National Railroading Safety (Amtrak & Host Railroads)

Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

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National Railroading Safety (Amtrak & Host Railroads)

Postby BlendedBreak » Sun Feb 04, 2018 2:09 pm

Not to hit a man or in this case, 'corporation' when they are down but Amtrak is not doing so good these last few years.

Poor training-Engineer/Dispatcher/Conductor training programs designed to be pass friendly for friends and family members that local managers have hired. You have to be a dense item to fail at Amtrak. Operating rules tests completed in pencil so that everyone is a winner.

Poor management-The same fellows who could not make the cut in the craft, become managers. How? Simple. Time in service counts for everything. No civilian wants to be a railroad manager, there are no training programs for it. SO when a road foreman or train master position is opened, we select the person with the most time in service. He/She then learns the dirty secrets of employee retaliation, discipline loop-holes, how to cut corners when it comes to operational integrity, and then become eligible for the superintendent positions. You have now taken a mediocre employee who probably could not successfully a university level accounting course and made them responsible for hundreds of employees payroll and training. Then after a few years recycle and sidestep to other positions. Not creating positive change, just continuing the mediocre duties of the daily grind.

These are the 'reasons for the seasons' as it is said.We don't train employees to recognize dangerous situations, we don't treat employees as professional-we just say 'notify a manager', but as above no manager is equipped to handle any situation. Let us plan on more incidents-thank god for self-insured insurance-whatever that is. :wink:

These are only the incidents that make the news, imagine if the john q citizen knew about behind closed door happenings, it is simply no good.
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Postby FCM2829 » Sun Feb 04, 2018 2:33 pm

What changes would you make?
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Postby BlendedBreak » Sun Feb 04, 2018 2:52 pm

FCM2829 wrote:What changes would you make?


For starters;
Establish a non-punative safety culture.
Increase scenario based training.
Refresh ALL operations managers.
Require college degrees as a minimum for upper-mid-level management employees.
Centralize training by establishing a quality assurance department.
Do away with seniority based promotion in favor of merit based.
Open lines of communication for employee feedback.
Work with accredited universities to create railroad specific courses.

there is much to do, but too many chiefs at the national railroad.
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Postby Noel Weaver » Sun Feb 04, 2018 3:18 pm

You're jumping to conclusions here. From what I have heard elsewhere Amtrak is NOT at fault in this one.
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Postby 8th Notch » Sun Feb 04, 2018 3:24 pm

Even if they aren’t In this case, he sure is on to something!
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Postby mtuandrew » Sun Feb 04, 2018 8:00 pm

BlendedBreak wrote:
FCM2829 wrote:What changes would you make?


For starters;
...
Work with accredited universities to create railroad specific courses.

I highly recommend the Rail Transportation Program at Michigan Tech: http://www.rail.mtu.edu/ It’d be of great benefit to operations, maintenance of way, and route planning departments in particular. It’s a minor that would work with any engineering degree (esp electrical, civil, mechanical, and computer.) Tech also has a decent MBA program that would pair well with this degree.

Food for thought if anyone at One Mass is reading.
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Postby CN9634 » Sun Feb 04, 2018 8:41 pm

Amtrak is in a PR crisis no doubt. At this point facts are out the window and for this purpose they don't matter -- public perception is Amtrak is not safe. Similar things have happened in the past with Airlines and other modes of public transportation... what is needed is a robust PR campaign that focuses on Safety in cooperation with host railroads. Buy TV spots and produce some shorts and get on it fast... or else they're going to have some pretty stark ridership and financial figures. I think they'll pull something together with the new CEO (from the airline industry).... or he'll quit.
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Postby chrsjrcj » Sun Feb 04, 2018 8:53 pm

I have to assume that the OP is likely a disgruntled (hopefully former) Amtrak employee. There sure is a lot of animosity being expressed toward Amtrak, and I’m not sure RR.net is the best outlet for it.
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Postby BlendedBreak » Sun Feb 04, 2018 9:18 pm

Trinnau wrote:As I pointed out in the derailment thread, the rule you posted does not state "ALL HAND OPERATED SWITCHES". It lists specific cases where one must operate prepared to stop until switch position has been determined.


300.4 Trains using other than main or signaled tracks must move at a speed that permits stopping within one-half the range of vision, short of a train, a car, on-track equipment, an obstruction, a Stop signal, a derail, or an improperly lined switch and must not exceed:
a. 25 MPH on non-signaled sidings; or
b. 15 MPH when moving to and from the main track, operating through hand-operated switches not equipped with a signal; or
c. 10 MPH when not moving to or from the main track, operating through hand-operated switches; or
d. 10 MPH on other than main tracks or signaled tracks; or
e. 5 MPH within designated locomotive service track or car shop repair track areas.


504.37 Unless otherwise specified, when signals are temporarily removed from service, trains must:
1. Approach all Absolute signals prepared to stop and not pass these signals without
permission of the train dispatcher,
2. Stop at drawbridges and railroad crossings at grade and be governed by rules or special instructions in effect for that particular location,
3. Approach all public crossings at grade that are equipped with automatic grade crossing warning devices prepared to stop and provide protection,
4. Examine switch points of spring switches to confirm they are lined and switch is locked before making a facing point movement, and
5. Operate switches and derails in accordance with rules governing operating switches and derails by hand.
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Postby Trinnau » Sun Feb 04, 2018 9:55 pm

Still nothing here requiring the crew to be prepared to stop. I'm assuming the underlined emphasis is yours. 300.4 doesn't apply, Amtrak was operating on a main track. The underlined section takes it right out of play. 504.37, if the signal system was indeed removed from service (still not confirmed) item 5 does not apply. The crew was not operating the switch or derail.
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Postby erie2937 » Sun Feb 04, 2018 11:11 pm

Someone had to line and lock that incorrectly lined switch - by hand. Then that person would have reported by radio to the dispatcher that the switch was correctly lined and locked. So the dispatcher's train sheet should show who lined and locked the switch. Apparently it is not a power switch so it is not protected by the signal system. Amtrak engine crew should not be responsible for this wreck. The answer could be as simple as human error if someone failed to correctly line and lock that switch. There would be no way for the dispatcher to know that the switch was not correctly lined and locked nor could the Amtrak crew know until too late.
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Postby R Paul Carey » Mon Feb 05, 2018 6:45 am

"Blended Break" (sic) would do well to steer his interest toward the relevant rules and follow the facts in this tragedy. Just the facts, sir!

Deal with your own antipathy. Whether you choose to hide behind a screen name, or to stand up and use your real name (as I do) is your own business.

As to Noel Weaver, I have known Noel personally for over 30 years. As an Engineer, Noel honed his skills over many years covering wide areas involving every method of operation under the rules. He performed his duties with consummate skill and achieved a service record that, to say the least, was enviable.

In retirement, Noel has generously shared his knowledge and experience on this forum (and others). Those who care deeply about the history (and the future) of this industry owe him much.

R. Paul Carey
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Last edited by Jeff Smith on Mon Feb 05, 2018 2:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: [b]Admin note: AMEN![/b]
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Re: Chickens coming to roost for Amtrak.

Postby GirlOnTheTrain » Mon Feb 05, 2018 7:51 am

To the OP - before you proclaim that someone has no idea what they're talking about, Mr. Weaver worked a long and illustrious career for about 4 different railroads and generously shares his experiences with people here. Don't be the one that drives him off.

From Jeff smith and John Perkowski

We've known Mr Weaver for many years here, and have absolute respect for his assessments. He's one of many engineers we look to for analysis and judgment.

From Jeff: ABSOLUTELY CONCUR! Mr. Weaver knows more about railroading than all of us. He’s forgotten more than we’ve learned. I hope I’m lucky enough to take a ride on Brightline with him soon. Quickest way to get on our radar is to disrespect him.
Last edited by Jeff Smith on Mon Feb 05, 2018 2:47 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Reason: JWP: Leveraged GOTT's post, since Jeff and I concur
"I am no longer just a girl on the train, going back and forth without point or purpose."

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Re: A National Culture of Railroading Safety

Postby Morisot » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:46 am

BlendedBreak, surely you didn't really mean to say that managers with experience in the craft learn "how to cut corners when it comes to operational integrity"

Anyone I know who works for a railroad (and I know a few) seems to know that it is a dangerous job (and they try really hard to NOT let on to their families how dangerous it is!)

Since anyone who has worked on a railroad for any length of time knows the dangers, how can you imply that when they become managers they cut corners?

BlendedBreak wrote - The same fellows who could not make the cut in the craft, become managers. How? Simple. Time in service counts for everything. No civilian wants to be a railroad manager, there are no training programs for it. SO when a road foreman or train master position is opened, we select the person with the most time in service. He/She then learns the dirty secrets of employee retaliation, discipline loop-holes, how to cut corners when it comes to operational integrity, and then become eligible for the superintendent positions. You have now taken a mediocre employee who probably could not successfully a university level accounting course and made them responsible for hundreds of employees payroll and training. Then after a few years recycle and sidestep to other positions. Not creating positive change, just continuing the mediocre duties of the daily grind.
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Re: A National Culture of Railroading Safety

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Mon Feb 05, 2018 12:51 pm

Like Mr. Carey, who I know face to face, I too post around here using my given name, and regarding Mr. Weaver, he and I first met almost sixty years ago (that CNJ fan trip Sep 1960 that was hours late).

OK, so much for "people and places"; in all likelihood this topic was originated by a Member who has "more than railfan knowledge" of railroad operations. But lest we forget, there is so much yet to be learned by the investigators at Cayce that any conclusions drawn so far, such as no foul play as reported by McClatchy's The State newspaper, are premature. There was an unconfirmed report at another site - and let's hope it remains unconfirmed and is even proven unfounded - that the FBI is at the scene "assisting local authorities", for such would suggest "foul play". To the contrary, that Rules requiring two Rules Qualified persons to be "on the engine" when operating through "suspended signal" territory is sadly supported by evidential matter. Not yet disclosed is whether the Rule permitting normal speed, i.e. <61 mph, through such territory or that "speed not to exceed stopping short of any obstruction", or however it's worded nowadays, applied.

So much still to know.

Addressing the broader topic set forth here, The incumbent Amtrak "dollar a year" CEO, Mr. Anderson, was immediately preceded by another "dollar a year man" from a railroad that consistently won Harriman Safety Awards on his watch. So far as Mr. Anderson's prior industry, the safety record can only be considered nothing short of exemplary. The 1950's "Designated Survivor" days when my Mother and Father would not fly on the same airplane are long gone.

As I noted at another topic, Mr. Anderson must wonder "what kind of 'demo derby' did I sign up for?" That there have now been nine passenger fatalities at Frankford and DuPont attributable to employee negligence, as well as five employees, Chester, Cayce and Chicago, involving moving trains, instantly coming to mind within the past three years certainly shows that the safety culture at Amtrak is deficient and must be addressed. Drawing on his airline experience, Mr. Anderson "just might be our man".

Now so far as the remaining 90% of the industry (freight) goes, PTC cannot come soon enough. At first, I thought RSIA08 was an "over the top" reaction to Chatsworth enacted by a Lame Duck administration, and held that it was an unnecessary cost burden to place upon the industry. But with all too many incidents, Goodwell, Panhandle, Red Oak instantly coming to mind, that could be avoided with active PTC, it's time for the industry to "stop the foot dragging and get on with it".
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