Discussion related to commuter rail and transit operators in California past and present including Los Angeles Metrolink and Metro Subway and Light Rail, San Diego Coaster, Sprinter and MTS Trolley, Altamont Commuter Express (Stockton), Caltrain and MUNI (San Francisco), Sacramento RTD Light Rail, and others...

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  by 3rdrail
 
Dutch - As you know I'm a buff and not in the business - but man 'o man, if that doesn't strike home as the absolute truth (because I see it other places where I am in the business). That's a modern day plague that is slowly crippling us, and really is probably at the heart of this issue and others. Well said !
  by icgsteve
 
DutchRailnut wrote:You touched on it, if you were to say that railroads are no longer railroads, todays operations are managed by business people, not railroaders.
They seem to think they can run trains with unskilled workers, right off the street, they seem to think that repairs come automaticly without spares in the storeroom.
why buy a 5 million dollar locomotive but give a $0.25 tour on it to get someone qualified, why teach airbrake rules when some nincompoop manager will overrule the rules.
On time performance is about 20% over safety in importance.
Dutch, it all boils down to a degradation of the culture at the railroads. For a long time the culture of safety first was ingrained in the culture of all railroad men, management as well as the crafts. We have lost most of the culture and the concern for safety went away just like everything else did. Today you still have individuals out on the road who believe themselves to be railroad men, who feel the connection to those who have worked the rails before them. Tomorrow there will be fewer. The day after even less.
  by 3rdrail
 
Mike Doughney wrote:Meanwhile, 3 witnesses - a security guard and two adult railfans at the Chatsworth station - insist that Sanchez had a green signal when leaving the station.

http://www.latimes.com/news/printeditio ... full.story
You would have a highly unusual event considering the number of persons who have been interviewed, if a few did not legitimately believe that they saw something which contradicted other witnesses. This is a common occurance.
  by icgsteve
 
Mike Doughney wrote:Meanwhile, 3 witnesses - a security guard and two adult railfans at the Chatsworth station - insist that Sanchez had a green signal when leaving the station.

http://www.latimes.com/news/printeditio ... full.story
as the article alludes to, eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable. The NTSB has heard their accounts, tested the signal system, and concluded that the signal was red, and that the one before was solid yellow. Physical evaluation always trumps witness memory of events, human memory is no where near as reliable as it is generally believed to be.
  by 3rdrail
 
Also, if I'm not mistaken, aren't there other indicators of non-conformance to the three signals and conditions, ie.
- not calling out
- speed not consistant with blinking and steady yellows
- no brake application whatsoever from Sanchez even up until the point of collision?
  by icgsteve
 
3rdrail wrote:Also, if I'm not mistaken, aren't there other indicators of non-conformance to the three signals and conditions, ie.
- not calling out
- speed not consistant with blinking and steady yellows
- no brake application whatsoever from Sanchez even up until the point of collision?
and considering that this was a regular meet, where was the radio traffic to the dispatcher asking what was up with the opposing traffic that day? If he had a green he would be asking the question, not texting.
  by Ken V
 
3rdrail wrote:
Mike Doughney wrote:Meanwhile, 3 witnesses - a security guard and two adult railfans at the Chatsworth station - insist that Sanchez had a green signal when leaving the station.

http://www.latimes.com/news/printeditio ... full.story
You would have a highly unusual event considering the number of persons who have been interviewed, if a few did not legitimately believe that they saw something which contradicted other witnesses. This is a common occurance.
True, but there are witnesses, and there are credible (or reliable) witnesses. Maybe it's a bias on my part, but I would tend to believe these people over the average "Joe" passenger. I have to admit I know nothing about the signals in the area of this incident, the meanings of various aspects, or the operating rules on this line, but consider this scenario:
An engineer of a commuter train coming up on a station stop sees a flashing yellow (advanced approach), and a yellow (approach) knowing he'll have to stop before the third signal. I would think he would operate as usual up to the station. Then, while at the station, the next signal turns green (clear) or was already green. If he didn't know what other traffic was on the line, which is apparently not all that unusual in CTC territory, could he have assumed he was following another train which had cleared the line up ahead? It seems plausible to me.

Also (if I remember the photos from earlier), the signal in question was two headed and would have shown green over red if it was a clear indication so, if you asked the average person if they saw a red light, I think they'd say yes.

The one thing that really makes me believe that these three witnesses are worth listening to is this:
On the day of the crash, he said, he was at the station when the Metrolink train pulled in, and after chatting with Sanchez about the Dodgers, he watched the train pull out. Because he'd been expecting to see a freight train coming from the north, he said, he looked up the tracks at the signal and saw that it was green.
"It's a habit," he said as he sat on a station bench this week. "We're always curious about the freight train that comes through here." Atkinson said he turned to Cassel and remarked, "I see a green light already. I guess he'll [Sanchez] get through the tunnel first," a reference to the single track passing through the mountains.
I'm not saying that there was a signal malfunction. I'm just saying we shouldn't dismiss the possibility out of hand.
  by jb9152
 
DutchRailnut wrote:You touched on it, if you were to say that railroads are no longer railroads, todays operations are managed by business people, not railroaders.
They seem to think they can run trains with unskilled workers, right off the street, they seem to think that repairs come automaticly without spares in the storeroom.
why buy a 5 million dollar locomotive but give a $0.25 tour on it to get someone qualified, why teach airbrake rules when some nincompoop manager will overrule the rules.
On time performance is about 20% over safety in importance.
Let me ask a few questions here as devil's advocate. Was Mr. Sanchez "right off the street", or had he been an engineer for some time previous to the accident? Were there rules in place, including ABTH rules, that were "overridden" by any "nincompoop manager", that had any connection whatsoever to this incident?

Sorry, Dutch, but this appeal to "old time railroading" just rings really hollow for me. I've been in this business most of my life, and if anything, the accidents that happened in "the good old days" were at least as horrific, if not more so, than those that happen today, and they were more frequent. Your thinly-veiled attack on "management" here is a straw man. There was at least one clear rule violation here, and that was that the engineer was texting while operating his train. That rule, to the best of my knowledge, has never been modified, changed, or overridden.
  by DutchRailnut
 
Your correct Mr Sanchez was engineer for over 10 years, and not a newbee, As for Metrolink not enforcing the rules, including phones and electronic devises I stand by my statement.
Safety is a joke on railroads, and I stand by my statement .
These days its a norm to be ordered out of town or to continou without restrictions with locomotives not fit for service, by operations manager with less than a year on railroad.
3 inch flatspot , no restrictions.
Cab signal fault, not in his eyes.
The stories about dispatchers telling crews to call or even engineers to call continou even after Metrolink's crash.
  by concordgirl
 
Ken V wrote:I'm not saying that there was a signal malfunction. I'm just saying we shouldn't dismiss the possibility out of hand.
I agree it's a definite possibility that has to be explored (it sounds like they have tested the signals already, tho). But speaking as someone who has spent the last year of my life editing boring Psych textbooks (gag :P), the human brain can easily be tricked into a false memory, or into seeing what it expects to see. There's all kinds of research on this, and there are classic tests people can try on themselves. For example, psychologists ask people a series of questions about words they rhyme with "yolk", so the people being studied have to say the words "folk, spoke, joke, poke, smoke", etc. Then they subjects are asked what the word is for the white of an egg, and the majority of them answer "yolk". (They are supposed to say "albumen", but it doesn't fit the rhyming pattern their brain has grown accustomed to.)

My point is that even the railfans could possibly remember a green signal that wasn't there, if they had often seen a green signal before at that time of day.

It brings up an interesting point, though. Does anyone know how often signal malfunctions have been the cause of a major crash?
  by DutchRailnut
 
very few, like about 1 to 2% of all crashes.
If signals are out of ordinairy usually a crew will report it long before something happens.
  by Tommy Meehan
 
If someone was on the platform at Chatsworth, actively watching the signals in anticipation of seeng and/or photgraphing the UP freight and remembers thinking, 'Oh they're gonna hold the freight further north' as they saw the signal clear,' that does give me pause. (If that actually happened, then poor Mr. Sanchez must've died knowing, 'Ain't nobody gonna ever believe this sh*t!')

I wonder if those signals have data recorders in them? That can be downloaded? Some do.

Finally, forgive me for saying this I mean no disrespect, but when Mr. Dutch writes 'safety on the railroads is a joke,' I find that somewhat irresponsible. Can you imagine his reaction if a fan wrote something like that??

Dutch you might wanna amend that statement. I'm sure you're frustrated at times by supervision's attitude, but are conditions really that bad?

If they are, don't answer the question please, I ride regularly and prefer not knowing! :-)
  by DutchRailnut
 
First off yes all CP points have blackboxes in them, they record input (dispatcher) and output, actual signal relay performance and indications.
Plus the Dispatchers actions are recorded , in Data, in voice, and telephone at dispatchers desk.
All were compared by NTSB second day after crash, no improprieties found.
In addition to this cables and signals were inspected for water intrusion, shorts , grounds, bad wiring , etc plus the signal was checked for several days during re-enactment for backlight, sun interference, etc
again no problems found.

As for my statement on todays railroads, no I will not recant it cause its true. todays supervision, has more time on their Lego train than actual time in seat.
If you got a problem with that , go ahead do something about it.

if you only want the sunny side of railroading , step away from forums, stick with Trains magazine or Railpace.
  by icgsteve
 
John Sanchez also said his brother may have been particularly shaken by a July suicide of a person who stepped in front of a train he was driving because he was still recovering from the suicide of his partner, Daniel Charles Burton, who hanged himself in the garage of their home in 2003.
http://www.sacbee.com/114/story/1278524.html

this guy was having personal problems, and the expectected consequence would be that he was not "all there" on the job. At times like those we rely our co-workers to make sure that we don't slip up. But Sanchez was all alone in the cab, and he was by all accounts an extreme loner. The only thing that could have saved him was his love of being a RR man, his dedication to the RR Man's ethic. But we are talking about Metrolink here, a start up commuter service with no history to support it, where everything is contracted out. And this is where Dutch's comment about nor being a RR makes sense. SAnchez worked for UP 96-98, but that was a long time ago. Metrolink did not have the old time RR culture strong enough to keep Sanchez's eye's on the signals and off of the text screen.
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