Quantcast

Amtrak Derailment Philadelphia (5/12/2015)

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

G

g. moore

Guest
Couldn't a passenger on the amtrack that crashed in phily @109 mph have stopped the train if he had a gps unit and knew that paticular sharp corner had a limit of 50 mph and they were going way too fast?
 

neroden

Conductor
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
7,910
Location
Ithaca, NY
It may "appear" he wasn't attentive, but it's possible other factors (medical, mechanical, or whatever) could be involved.
While *possible*, the odds of a plain, accidental mechanical fault are very low. If there's anything which is designed to be redundant and failsafe on trains, it's braking.

Sabotage would of course be possible, since a saboteur can carefully disable multiple safety systems; recall the 1995 Sunset Limited sabotage where the track circuits were carefully kept connected while unspiking the rails.

A medical problem is extremely possible. I believe mainline trains in the US still don't have the "dead man's switch" design (where the driver must continually apply pressure to keep the train moving, so the train stops if the driver loses consciousness) that subway cars have had since a driver had a heart attack back in the 1900s.
 

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
26,135
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
If that segment of track around Frankford Junction and Shore Interlocking wasn't equipped with ACSES, wouldn't the cab still receive a Signal Speed Display (Instead of a Track Speed Display, which is active when ACSES is Cut-In), and thereby trigger a Penalty Brake Application if an Overspeed Condition wasn't corrected? Or am I mixing the systems up?
Yes, it would still receive the coded track circuit cab signal aspect, and that would have been clear, as it typically would get a clear at Shore. So that would be no good for slowing it down at all. Potentially things could be setup so that the highest aspect received from that signal is either Approach Medium (45) or Cab Speed 60 (60) which would cause those signal speeds to be enforced. Similarly anything from North Philadelphia onwards potentially could enforce Cab Speed 80 or Cab Speed 100. But apparently that is not the way things are set up.

This "expert" Michael-something on MSNBC was talking about how the PTC system can be Cut-in and Out by the Engineer when they need to "make up time," which is absolute ludicrous. A malfunction is one thing, but to make up time? Come on...
As usual garbage in garbage out nonsense. If an Engineer cuts out PTC without instructions from the dispatcher (typically happens to work around failure of the PTC equipment) then said Engineer can start looking for a job outside the rail industry. Such safety violations are not treated cavalierly. This may be an unfamiliar concept in the cavalier newsrooms of the media, and thus rather difficult to comprehend. They can carry on bullshitting all day based primarily on lack of knowledge and get promoted for doing so. ;)

But anyway, that is irrelevent, since there was no operative PTC at this location, and there is yet no indication that the cab signaling system was disabled, and as explained above, it would not have helped reduce the speed in this case anyway.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

neroden

Conductor
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
7,910
Location
Ithaca, NY
This is beginning to sound like a gross lack of situational awareness by the engineer. In english, the engineer may have lost track of where he or she was. If he mistook the 2nd Street curve at MP 81 (prior to the accident scene) for the second Frankford Junction curve at MP 84, he may have thought he had cleared the speed-restricted area and was entering the 110mph territory. The two curves are similar in geometry, and it was night. If that happened, he may have accelerated off the MP 81 curve to nearly 110mph only have Frankford Junction appear by surprise three miles later. I can't think of another scenario which would have a train come into Frankford Junction at over 100mph other than the engineer thinking he was in 110mph territory.

Impossible? I would have thought it was impossible for a trained NEC crew to take a train with passengers up the wrong railroad for two miles, and then upon reaching the end of the track, call the dispatcher to say they were lost. It happened.
If I had to bet, this is what I'd bet on as well. All those northern Phildelphia suburbs look alike to me anyway...

...more reason to implement PTC. Although CSX's practice of having the engineer and conductor call every signal and every indicator board verbally might help maintain situational awareness. I've noticed that Amtrak doesn't do that.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

PerRock

Conductor
Joined
Sep 16, 2006
Messages
1,865
Location
Ann Arbor, MI
Engineer's Lawyer's Remarks summarized from AP:

Engineer doesn't remember crash, does have head injuries/concussion.

Claims no drugs or alcohol in system. PD/NTSB will verify.

Engineer was cooperating with authorities. Volunteered Cellphone & Blood Sample to PD. Was in custody for 5-6 hrs before lawyer got there, was cooperating thru-out.

Decision not to interview engineer at this time was by NTSB, not the Engineer or his lawyer.

"He remembers coming into curve. He remembers attempting to reduce speed and thereafter he was knocked out," Goggin said.

Engineer was distraught when he learned of the devastation.

Other News:

The dead included an Associated Press employee, a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, a Wells Fargo executive, a college administrator and the CEO of an educational startup. Almost if not all the names, are now publicly known. AP not reporting them in main story however (aka I have to do more digging to get them).

Mayor Michael Nutter said the engineer was clearly "reckless and irresponsible." "Part of the focus has to be, what was the engineer doing?" "Why are you traveling at that rate of speed?" NTSB is not happy with Nutter's statements, calling them: "subjective" and "judgmental."

16 victims at Temple Hospital are expected to recover.
 

PerRock

Conductor
Joined
Sep 16, 2006
Messages
1,865
Location
Ann Arbor, MI
This is beginning to sound like a gross lack of situational awareness by the engineer. In english, the engineer may have lost track of where he or she was. If he mistook the 2nd Street curve at MP 81 (prior to the accident scene) for the second Frankford Junction curve at MP 84, he may have thought he had cleared the speed-restricted area and was entering the 110mph territory. The two curves are similar in geometry, and it was night. If that happened, he may have accelerated off the MP 81 curve to nearly 110mph only have Frankford Junction appear by surprise three miles later. I can't think of another scenario which would have a train come into Frankford Junction at over 100mph other than the engineer thinking he was in 110mph territory.

Impossible? I would have thought it was impossible for a trained NEC crew to take a train with passengers up the wrong railroad for two miles, and then upon reaching the end of the track, call the dispatcher to say they were lost. It happened.
If I had to bet, this is what I'd bet on as well. All those northern Phildelphia suburbs look alike to me anyway...

...more reason to implement PTC. Although CSX's practice of having the engineer and conductor call every signal and every indicator board verbally might help maintain situational awareness. I've noticed that Amtrak doesn't do that.
IDK about on the NEC, but train crews on the Wolverine call out the signals, speed changes, etc.

peter
 

dlagrua

Conductor
Joined
Nov 24, 2009
Messages
3,152
Location
Hillsborough, NJ
Lots of theories and no conclusive evidence yet except for the 106 MPH speed of the train. With all of the fail safe measures on an Amtrak locomotive (especially a new one like the one in the crash) everything points to human error. What is surprising is that there are two people in an Amtrak locomotive cab and both apparently didn't notice that the train was going unusually fast heading into an area with a known curve? The engineer is not saying anything so the NTSB needs to question the conductor (they probably already have) but with two black box recorders and a video system, they know exactly what happened.
 

Ryan

Conductor
Joined
Apr 14, 2008
Messages
17,032
Location
OTN
Potentially things could be setup so that the highest aspect received from that signal is either Approach Medium (45) or Cab Speed 60 (60) which would cause those signal speeds to be enforced.
This is what was done at Elizabeth after someone blew through there at a high rate of speed, right?
 

Triley

Conductor
Joined
Dec 14, 2008
Messages
1,395
Location
Somewhere between VAC and EUG
Lots of theories and no conclusive evidence yet except for the 106 MPH speed of the train. With all of the fail safe measures on an Amtrak locomotive (especially a new one like the one in the crash) everything points to human error. What is surprising is that there are two people in an Amtrak locomotive cab and both apparently didn't notice that the train was going unusually fast heading into an area with a known curve? The engineer is not saying anything so the NTSB needs to question the conductor (they probably already have) but with two black box recorders and a video system, they know exactly what happened.
There's..only one person in the cab. The engineer. There should never ever be two people in the cab, unless one is a trainee, or someone qualifying on the route.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

neroden

Conductor
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
7,910
Location
Ithaca, NY
This is beginning to sound like a gross lack of situational awareness by the engineer. In english, the engineer may have lost track of where he or she was. If he mistook the 2nd Street curve at MP 81 (prior to the accident scene) for the second Frankford Junction curve at MP 84, he may have thought he had cleared the speed-restricted area and was entering the 110mph territory. The two curves are similar in geometry, and it was night. If that happened, he may have accelerated off the MP 81 curve to nearly 110mph only have Frankford Junction appear by surprise three miles later. I can't think of another scenario which would have a train come into Frankford Junction at over 100mph other than the engineer thinking he was in 110mph territory.

Impossible? I would have thought it was impossible for a trained NEC crew to take a train with passengers up the wrong railroad for two miles, and then upon reaching the end of the track, call the dispatcher to say they were lost. It happened.
If I had to bet, this is what I'd bet on as well. All those northern Phildelphia suburbs look alike to me anyway...

...more reason to implement PTC. Although CSX's practice of having the engineer and conductor call every signal and every indicator board verbally might help maintain situational awareness. I've noticed that Amtrak doesn't do that.
IDK about on the NEC, but train crews on the Wolverine call out the signals, speed changes, etc.

peter
They definitely don't on the Empire Corridor south of Albany. They were very laconic last time I was on the NEC, too. I'm told that in many places train crews only call "less than clear" indications. On CSX, at least in New York, they call every "clear" as well.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Ryan

Conductor
Joined
Apr 14, 2008
Messages
17,032
Location
OTN
Different railroads have different rules on what signals need to be called.
 

cpamtfan

OBS Chief
Joined
Aug 7, 2008
Messages
841
Location
Long Island, NY.
Lots of theories and no conclusive evidence yet except for the 106 MPH speed of the train. With all of the fail safe measures on an Amtrak locomotive (especially a new one like the one in the crash) everything points to human error. What is surprising is that there are two people in an Amtrak locomotive cab and both apparently didn't notice that the train was going unusually fast heading into an area with a known curve? The engineer is not saying anything so the NTSB needs to question the conductor (they probably already have) but with two black box recorders and a video system, they know exactly what happened.
There's..only one person in the cab. The engineer. There should never ever be two people in the cab, unless one is a trainee, or someone qualifying on the route.
Never is not necessarily the right wording. Railroads used to require two people upfront, and if in a curcumstance where the engineer might become unconscious or unable to control the train, there is someone who could more or less have the ability to stop the train.
 
A

Adjuct

Guest
Our local paper is putting at least a part of the blame this way:

Despite pressure from Congress and safety regulators, Amtrak had not installed along that section of track Positive Train Control, a technology that uses GPS, wireless radio and computers to prevent trains from going over the speed limit. Most of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor is equipped with Positive Train Control.
I don't seem to remember Congress telling Amtrak, that Amtrak isn't spending enough money, and offering to give Amtrak all the money it wants/needs to completely upgrade every inch of track throughout the Northeast corridor. Do you? :unsure:
 

afigg

Conductor
Joined
Jun 8, 2009
Messages
5,896
Location
Virginia
The engineer is not saying anything so the NTSB needs to question the conductor (they probably already have) but with two black box recorders and a video system, they know exactly what happened.
The conductor is reportedly hospitalized with a fractured skull. So he may not be in any condition to answer questions for a while.

The emphasis I saw on the cable networks last night (well, those that I could stand to watch) as well as stated in the clip from the NTSB press conference was on the excessive speed entering the curve. What I would be interested in is when did the engineer first exceed the maximum speed after departing 30th Street? After the curve northeast of the North Philadelphia station?
 
H

Hochlightner

Guest
getting oddball reports from news sites....

2 children crushed to death and a female passenger was decapped???

any confirmation on this?

Hochlightner
 

Alex M.

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 27, 2015
Messages
60
This may be a forlorn hope, but I wonder if this disaster provides the impetus for Congress to at least fund the completion of PTC on all the NEC since it is a publically owned asset that is heavily used.
 

niemi24s

Conductor
Joined
Feb 11, 2015
Messages
2,387
. . .if in a curcumstance where the engineer might become unconscious or unable to control the train, there is someone who could more or less have the ability to stop the train.
Please carefully re-read this and edit it to say what you really meant. As it reads now (and i'm fairly literate) you're saying the railroads will put two people in the cab when they think one might pass out? My thinking is if they think one will pass out, why put him/her in the cab to begin with!
 

Ryan

Conductor
Joined
Apr 14, 2008
Messages
17,032
Location
OTN
No, he's saying there used to be two people up front all the time.
 

saxman

Conductor
Gathering Team Member
Joined
May 17, 2004
Messages
2,453
Location
DFW
This whole the engineer was being willfully reckless, I find hard to believe. There's a twist to what happened other than he just simply wanted to go fast. As far as him not speaking to the police. That's standard protocal. Us heavy equipment drivers are pretty much forbidden to speak without representation. I assume his union is providing representation, unless they mean he's also hiring his own private attourney. I'm not sure which, but I'd probably do the same whether I thought I was at fault or not.
 

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
26,135
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
IDK about on the NEC, but train crews on the Wolverine call out the signals, speed changes, etc.

peter
No signals are called out on the NEC, since signal speed enforcement is already in place all over. There is nothing to be gained by calling out signals. It would have made no difference in this accident, since the signal that he passed was in all likelihood Clear since the cab signal system did not enforce any more restrictive aspect. Anyway that will all be pretty clear from the event recorder. We just need to wait for the NTSB's findings.

With all of the fail safe measures on an Amtrak locomotive (especially a new one like the one in the crash)
These new engines have no additional fail safe mechanisms beyond what the AEM-7s and HHP-8s and Acelas have.

What is surprising is that there are two people in an Amtrak locomotive cab
On the NEC there is only one person in the cab (normally)
 
Last edited by a moderator:
G

guest again

Guest
There's no sense blaming the engineer for anything unless facts emerge that prove he had something to do with the speed. While possible (even probable) there are other explanations.
Exactly who in the world else would have ANYTHING at all to do with the speed of the train other than the sole occupant of the cab, the engineer? All this 'don't jump to conclusions' nonsense has surpassed the level of ludicrousness. There was no track speed greater than 80 MPH from PHL to the site of the accident...he'd already stepped in it when he hit 90 (10 over is decertifiable under FRA). To say, 'well, maybe he thought he was further down the line' makes the assumption that he didn't know where he was.
Let's take off the kid gloves and call a spade a spade. This guy stepped in it - big time. I've heard all the other bs as well....'he's a nice guy' is the other excuse people seem to be using. Railroading is not (and never should be) a popularity contest. Do your job safely and and go home, do it again tomorrow....but making excuses for this kind of disaster is pound foolish.
I have a friend who's worked for CSX for years, as a conductor but now in management. He could have been an engineer but didn't want that position because of the likelihood of hitting pedestrians or vehicles that should not be on the tracks. Engineers can lose their jobs if they run over the speed limit even a few miles per hour, and so they make every effort not to do so. They cannot speed to "make up time" and would not choose to do so.

It's been stated by the engineer's lawyer that he's never had any violations in his four years as an engineer. I find it highly unlikely he would have deliberately operated the train at such a huge excessive speed. Therefore, I don't find it unreasonable to acknowledge there could be other mitigating circumstances, either medical, mechanical, or whatever, as I stated in my previous post.

He could have had a temporary lapse of consciousness, or the throttle could have malfunctioned in some way. Or, he could have been confused about his location, which would not, of course, absolve him of responsibility for the accident. Or he could have been a reckless idiot, although I think that's highly unlikely. We need to wait for the facts and evidence and not make assumptions.

I haven't been on the forum in awhile, but I'm crescent2. I've got to find my password so I posted as a guest for now.

His lawyer has also stated that he had cooperated and supplied his cell phone and a blood sample, but cannot presently remember what led up to the crash. Let's wait and see. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt at this time and my heart goes out to him and to everyone else involved, especially those who lost loved ones.
 
Top