 is about where the derailment took place.
Attachments
South End of Point Defiance Bypass.jpg
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby Tadman » Sat Jan 27, 2018 12:28 pm

Tommy Meehan wrote:
People cut corners here in my professional opinion. And this is the kind of corner cutting that leads to more regulations, lots more.

I don't know if you can really accuse Amtrak or Washington DOT of cutting corners. None of the agencies make any profit. That seems to me to point to the underlying problem: funding. How can they schedule training if they don't have money budgeted to pay for it? All of these agencies are in a constant battle to make due with the resources they have. I don't know what the industry standard is here.


I think you can cut corners to curb your losses just as much as you can cut corners to enhance profits. Look at Penn Central when they were losing buckets of money - they cut all kinds of corners. Repairs were deferred, trackwork deferred, janitorial tasks eliminated etc...

As for what the industry standard is, it's becoming apparent that there isn't one. That's crazy. You have to have significant hours in a sim to change planes as a pilot, how is it they don't have this for engineers? If it's "too costly" to do familiarization rides, a sim could accomplish this as well.

I say "too costly" in quotes because clearly whatever the cost of a proper training regimen, Amtrak is well bloody past that in losses from the accident.
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Re: Cascade Wreck 18 December 17

Postby lstone19 » Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:56 pm

Tadman wrote:As for what the industry standard is, it's becoming apparent that there isn't one. That's crazy. You have to have significant hours in a sim to change planes as a pilot, how is it they don't have this for engineers? If it's "too costly" to do familiarization rides, a sim could accomplish this as well.


Changing airplane types and changing locomotive types is apples and oranges. A different airplane type has different flight characteristics. But a locomotive is largely a locomotive. There may be some control differences but they're not significant in most cases. Different airplanes have different controls as well but that's not the main reason for type ratings; it's the flight characteristic differences (at an airline, to the extent that two planes of the same type have differences in the controls or systems, that's covered in Differences Training, not a separate type rating). Consider that on a train, if you have an issue you can't figure out, you stop; that's not an option when you're in a plane in the air.
Last edited by lstone19 on Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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