Near Collison on Worcester Line? 9/14/09

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Re: Near Collison on Worcester Line? 9/14/09

Postby theseaandalifesaver » Tue Sep 15, 2009 7:07 pm

If anyone read the article, I don't think the train just started backing up. Let's READ guys! I'm pretty sure they just stopped both trains once the dispatcher figured out what was going on and then ASKED the train to back up to the closest interlocking so he/she could switch the trains to the closest interlocking.

Let's be realistic here.
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Re: Near Collison on Worcester Line? 9/14/09

Postby AEM7AC920 » Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:42 pm

UM that is what I have been saying the whole time this is all speculation at the moment until we get a final word from the investigation we can't go on anything that the media puts out or what some person said happened. The only people who know anything for sure at this point are the people doing the investigation...
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Re: Near Collison on Worcester Line? 9/14/09

Postby atsf sp » Wed Sep 16, 2009 4:16 pm

Was this in the station or somewhat on the line? Because that part of the line the dispatcher has to switch the train onto one track to get through Beacon Park because the MBTA can only use one track through there for both directions till past the market street bridge.
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Re: Near Collison on Worcester Line? 9/14/09

Postby dbperry » Fri Sep 18, 2009 12:36 pm

OK, a number of questions came up, and yes, i am only a railfan, but I was there, so here are some answers:

I was on P529, so I can't speak directly to what happened on P526.

P529 definitely went into emergency and stopped. I immediately got out my scanner and listened while the engineers spoke to each other, their train crews, the CSX NA dispatcher, and the MBCR "chief" who came up on the frequency. P529 got permission from both the MBCR chief and the CSX NA dispatcher BEFORE reversing. 529 was stopped for much more than five seconds. It was at least five minutes and probably more like 10 minutes, because I had time to call my wife and tell her what happened and that I would be home very late. I made that phone call while we were stopped, so we were sitting stopped for a long time.

There was NEVER an attempt by 529 to immedately reverse direction and try to avoid the collision by backing up. I understand the theoretical debate about the legality, practicality, and possibility of backing away from a potential collision, but that isn't what happened here (at least with 529).

Both engineers called their conductors up to their respective control positions (the cab of 529 and the control car of 526) to see what had happened while both trains were stopped. That leads me to believe that 526 did not attempt a reverse move to avoid a collision, but I agree, I wasn't on 526, so I can't say for certain.

The reverse move on 529 was executed with the engineer in the locomotive and a conductor in the control car talking him back.

This incident did not happen at any station. I was in the last car (on the east end) of 529, and when we came to a stop I was just west of Mass Ave., meaning that the locomotive / head end of 529 should have been just around the little 'S' curve, perhaps near the green line escape booth near the corner of Ipswitch and Charlesgate East. That would have put 526 somewhere on the relatively long straight section of track behind Fenway Park. Automatic signal 2 is just west of Charlesgate West, right at the point where Ipswitch Street bears away from the Mass Pike. It is possible that automatic signal 2 was between the two trains, but from the conversation I heard, it sounded like 526 was past automatic signal 2. You can see all of this very clearly on Google Maps - you can even use street view from the Mass Pike to see automatic 2.

Therefore this incident happened on the double track section, well east of CP 3 and CP 4 (which is the single track section of the B&A mainline).

That is all of my facts. The rest of this post is speculation / questions / opinions.

This incident IS directly related to the single track section between CP 3 and CP 4. If there was double track in that area, one track could always be used as westbound and one track could always be used as eastbound, minimizing the chances of sending a train down the wrong track. Just my opinion. But that is tempered somewhat by the fact that Yawkey station is only on track 2. So there could be a need to shuffle trains back and forth from track 1 to 2 to make the Yawkey stop (and Newton stops, for that matter).

According to my track chart, automatic signal 1 is between Boylston Street and Mass Ave, which would put it under the bridge work / quasi-tunnel in that area. I can't picture what automatic signal 1 looks like. Also according to my track chart, automatic 1 and automatic 2 are the only automatic block signals between COVE and CP 3. Can someone with more knowledge confirm that automatic 1 is really there and is bidirectional?

What would happen if 529 reached automatic 1 at the same time 526 reached automatic 2? Both automatics would show some kind of restricting signal as the trains approached them since the block between 1 and 2 was 'clear' but the next block (east and west) was not. Presumably both signals would have dropped to a stop indication when one of the trains crossed into the block, but if that happened at an instant close enough that the other train engineer was past or almost past the signal, could he have missed the signal changing to stop? Is this a plausible explanation of how the trains could have both passed what they thought was not a stop signal at each of 'their' automatic signals? Certainly one of the engineers could have just passed a stop signal as complete human error, but I'm looking beyond that obvious cause. And none of this negates the real root cause of a dispatcher sending both trains down track 1 against each other.

If my speculation about both trains reaching an automatic at the same time is true, then cab signals could have helped in this situation. From my understanding of cab signals, if both trains passed the automatics and ended up in the same block, both sets of cab signals (526 and 529) would have 'dropped' to stop for both trains. Am I correct? This would have given the enginers perhaps a little more advance warning of the potential problem.

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Re: Near Collison on Worcester Line? 9/14/09

Postby tober » Fri Sep 18, 2009 1:14 pm

I think your understanding is substantively correct. Beyond that, it is worth noting that it is not the job of automatic signals to protect conflicting (i.e. opposite directions on the same track) movements from each other. In general, signal systems are designed such that a dispatcher cannot line conflicting routes simultaneously, however there are certain places where the proper performance of the dispatcher's job is critical to safety. Specifically, if there is some track that is used bidirectionally, then before setting up interlockings/signals for a move that conflicts with an earlier move, in general the dispatcher must ascertain that the track is clear. The signal system will not necessarily prevent incidents resulting from conflicting moves that a dispatcher improperly permitted. This is not to say that I believe there was an error in dispatching involved in this incident, truly I have no idea and I don't think the public will have enough information to have an informed opinion on this matter until the conclusion and publication of the investigation that is surely taking place now. All I'm saying is that it is sometimes possible for an incident to result from an error committed by a dispatcher even when the signal system is functioning as designed and there is no substantive error made by any train crew. Indeed, that I recall, the Hellgate Bridge accident happened in essentially such a manner (although there was a somewhat extenuating circumstance involving a track being taken out of service for maintenance).
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Re: Near Collison on Worcester Line? 9/14/09

Postby AEM7AC920 » Fri Sep 18, 2009 3:04 pm

dbperry wrote:OK, a number of questions came up, and yes, i am only a railfan, but I was there, so here are some answers:
If my speculation about both trains reaching an automatic at the same time is true, then cab signals could have helped in this situation. From my understanding of cab signals, if both trains passed the automatics and ended up in the same block, both sets of cab signals (526 and 529) would have 'dropped' to stop for both trains. Am I correct? This would have given the enginers perhaps a little more advance warning of the potential problem.

Dave


FYI there are no cab signals where the incident happened it is ust 261 track. As far as the other question you are correct if that were to happen in cab sig territory then yes the cabs should of dropped to a restricting in both head ends.
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Re: Near Collison on Worcester Line? 9/14/09

Postby jamesinclair » Fri Sep 18, 2009 3:39 pm

dbperry wrote:
This incident IS directly related to the single track section between CP 3 and CP 4. If there was double track in that area, one track could always be used as westbound and one track could always be used as eastbound, minimizing the chances of sending a train down the wrong track. Just my opinion. But that is tempered somewhat by the fact that Yawkey station is only on track 2. So there could be a need to shuffle trains back and forth from track 1 to 2 to make the Yawkey stop (and Newton stops, for that matter).



Why is the area only used as a single track when there are many tracks?
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Re: Near Collison on Worcester Line? 9/14/09

Postby dbperry » Fri Sep 18, 2009 5:32 pm

jamesinclair wrote:
dbperry wrote: This incident IS directly related to the single track section between CP 3 and CP 4.
Why is the area only used as a single track when there are many tracks?


That's a good question. From CP 3 to CP 4, the mainline is reduced to a single track while it runs alongside the Beacon Park yard. The single track is the southernmost track, up against the fence between Beacon Park and the back of some BU buildings and other public areas.

Way back in history (perhaps before the Mass Pike was built) was that section of the main line double track?

In other words, I don't know why, and it certainly causes all kinds of schedule delays and problems on an all too frequent basis for us Worcester commuters.
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Re: Near Collison on Worcester Line? 9/14/09

Postby Tracer » Fri Sep 18, 2009 6:21 pm

I was suprised too that there is only one main thru beacon yard. I guess they figure thru good dispatching they could use the second main as a yard track.
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Re: Near Collison on Worcester Line? 9/14/09

Postby TrainManTy » Fri Sep 18, 2009 7:20 pm

Triker wrote:I guess they figure thru good dispatching they could use the second main as a yard track.


In theory...our 5:00 Worcester Express on departed a couple minutes late from South Station a month or so back on a Thursday, and we waited at the signal protecting the single track on the east end for several minutes until the inbound train passed us. We also snagged a CSX intermodel train (Q140 maybe?) at the crossovers near the west end of the Beacon Park yard lead and something else just east of Framingham, all of which was on double track, so maybe it's not a single track issue, but...
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Re: Near Collison on Worcester Line? 9/14/09

Postby atsf sp » Fri Sep 18, 2009 11:09 pm

dbperry wrote:
jamesinclair wrote:
dbperry wrote: This incident IS directly related to the single track section between CP 3 and CP 4.
Why is the area only used as a single track when there are many tracks?


That's a good question. From CP 3 to CP 4, the mainline is reduced to a single track while it runs alongside the Beacon Park yard. The single track is the southernmost track, up against the fence between Beacon Park and the back of some BU buildings and other public areas.

Way back in history (perhaps before the Mass Pike was built) was that section of the main line double track?

In other words, I don't know why, and it certainly causes all kinds of schedule delays and problems on an all too frequent basis for us Worcester commuters.

The track through Beacon park is one track because from Triker's photo, always has freight vars on it. The main trains are assembled on the other tracks in the yard. Secondly, the track plans at Beacon Park are really confusing under the Mass Pike. There are alot of switches and ways to move engines. That second track is used to get the engines out of the engine terminal and into the yard. Sometimes you can see units down under the Commonwealth Avenue by the BU bridge where is the last spot for MBTA trains to switch over. From the picture, the tracks are also in better condition. On the other end of Beacon Park, there are four tracks but only three are used. The closest to the highway and second track(I believe) are used by CSX and the track furthest from the Pike is MBTA/Amtrak used. The third from the road is rusted over but it is blocked in the yard. There have been derailments on that strech of track. I do not know about the past. Maybe it started in PC days. But before the Mass Pike, in the NYC days, there were two roundhouses, car shops, and a really busy yard to work with the Prudential yards.
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Re: Near Collison on Worcester Line? 9/14/09

Postby BuddSilverliner269 » Sat Sep 19, 2009 1:05 am

Regardless if you are a regular person are not, you can not just back the train up if there is no one on th point to back up. It seems like you are saying that it's ok to back up without anyone leading the move because there is an extreme emergency and that's a big no no and I know at Amtrak if it was done and was ever caught doing that, you will be in serious trouble.Even in an extreme emergency if something were to happen and the engineer decided to back up to avoid an accident, he could back up into something else, or happen to run someone over and guess what, he violated a rule. Its that simple. Below is a brief excerpt from Norac Rule 501 just to give a slight idea on how just backing up is a no no.

501. Reverse Movement within the Limits of the Same Block
A train may make a reverse movement, at Restricted Speed, within the limits of the same block when preceded by a crew member, who must be prepared to stop an opposing movement operating at Restricted Speed.
The Dispatcher (or Operator when authorized by the Dispatcher) may permit a train to make a reverse movement, at Restricted Speed, within the limits of the same block, without a crew member preceding the movement. A crew member must be stationed on the leading end of the movement to observe conditions ahead and take action to properly control the movement of the train.
Before permission is granted, the Dispatcher must determine that the track to be used is clear of opposing movements and that blocking devices are applied to protect against opposing movements.
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Re: Near Collison on Worcester Line? 9/14/09

Postby AEM7AC920 » Sat Sep 19, 2009 9:20 am

Going back to what I said about backing up I never said that it was within the rules to back up with no point protection while in an emergency or that the walk don't talk/ talk don't walk rule shouldn't be considered but if I saw a train flying towards me and for some reason I couldn't get the dispatcher over the radio which happens quite often around here I would be setting up to reverse and yelling at my conductor over the raido or whoever qualified to get us ready to back up. I'm not saying break all or any rules in an emergency or shove it in reverse and head back full speed ahead, but some rules are bent in an emergency given the circumstances.
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Re: Near Collison on Worcester Line? 9/14/09

Postby TrainManTy » Sat Sep 19, 2009 9:31 am

AEM7AC920 wrote:Going back to what I said about backing up I never said that it was within the rules to back up with no point protection while in an emergency or that the walk don't talk/ talk don't walk rule shouldn't be considered but if I saw a train flying towards me and for some reason I couldn't get the dispatcher over the radio which happens quite often around here I would be setting up to reverse and start creeping back while someone is headed back. You would be taking a huge risk by backing blind even for a short time but if you know that you have x amount of miles to your in the previous block on a single track territory where there are no other trains than that that would be the gamble you would take, hit a tresspasser that aint suppose to be there or try to get a train full of people out of harm's way.


I have to agree. The rules prohibit backing up without permission, but think of it this way: Would you rather be fired, or be killed along with a whole bunch of passengers? Obviously that outcome was not the case in this wreck, but theoretically speaking in a different wreck...what would you do?
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Re: Near Collison on Worcester Line? 9/14/09

Postby AEM7AC920 » Sat Sep 19, 2009 1:23 pm

I think i'd rather be fired than killed. I'm looking at it this way, if you are in single track territory with at least 1/2 a mile behind you before the previous block obviously there aint another train in the same block as you and you can't be lined towards anything else so the only thing against you for the moment is the possibily of a TRESSPASSER who should't be there. Like I said i'm not saying run backwards fully with no one guiding you but for the time being while you have someone headed back to the spot I would start creeping back. I'm not saying i'm right and I'm not in the situation so i can't tell you how I would react but those are just my 2 cents. I'd rather take out a tresspasser that shouldn't be there in the first place and vs letting a train full of people get injured or killed and like was stated that wouldn't of been the outcome in the first place. Then again I wouldn't be suprized that if there were certain engineers in that spot that wouldn't save there own butts and jump ship and run! But hey I'm not in the big seat and maybe someday when I am possibly I will have a better understanding of what rules you can bend and break in that situation but thanks for the input guys.
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