Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby RearOfSignal » Tue Jul 25, 2017 6:32 am

I find it hard to believe that and unusual third rail design is the reason for the accident as is being reported by news outlets. It might be a contributing factor to the number of casualties, but certainly not the cause. I think that cause is the vehicle being on the tracks when the train went through the crossing, but I'm not a NTSB expert. How soon until there are talks of MNR removing all its third rail?
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby EuroStar » Tue Jul 25, 2017 8:13 am

RearOfSignal wrote:How soon until there are talks of MNR removing all its third rail?

Of course, because all those Westchester town and village NYMBYs will like catenary poles better!

No matter what the NTSB says, there are only two ways to stop people from doing stupid things at grade crossings: closure of the crossing or grade separation.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby justalurker66 » Tue Jul 25, 2017 8:24 am

RearOfSignal wrote:I find it hard to believe that and unusual third rail design is the reason for the accident as is being reported by news outlets. It might be a contributing factor to the number of casualties, but certainly not the cause. I think that cause is the vehicle being on the tracks when the train went through the crossing, but I'm not a NTSB expert. How soon until there are talks of MNR removing all its third rail?

Poor writing skills and news media seem to be a common pairing. Yes, the cause was the car on the tracks ... but the NTSB focuses on contributing factors and a reporter doesn't see the difference between the cause of the incident and the cause of the fatalities. And they are not far off. If someone is killed while not wearing a seatbelt in an accident where it would make a difference it is fair to blame their deaths on the lack of seatbelt use, not the overall cause of the accident.

So yes, the accident was caused by the vehicle on the tracks in front of the train. But the train should have been able to punt such a relatively small vehicle out of the way without killing the passengers. Blaming the deaths on the third rail design is fair.

As far as removal ... probably not feasible. But burying the ends of third rails near crossings should be done. (Or other changes to prevent what occurred with the rail in Valhalla.)
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby Jeff Smith » Tue Jul 25, 2017 2:37 pm

From the "Unofficial MNR" Facebook group. Not sure what the original source was. https://www.facebook.com/groups/20858103850/

Let's remember a family lost a wife, mother, etc. I sympathize with the family's loss, even if I feel he's in denial.

WASHINGTON – The Scarsdale mother of three who drove her car onto the Metro-North Harlem Line tracks caused the deadliest crash in Metro-North history, in which six died and many more were injured, an investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board has found.

But her husband, who attended the board meeting in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, lashed out at the hearing and pointed the finger for the crash at an antiquated rail crossing system.

“I lost my wife. The same thing, under these conditions, could happen to anyone, so if you’re okay with that possibility happening to you or someone you love, then I guess you were served today,” said Alan Brody, who has since the accident become a fierce critic of the way railroad crossings are designed.

“Apparently, no one there wants to confront the fact that they have an antiquated, failing system and here’s how to fix it,” he added. “They did not address that here today.”

After much debate Tuesday morning, the NTSB approved a probable cause that points blame for the cause of the crash at 49-year-old Ellen Brody. The board said she drove onto the Metro-North Harlem Line tracks crossing Commerce Street in Mount Pleasant for “undetermined reasons,” despite warning signals telling her a train was oncoming.

The board said she was further distracted by a crossing arm hitting the back of her car, which she got out to investigate, decreasing the amount of time she had to get her car off the tracks.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby DutchRailnut » Tue Jul 25, 2017 5:37 pm

If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby Head-end View » Tue Jul 25, 2017 7:56 pm

Despite what NTSB is saying about the under-running third rail, I believe it's superior to over-running rail because it's not affected by ice/snow buildup the way over-running rail on LIRR is. That results in more efficient winter-storm operation. Although the design may have contributed to the severity of this incident I think this was a freak occurrence with no precedent. New York Central RR was still smart to use this type of rail in my opinion.

One interesting point. I heard the woman's husband say on the news that he thought the traffic-signal at the Taconic Pkwy. intersection did not turn green as intended when the crossing signals activated. Doesn't the NTSB report say the signal pre-emption did function properly?
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby truck6018 » Wed Jul 26, 2017 7:11 am

Head-end View wrote:Doesn't the NTSB report say the signal pre-emption did function properly?


It was working as intended. If I recall correctly they recommended changes to the pre-emption part of it. However, the current design meets minimum standards.

Mr. Brody maintains the system is antiquated, and the height of the cross bucks are at the height for someone riding a horse. I say they have to be so high so it can be seen from a distance. Isn't this the reason traffic lights are hung over head? Granted I'm not a civil engineer or have a traffic related degree so what do I know.
Last edited by truck6018 on Wed Jul 26, 2017 7:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Wed Jul 26, 2017 7:15 am

Gray Lady's report:

http://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/nyreg ... -find.html

Fair Use:

...The driver of a sport utility vehicle that was hit by a Metro-North Railroad train caused the accident that killed her and five train passengers when she drove onto the tracks in Westchester County two years ago, the National Transportation Safety Board said on Tuesday.

But the board said it could not answer a key question: why the woman drove forward — into the path of the train after a crossing arm came down on her vehicle — rather than back up.

Still, the severity of the accident was exacerbated by the track itself. The electrified third rail was constructed in such a way that the crash caused it to rip away and tear through train


The Board's site; "not there yet".
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby Rockingham Racer » Wed Jul 26, 2017 7:22 am

A slight diversion here, but I used to drive the Taconic Pkwy, and for the life of me cannot remember any traffic signals on it. You get dumped onto the Sprain Brook Parkway driving southbound, and neither runs next to the Upper Harlem AFAICR. The Bronx River Parkway does have stop signals.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby LastStopValhalla » Wed Jul 26, 2017 7:34 am

Way up north, there are/ were a few in Dutchess and Columbia Counties.

The part of the Taconic at issue in this situation is a 4-lane connector road that runs north from Kensico Dam Plaza where it meets the Bronx River Parkway and Route 22 up through the Hawthorne Interchange where the "main" Taconic starts.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby deathtopumpkins » Wed Jul 26, 2017 8:08 am

No signals in Dutchess or Columbia (though there are numerous at-grade intersections).

Rockingham Racer, Google Maps is your friend :wink: https://goo.gl/maps/i8gZbe7ZuTG2
The Taconic continues south of the Sprain Brook to meet the Bronx River Parkway at Kensico Circle.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby Ridgefielder » Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:38 am

The Taconic was actually built as an extension of the Bronx River. The route through Valhalla was the only way south from when it opened in 1931 until the Sprain Brook was completed to Hawthorne and the junction with the Taconic and the Saw Mill in 1980.

At any rate, on to this unfortunate event: I don't think there is anything wrong with the under-running third rail per se. Certainly nothing bad enough to require the billions of $$ that would be necessary to replace it with catenary north of NWP. Someone way back on this thread suggested that the rail be altered so as to bend back and down at grade crossings, and that's probably the best way to eliminate the possibility of this happening again short of closing all the level crossings on the Harlem Division (which is simply not possible).
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby Head-end View » Wed Jul 26, 2017 8:16 pm

Truck6018, re: Mr. Brody's statements about the physical features, traffic signals etc, I think we can accept that given this tragedy, he is not likely to see any of this from a realistic or objective viewpoint. Probably none of us would in his position. So we should not take his comments too seriously under the circumstances.

And re: traffic signal engineering, if they are not overhead, the bottom of post or pole mounted signal heads must be 10 feet high as per the Federal Highway Administration's Manual. I'm not able to find a standard for the height of the crossbuck, but the Manual requires the bottom of the flashing lights to be between 7 1/2 and 9 1/2 feet high.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby justalurker66 » Sat Jul 29, 2017 12:39 pm

deathtopumpkins wrote:Google Maps is your friend :wink: https://goo.gl/maps/i8gZbe7ZuTG2

Thank you for posting that link to the accident site.

I do not see any problems with the height of the crossbucks, lights or gates.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Postby DutchRailnut » Sat Jul 29, 2017 3:16 pm

neither did FRA and NTSB
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