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...

Moderator: lensovet

  by WSH
Looks like they are going to release the content of the text messages today, among other things:
Feds to hold hearing on deadly L.A. train crash

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Dozens of text messages sent and received by an engineer on a commuter train could provide more insight into the cause of a crash that killed 25 people and injured at least 130 others last September in the San Fernando Valley.

On Tuesday, federal investigators plan to release a transcript of the messages, other documents and interviews with witnesses conducted during their ongoing investigation into the nation's deadliest rail crash in 15 years.

The disclosures coincide with the start of a two-day hearing on the crash by the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, D.C.

Federal investigators determined that Metrolink engineer Robert Sanchez sent and received 57 text messages while on duty that day, including one that he sent 22 seconds before his train slammed head-on into a Union Pacific freight train.

The preliminary investigation also showed the commuter train failed to stop at a red light just before the crash and ended up on the same shared track as the oncoming freight train. Sanchez was among the dead.

Survivors, family members of victims and their lawyers said they'll monitor the hearing closely in hopes of learning key details of the crash.

``It's not going to change anything for me. To know what happened might give us some peace, I guess,'' said Jeff Buckley of Simi Valley, whose father Alan was killed in the collision.

The Metrolink train was carrying 220 passengers when the collision occurred on a horseshoe-shaped section of track.

The NTSB panel conducting the hearing will focus on cell phone use by train crew members; the operation of trackside signals designed to prevent collisions; and oversight and compliance with safety procedures during the Sept. 12 crash in Chatsworth.

Robert Heldenbrand, the conductor of the Metrolink train, contends the signal light was actually green as the train left the station about a mile from the crash site.

Heldenbrand also told investigators he had warned a supervisor months before the deadly crash about Sanchez's on-duty cell phone use. He said he followed up with the same supervisor two days before the collision and was assured his concern would be addressed.

His contention is the basis of dozens of negligence lawsuits that allege Connex Railroad LLC, the contractor that provides engineers who run Metrolink trains, knew about the cell phone use but did nothing about it.

Connex is a subsidiary of Veolia Transportation Inc., a private operator of bus, rail, shuttle and other transportation services throughout North America.

``How far up the Veolia/Connex chain had the complaints gone before the accident? We hope to find out about that, and a number of other things,'' said attorney Ed Pfiester, who represents 24 people suing the companies.

Connex and Metrolink said they have strict cell phone policies prohibiting use of cell phones by on-duty employees.

The crash prompted a federal ban on cell phone use by rail workers and led Congress to pass a new law requiring so-called ``positive train control'' technology that can stop a train if it's headed for a collision.

Metrolink also pushed for a number of safety measures, including a video camera system to monitor locomotive crews.
http://channels.isp.netscape.com/news/s ... tm&sc=1110
  by WSH
Kind of an odd twist that the conductor is testifying that the light was green, but also that he had made more than on complaint about the engineer's on duty cell phone use.
  by Spokker
So just how often do you guys get to ride in locomotive cabs? I mean, we've just been demonstrated to how easy it is for it to happen. The guy just let the kids ride along and even control the train. So how often does it happen? I mean, it must be really cool to find an engineer who will allow you to ride along and endanger hundreds of lives.
  by WSH
I've heard of it happening all the time here in WV. Passenger only though not freight trains. There used to be a kid (13-15yr old?) who used to brag that he'd drove the Amtrak Cardinal the whole way through the New River Gorge and was backed up by railroad workers! I don't think it is the norm at all though. I do know from reading Classic Trains magazine that giving railfans cab rides was always frowned upon by the railroad but at the same time was not an uncommon event.

I can't get this video to play by the way, does anyone have a link to a transcript?
  by WSH
I found this article today:
Messages detail friendship between engineer, teen
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
By DAISY NGUYEN, Associated Press Writer

Print ShareThisLOS ANGELES — Commuter train engineer Robert Sanchez and his young rail fan became fast friends with their constant chatter in text messages about their shared love of trains.

Sanchez exchanged dozens of messages with the teenage boy while driving his locomotive and even made plans to let him take the controls.

"I'm REALLY looking forward to getting you in the cab and showing you how to run a locomotive," Sanchez wrote about the plan.

But it never happened. While they texted about the final details, the Metrolink commuter train ran a red light and collided head-on with a freight train, killing 25 people and injuring at least 130 others. Sanchez died in the collision.

A transcript of the text messages released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board detailed the close relationship between the two, with Sanchez acting as a mentor to the unidentified boy.

The messages revealed that Sanchez had allowed him and a friend to ride in the cab and sit at the controls four days before the crash.

"Touching the controls ... i was frothing at the mouth," the teen wrote in one text message.

They also showed that Sanchez intended to let the teen drive the train between four stations on Sept. 12, the day of the crash, even though unauthorized ride-alongs are considered a serious violation of safety regulations.

"I'm gonna do all the radio talkin' ... ur gonna run the locomotive & I'm gonna tell u how to do it," Sanchez wrote.

Sanchez sent and received 43 text messages while on duty that day, including one to the teenager about an apparent meeting place that he sent 22 seconds before the collision

The teenager told NTSB investigators that he met Sanchez last May through a group of train enthusiasts. He said he and Sanchez communicated by phone and text messages once or twice a week, mostly about train operations.

But the transcripts told a different story, showing the two stayed in close touch, calling each other and exchanging dozens of profanity-laced texts the week before the crash.

They provided frequent updates on their activities from morning to night, made jokes, gossiped about other rail fans and shared their excitement as they arranged for the boy to operate the train.

"I feel like your a cool uncle or something," the teen wrote in one message.

Sanchez appeared to relish his role as a mentor. Between discussing a work-related matter with a colleague, dealing with a flat tire and running errands, Sanchez made time to encourage the teen to pursue a career in train engineering, the text messages show.

Sanchez also opened up to him about the downsides of his profession. The engineer worked a 10 1/2-hour split shift requiring him to start at 6 a.m., take a 4 1/2-hour break in the middle of the day, and end the work day at 9 p.m.

One text indicated he was having trouble sleeping.

"i had the worst night of sleep since the fatality. tossed & turned all night," Sanchez wrote to the boy.

Sanchez's family told investigators the engineer had been upset because someone committed suicide by jumping in front of his train.

His brother, John Sanchez, declined to comment Tuesday on the latest revelations.
http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2009Mar04/ ... ts,00.html
  by Tommy Meehan
Do we need two almost identical new threads on this?
  by orangeline
There were recent incidents on the Chicago Metra system where engineers allowed civilians to ride in the cab and run the trains. You can find the story and comments on the Metra board: http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopi ... 01#p593972
  by WSH
Tommy Meehan wrote:Do we need two almost identical new threads on this?
I posted the original thread, someone else started this one with video link.

Maybe an admin. will merge them.
  by BR&P
The Metrolink engineer was letting boys run his engine and the UP conductor tested positive for wacky weed. This will re-fan the fires of public opinion and government regulation for sure!
  by WSH
It has also been shown that the UP engineer sent and received several texts on the day of the crash.
  by DutchRailnut
Not the UP engineer, it was UP conductor that was texting.
  by DutchRailnut
Metrolink just fired two supervisors of Conex due to lack of supervising, these two just were at NTSB hearings for testimony.
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2 ... offic.html
  by Spokker
I've sent Metrolink a comment asking them to require that all persons waiting on platforms have a ticket in an effort to curtail the efforts of juvenile railfans, and actually enforce this. There are a lot of great railfans out there who have the utmost respect for the railroad, but I'm a commuter first and a train enthusiast second. My loyalty lies with all the people who wake up every morning to board those Metrolink trains and I'm sick and tired of this railfan nonsense. It's a business, not a toy train set.
  by Erie-Lackawanna
Out goes the baby with the bath water.

What you are advocating is like banning the use of cell phones because people can't drive and use their phone at the same time. In fact, in many states the law already bans use of cell phones while driving, but the law isn't enforced. But under your way of dealing with these things, the entire cell phone system would be shut down and there would be no more cell phones, just because the police fail to enforce the existing law, which is tailored to the specific hazard.

What they need to do is enforce the existing operating rules, which prohibit unauthorized people in the operating cab and prohibit crew members from engaging in conversations and activities that distract them from their jobs. Period.

The railfans in this story, while exercising poor judgment (as teenagers are wont to do), did not violate a stop signal and kill 25 people. The engineer that was violating the operating rules did.