• Passengers stranded on MARC train for hours

  • Discussion related to DC area passenger rail services from Northern Virginia to Baltimore, MD. Includes Light Rail and Baltimore Subway.
Discussion related to DC area passenger rail services from Northern Virginia to Baltimore, MD. Includes Light Rail and Baltimore Subway.

Moderators: mtuandrew, therock, Robert Paniagua

  by DutchRailnut
 
Computer controls are now on everything, from refrigerator, lawnmower, garden tractor, car, what makes you think it is not neccesary on locomotives to manage EPA controls, loading, maintenance, fuel control, event recording etc etc etc.
You will never see a non computer locomotive again, their in same realm as steam locomotivews and steam ships.
Todays engineer could not effectivly control wheelslip and power on todays propulsion systems, what worked on a GP7 does not work on a GP50
What worked on a GG-1 would not work on a HHP-8 or ALP46, simply to much power on any single axle.
Computers are a neccesary evil in todays locomotives, what railroads need to do is have better training on the resetting and rebooting of computer for operating personal, and realize that a dispatcher asking every 30 seconds" how are we doing" won't help, as it interupts the thought procces of engineer on getting this thing going again.
  by HokieNav
 
What makes you think that I think that computer controls aren't necessary in a modern locomotive, Dutch? Considering I said no such thing, your entire rant is pointless.
  by DutchRailnut
 
What makes you think I answered you????
  by walt
 
Actually the thrust of my question was not to start a disagreement over the efficacy of computer controls. It was more basic than that. I am beginning to wonder whether all of the modern day "improvements" over the equipment of yesteryear are as beneficial as we are led to believe. It is obviously an improvement if a commuter train can be run at 70 MPH rather than the 50 MPH top speed of the old MP 54's, but if you have to spend 2-1/2 hours on a modern train when it breaks down, then, for that trip, at least, the steadily plodding 54's would be faster, especially if you never have to spend 2-1/2 hours on a disabled train of 54's. With all of the problems that have surfaced regarding this equipment ( and the incident being discussed is not the only problem MARC trains have suffered recently), the thought raises its head that maybe the present equipment is not as reliable as the old equipment, (especially the GG1's and MP 54's) was.
  by DutchRailnut
 
Just like the traveling public would not be satisfied with MP54's anymore , neither would todays engineer be satisfied with a GG-1.
Yes trains are complicated, they are also normally more reliable, but when the manure hits the fan its harder to troubleshoot.
Could these systems be circumvented ??? answer is no, todays cars for example have Air suspensions tied into Brake system for Load weight adjusting of Brakes. Slip/slide ,Door controls Toilet controls,etc etc etc
The old cars had nothing , no protection for wheels, no real air condition they had either heat or cool but not combined for moisture control.
engines like GG-1 were very high in maintenance and operations cost, lots of manpower, not acceptable these days.
  by Jersey_Mike
 
Crew doesn't have anything to do with that situation - the rescue engine was on scene rather quickly, but mechanical problems with the brakes releasing stopped them from dragging the dead train back to WAS.
It took about 40 minutes for the rescue diesel to make it on scene. That's not bad, but it probably could have been out faster if a rescue train was on standby with a dedicated train. Having a rescue crew on hand at all is actually pretty amazing as I have known situations where a crew has to be called up to do rescue a specific train. As a transit planner once said to me after an announcement that MBTA shuttle buses were coming to relieve a Red Line disruption "Where do you think they are going to get these buses and drivers from at this hour? Does the T just have 20 drivers sitting around ready to drive out and bustitute?" We decided to walk the route home and true to his prediction after an hour not a single bus ever turned up.
  by walt
 
DutchRailnut wrote:Just like the traveling public would not be satisfied with MP54's anymore , neither would todays engineer be satisfied with a GG-1.
Yes trains are complicated, they are also normally more reliable, but when the manure hits the fan its harder to troubleshoot.
Could these systems be circumvented ??? answer is no, todays cars for example have Air suspensions tied into Brake system for Load weight adjusting of Brakes. Slip/slide ,Door controls Toilet controls,etc etc etc
The old cars had nothing , no protection for wheels, no real air condition they had either heat or cool but not combined for moisture control.
engines like GG-1 were very high in maintenance and operations cost, lots of manpower, not acceptable these days.
Obviously today's equipment is much more passenger and crew friendly than either the 54's or the GG1's, as a matter of fact, the 54's were disliked by passengers in the 1950's, ( and they were not air conditioned) however they never stranded passengers for 2- 1/2 hours, and logged far many more miles than MARC's present equipment. Of course the fact that they were MU, and were not dependant on one locomotive may help-- and I understand that it is more expensive to maintain and operate MU cars because each is considered to be a locomotive for regulatory purposes still, there is a lot to be said for reliability, and especially the ability to quickly deal with the inevitable mechanical breakdowns ( or not to have them in the first place). 2-1/2/hours sitting still in sealed railroad passenger cars in 90 degree heat is also unacceptable.
  by DutchRailnut
 
again better crew training something lacking at most railroads, they introduce a 4 million $$ locomotive but give engineers the $0.50 tour.
It that same engineer who should be able to tell where problem lays and if its fixable, or needs towing.
here is todays reallity check on the ordeal, (yes I copied entire passenger editorial) just to show there could be another side to story.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co ... 04789.html

A breakdown of decency on MARC Train 538

By Anna Piranian
Millersville
Sunday, July 4, 2010 ???????

Anytime a critical part of our transportation system fails, commuters whose lives have been disrupted look for someone to blame. The June 21 breakdown of MARC Train 538, since dubbed "The Hell Train," is no different, particularly since two people were taken to the hospital. Even so, many of the 900 or so passengers who were stranded for two sweltering hours would do well to engage in some introspection into their own behavior when these incidents arise. I was on Train 538 that day, and what I witnessed was a disgrace.

To explain, after the train broke down south of New Carrollton, the conductors immediately made announcements telling us what they knew. In the two hours that ensued before a rescue train arrived, the mid-90-degree temperatures outside quickly escalated within the train to well over 100, making it feel like a sauna. Vestibule doors were opened to allow circulation, but that provided only minimal relief. Later, windows were removed. From what I saw, the conductors, and an Amtrak officer who was helping them, did everything in their power to deal with an unfortunate situation, and they did so with decorum -- despite being heckled by disgruntled passengers who expected much more of them than was humanly possible.

It was only after passengers were allowed to disembark the train and some fainted that things started to unravel. And with that, the flow of information stopped. But how could it not, given the circumstances? The conductors were busy assisting those in distress, as they should have been, until emergency responders could reach the scene. Absent a megaphone, how would their voices have been heard among the hundreds of passengers scattered throughout the ravine? It was a situation fraught with difficulty.

In all the news accounts of this incident, I have not heard anything describing how this emergency brought out the worst in people. To my horror, I saw people whipping out cellphones to photograph and videotape those experiencing medical crises, rather than attempting to provide aid. To make matters worse, when the rescue train at last arrived, the boarding degenerated into an "every man for himself" ordeal, with men pushing aboard the train and snatching up seats, while women were left to stand in the aisles.

Fifteen minutes after I was fortunate enough to squeeze into an aisle, I noticed a woman with a young child, clearly younger than 2, still standing on the side of the tracks. People gawked through the windows and commented on the woman being stranded, but no one offered up his or her spot. When I tried to exit the packed aisle to give her mine, it became clear that the next person in the frenzied crowd would take my place long before the woman could get anywhere near it.

The image of this woman and small child being left behind, not to mention all the others helplessly stranded, haunted me for the rest of the evening, as did the lack of compassion and basic decency displayed by my fellow passengers. I was reminded of the movie "Titanic." Clearly, for many, "Titanic" was merely a movie that won an Oscar rather than an actual event in history we all would do well to learn from -- women and children do not get left behind, and we need to help one another in times of emergency.

There are other lessons we can learn from this, too. If I were to offer any criticism of the MARC conductors, it would only be to note that someone should have looked out for that mother and child by appealing for a compassionate volunteer to give up his or her seat. And my criticism of MARC and Amtrak would be that a "rescue" train should never be so small that it can't contain the very people it is coming to aid. Clearly, leaving several hundred commuters behind in a ravine on the side of the tracks in mid-90-degree heat is not an acceptable solution to the problem.
  by HokieNav
 
DutchRailnut wrote:What makes you think I answered you????
Since I'm the only person that mentioned computer controls, who were you responding to?

On the other hand, the link that you posted was spot on. Many of my fellow commuters seem to be a little dense in the head. At the rider's advisory council meeting last week, one of the long term council members stated that while yes, MARC should have water on hand to pass out to people that need it, knowing that somethings things go wrong, he never leaves the office for a trip home without a filled water bottle in case it's needed (the Eagle Scout in me agrees completely). Immediately after saying that, two of the newcomers jumped all over him, saying that things like that were MARCs responsibility, not theirs, and they shouldn't have to carry a water bottle around with them when it's 100 degrees outside. Completely ridiculous - the lack of personal responsibility and common decency to help out others that some folks have is quite frankly disgusting.
  by BuddSilverliner269
 
Dutch, I can partially agree with you. I dont think that a 50 cent tour was to blame. On the contrary, I think Amtrak trains there engineers very well on correcting issues. The training wasnt so much while down at school, but during the OJT process. The problem is that with anything new,it is overbuilt with computer technology, and the computers really takes away the engineers ability to run the train the way they want to, and if something bad happens,it makes it really hard to correct it. I claim ignorance on the amount of technology that Metro North employs, but on Amtrak the acela's and HHP are pretty sophisticated, but the HHP's are really an EXTREMLY tempermental piece of machinerery. As I have mentioned in an earlier post on this thread or a similar thread,I can almost guarantee that this incident happened on account of low catenary voltage. The problem is that in DC, the substation doesnt work and I believe the next active substation is in New Carrolton and during rush hour, you will see on the screens in the "motors" that catenary voltage is dropping, usually around to 10 Kv, but if it drops down to *kv, the main circuit breaker will open and the engine will just lay down on the side of the road,die, and the only way that the engine can be brought back to life is by laptop ,and usually in the shops. This has happened to me once in DC already. Newer engine problems cant be easily corrected. Sometimes the onboard systems can correct it, but most times it cant. The AEM7 DC units, you can correct many problems, but on the AC units, the computer does everything although the AC units arent that tempermental.The Acela's arent that bad for the most part and generally is something does happen to 1 power car, you still have the other power car. When I was at Septa, if you developed a problem with the MU cars, you knew where to look , how to correct it, and many times you were on the way . Thats 60's-70's technology and it worked but nothing is made that way anymore.I love what modern technology can do for this industry, but it does come with its fair share of problems. Dutch, thanks for posting that article because it does show that in many ways, the passengers made things alot worst.
  by electricron
 
Finally, at the 70th post of this thread, we start receiving some reasons why this incident occurred. It wasn't necessarily 90 degree heat after all, but possibly low catenary voltage. When will Amtrak repair or replace the D.C. substation? Why hasn't Amtrak repaired or replaced the D.C. substation?
Something Amtrak can do something about, we all know humans will never be able to control Mother Nature and the weather. And please don't even suggest Amtrak doesn't have the money to repair of replace vital pieces of equipment needed to make trains run properly. All Amtrak has to do is tell Congress and that money will arrive.
MARC and Amtrak bought HHP-8s less than 10 years ago, they are not antiquated pieces of equipment. As a bystander, it appears to me they bought Porsches that run on premium gas instead of Volkswagens that run on regular gas, and are feeding them regular. Has anyone thought they just might run better on premium? Amtrak really needs to do something to keep D.C. catenary voltages higher, whatever it is....

Earlier I read that the conductors and engineers are experiencing the heat too. True, but Amtrak personnel are receiving $20 to $30 per hour to work in that heat when necessary; the MARC passengers had paid fare$ to be in an air-condition vehicle with expectations that their train will get them safely to where they were going on time.
Last edited by electricron on Sat Jul 03, 2010 9:45 am, edited 4 times in total.
  by DutchRailnut
 
Budd your post seem to express what ive been saying, yes you had training, yet I still sense frustration with the electronics, and those electronics won't go away.
Despite you having seen Technicians with laptops , there has to be a way to reboot the onboard computers without outside source or there is something wrong.
We did have same at MNCR, MofE refusing to give codes for computers, that could easely get a train with 1000 passengers going, it took 14 years but we finaly did spread the codes so our engineers know how to get out of any fault.
It should be Engineer that has the say , is it fixable or is it towable, not a Dispatcher, or so called operations manager with absolutly no operating experience.
  by HokieNav
 
BuddSilverliner269 wrote:As I have mentioned in an earlier post on this thread or a similar thread,I can almost guarantee that this incident happened on account of low catenary voltage.
We were told at the meeting that the likely cause was the pantograph losing contact with the catenary - apparently this will cause the same thing to happen (it was said that it's a common occurrence in this spot that's bitten Amtrak trains as well).

Low voltage or poor cat/track geometry that causes a loss of contact, either way it looks like there's something that Amtrak can do to solve the problem.

Edit to add - it's also possible that the a drop in the input voltage to the converters could cause the catenary voltage to drop off as well, right? My old man works for Pepco in their control center, in addition to other responsibilities, they maintain the system at the proper voltage and frequency. As the load goes up (as they do when it gets hot out), the systemwide voltage sags, and they bring more generation on line or switch in capacitor banks to correct. In the hot weather the loads get so great that it isn't always possible to keep things on target (to the point where they have to shed load to keep the whole system from crashing down). Could be another contributing cause that has nothing to do with Amtrak.
  by BuddSilverliner269
 
Dutch, I apologize as I write that post after getting done work and I never finished it. What I meant to say was maybe the engineer could've been inexperienced in that situation. All the training doesn't mean anything if you never experienced or know what to do. Electricron, I am only speculating what the cause of the problem for train 538 was. I don't know for a fact if it indeed was low cat voltage but as I mentioned, with an HHP and Acela, if catenary voltage drops below 8 kv, the main circuit breaker will open, pantagraph will drop and can only be reset with laptops and usually in the shop. Ron, you say the crew is getting paid so its on for them to suffer? Nonsense. They are getting paid to do a job, not for suffering in the heat, like the passengers pay to ride the train and not for suffering. You say they have a job to do, but get mad that they were sweating there nuts off trying to correct the situation instead of caring for 900 passengers. The crew was ordered to open all side doors. The crew is not allowed to do that on there on. They bosses also have to order the crews to discharge the passengers in this situation as the crew isn't allowed to take it upon themselves to do it. As I mentioned in an earlier post, train to train transfers or discharging passengers onto the ROW isn't always the best solution because of the terrain and let's be honest, the passengers are dressed for that situation, wearing dress clothes and nice shoes, and not heavy duty clothing and boots. Ron, you can say what you want, but unless you have worked on the railroad or experienced it, you cant really comment, although sitting here posturing saying what should've been done is easy to do. The crews did what they were trained to do. If flaws were found in the way this situation was handled, its because that's the way we were trained and its up to management to come up with a different way and then need to retrain everyone. This was clearly an unfortunate situation, and upper management heads will probably roll but I don't blame the train crew for trying to correct a situation instead of trying to tend to 900 miserable crying passengers.
  by strench707
 
It seems unless something goes perfectly everyone will try to figure out how to do it better. In reality no operation is perfect and the people who carry out the work aren't the same people who thought up how to do the work. Amtrak is doing a fine job managing the entire country's passenger rail network and there are bound to be flaws like this incident. Flaws get fixed, people move on. What happened, happened, and whats done is done.

Davis
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