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Amtrak Train 91-CSX collision in SC (2/4/18)/Liability issues

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MARC Rider

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This is happening far too frequently, and only gives ammunition to those who want to defund amtrak.
Perhaps they are correct! If we as a society are not willing to fund the RRs sufficiently (and I certainly include CSX et al. in this) at the bare minimum for safety maybe it really is time to let US passenger rail go. There is such a tremendous backlog of deferred maintenance to make it work: just think tunnels bridges and catenary on the NEC - hundreds of billions of $$.
While it may seem unsafe to take the train considering all the bad press lately, even during this time period the odds of being killed in an Amtrak crash are still extremely low. According the my calculations, if the time period was limited to December 18th-February 4th the odds of a passenger being killed in an Amtrak wreck are about 1 in 1,389,583 (Annual ridership divided by (365/number of days in time period) divided by number of passenger deaths). News reports tend to focus much more on train wrecks than car wrecks, as one train accident tends to injure more people than a car wreck. However, trains are still a much safer mode of transportation than cars.
These few incidents in the past couple of months will not deter me from taking Amtrak in April. I will be taking the Crescent from Baltimore to NOLA and then the Sunset Limited on to Houston!
Not only will I be riding Amtrak in the coming week, I will be riding on Northeast Regional 188. At least twice.
 

Lonestar648

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Amtrak really needs some major figures to speak out supporting Amtrak. The general public, including our elected officials, have no clue about railroading, with many thinking trains could stop on a dime and control everything from the cab.

Our prayers here for all those involved, their families, and the first responders.
 

Bierboy

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Ok, I was watching The Pheonix Open and saw an advertisement for CBS Evening News. Third Amtrak crash in two months. The tone of the announcer wanted to make me jump through the television and strangle her.
As I said earlier, that really grinds my gears...
 

RampWidget

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”This was shared on another site, and no telling who the journalists source is so Im a bit hesitant to share it here.”
@chrsjrcj

That’s from the Jacksonville Business Journal. They’re generally a reliable source, in my experience.

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daybeers

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Someone posted on the Railroad.net forum topic for this. The quote is below. What are your thoughts?

This could be a problem for the Amfleets, if the cafe car snapping is found to be due (or exacerbated) to a structural defect or fatigue.
 
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RampWidget

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brianpmcdonnell17

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So all those screaming about PTC should know that under signal suspension there would have been no PTC active either.
That would depend on the system and if they suspended PTC. ACSES will still work during a cab signal suspension and a wayside signal suspension. It is even programmed to protect improperly lined facing point switches when operating against the current of traffic. You'd have to actually suspend ACSES rules.

Dark territory? Signal suspension? What does that stuff mean? Please excuse my ignorance
Making an extremely long and detailed story short, territory that operates without some sort of signals (cab signals, wayside signals) is typically referred to as "dark territory." Typically, these tracks will need some sort of movement authority or permission for trains to operate on the track.

In signaled territory, movements are typically governed by signals (wayside, cab signals.) Permission is granted by signal indication.

When they take the signals out of service, it is called a signal suspension and movements revert back to movement authorities.

Amtrak has posted an alert on their website: https://www.amtrak.com/alert/amtrak-train-91-derailment.html

Due to this incident and the resulting temporary track closure, Trains 91 & 92, the Amtrak Silver Star will detour between Hamlet, N.C., and Savannah,Ga., until further notice. Passengers will be provided alternate transportation to missed stops, as available.
There are a couple of potential detours available. I guess they'll pick whichever detour CSX can support and the route that will likely lose the least amount of time.
How long is it likely the detour will be necessary? Looking at the track routes and switch setups at the junctions, the most likely routing looks like the SM route to Dillon and a CSX freight route from there to Hamlet unless there is some issue with that route I am not seeing. There is also a more eastern route from Charleston to Dillon but it looks longer and Amtrak does not presently use it. In addition, there is a route from Pembroke to Hamlet but there does not appear to be a switch to make such a route possible without a backup move. However, the map now shows 92 continuing on the current route north out of Savannah. There is a route going West out of Fairfax which could route the train to Hamlet via Upstate South Carolina, but it appears longer than the eastern routes. In addition, it looks as though if they chose to use this way there is a line that could allow the train to merge into the current one at Columbia.
In addition, where is the equipment for 92 (05) coming from?
 

jis

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Someone posted on the Railroad.net forum topic for this. The quote is below. What are your thoughts?

This could be a problem for the Amfleets, if the cafe car snapping is found to be due (or exacerbated) to a structural defect or fatigue.
What would be the problem? No one is going to withdraw an equipment from service because it had a problem holding structural integrity in a 55mph+ crash. All I see as a problem is some folks inflated idea of the indestructibility of cars built to the vaunted FRA standards. The expectations are unrealistic and the sooner the bubble is burst the better.
 
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neroden

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So, at this point it looks like the signal "maintainers" at Crash Smash eXplode released the line to the dispatcher with the switch lined incorrectly. (The only other possibility is that they notified the dispatcher of the state of the switch and the dispatcher misdirected the train anyway, but they aren't generally supposed to leave it locked heading for an industry track anyway.)

Crashes caused by signal maintainer error are pretty rare, let alone an error this severe, and this shows a deficient safety culture at CSX (something I think most people in the railroad business already knew).
Not sure it was the signal maintainers. The operators of the freight train had the track warrant, which they released apparently before realigning the switch to the main as they were supposed to.

In some sense this has a bit of similarity it seems with the 89 incident near Philly caused by inappropriate release of track.
Oh my.

So perhaps the freight train conductor/engineer released the track warrant without resetting the switch? Geez.

That particular rule (when you've pulled a train into an industrial siding, reset the switches to the mainline through route) has been in the rulebook of every railroad since before railroad signalling -- it dates from the dawn of railroading. It was used in timetable + train order operation; it was used in train staff operation; I don't think there's a railroad which has ever not had that rule.

I find it astounding that that could have happened at all. The person who released the track warrant is going to be prosecuted, I assume. And there's something deeply wrong with CSX's training.

It's not 100% clear whether it was the freight operating crew, the signal maintainers, or the dispatcher who caused this crash, but all of them work for CSX. It's very clear that this is CSX's fault, entirely.

I wonder whether the stock market will notice.
 
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RampWidget

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So all those screaming about PTC should know that under signal suspension there would have been no PTC active either.
That would depend on the system and if they suspended PTC. ACSES will still work during a cab signal suspension and a wayside signal suspension. It is even programmed to protect improperly lined facing point switches when operating against the current of traffic. You'd have to actually suspend ACSES rules.

Dark territory? Signal suspension? What does that stuff mean? Please excuse my ignorance
Making an extremely long and detailed story short, territory that operates without some sort of signals (cab signals, wayside signals) is typically referred to as "dark territory." Typically, these tracks will need some sort of movement authority or permission for trains to operate on the track.

In signaled territory, movements are typically governed by signals (wayside, cab signals.) Permission is granted by signal indication.

When they take the signals out of service, it is called a signal suspension and movements revert back to movement authorities.

Amtrak has posted an alert on their website: https://www.amtrak.com/alert/amtrak-train-91-derailment.html

Due to this incident and the resulting temporary track closure, Trains 91 & 92, the Amtrak Silver Star will detour between Hamlet, N.C., and Savannah,Ga., until further notice. Passengers will be provided alternate transportation to missed stops, as available.
There are a couple of potential detours available. I guess they'll pick whichever detour CSX can support and the route that will likely lose the least amount of time.
How long is it likely the detour will be necessary? Looking at the track routes and switch setups at the junctions, the most likely routing looks like the SM route to Dillon and a CSX freight route from there to Hamlet unless there is some issue with that route I am not seeing. There is also a more eastern route from Charleston to Dillon but it looks longer and Amtrak does not presently use it. In addition, there is a route from Pembroke to Hamlet but there does not appear to be a switch to make such a route possible without a backup move. However, the map now shows 92 continuing on the current route north out of Savannah. There is a route going West out of Fairfax which could route the train to Hamlet via Upstate South Carolina, but it appears longer than the eastern routes. In addition, it looks as though if they chose to use this way there is a line that could allow the train to merge into the current one at Columbia.
In addition, where is the equipment for 92 (05) coming from?
Past reroute practice in my experience has been Hamlet-Dillon-Florence-Savannah.

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Seaboard92

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We lost two damn good railroaders today. I honestly have no words to describe what I saw and smelled today at the accident site. It's something that I pray none of you ever have to see in your life. And one I never want to see again for as long as I live.

Mike Cella was always a joy to see when I was working a PV south or deadheading home from a run. I remember sitting with him talking shop about how our days were going. I remember the last time I saw them when I brought them fresh baked brownies just to make their day. Words don't describe what I want to say.

And if I see anyone lamenting about the loss of a P42DC, a Amfleet II cafe, or the freight engine I swear to god I will go off on you. It's steel with no personality while we now have a widow, and children without their husband or father. So please think about that before you post about the loss of rolling stock. We can replace rolling stock, but we can't replace my friends.

And for anyone who wants to see the photo here are some.

ImageUploadedByAmtrak Forum1517795388.066937.jpg

In this photo you can see the trucks (wheel assembly) or Amtrak 47 directly in front of the freight locomotive. You can also see the cab of the CSX engine has been obliterated were lucky there wasn't a crew in there.

ImageUploadedByAmtrak Forum1517795465.337080.jpg

In this photo you can see the bent cab of 47 right by the radiator of the second CSX Engine No. 36. Also note the damage where 47 rode over the top of the 13x locomotive.

ImageUploadedByAmtrak Forum1517795536.457463.jpg

Another angle where you can see the cab of the 47 bent back. You can also see the trailing truck remained attached to 47.

These are my photos that I took when I was there earlier. Words will not describe smell, and the scene. I'm donating all profit I've made from selling the photos to the media to a non profit benefiting nursing students financial aid because I believe nurses are important in helping victims.
 

AGM.12

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Seaboard 92: Thanks for sharing the photos, grim as they may be. On an unrelated matter, you wouldn't by chance be a member of the South Carolina Railroad Museum? I was the past treasurer when it first got restarted in the early 80s.
 

Thirdrail7

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How long is it likely the detour will be necessary?
It depends on how long it takes the NTSB to complete their investigation. Once that wraps up, it'll take some time to clean up and restore the area. This will probably take two or three days.

Looking at the track routes and switch setups at the junctions, the most likely routing looks like the SM route to Dillon and a CSX freight route from there to Hamlet unless there is some issue with that route I am not seeing. There is also a more eastern route from Charleston to Dillon but it looks longer and Amtrak does not presently use it. In addition, there is a route from Pembroke to Hamlet but there does not appear to be a switch to make such a route possible without a backup move. However, the map now shows 92 continuing on the current route north out of Savannah. There is a route going West out of Fairfax which could route the train to Hamlet via Upstate South Carolina, but it appears longer than the eastern routes. In addition, it looks as though if they chose to use this way there is a line that could allow the train to merge into the current one at Columbia.
It wouldn't make much sense to take the SM route to Dillon and back up to Hamlet. They would like take the route that RampWidget mentioned. Take the Star's scheduled route to Hamlet, then drop down the Andrews Sub to Dillon and pick up the A Line to Savannah. You could also work Hamlet, use the Wilmington Sub which I believe intersects the A Line not too far from Fayettville. Another option is the Eastover and Lane Subdivisions which put you between KTR and CHS.

91(4) will stay on the A-Line from RMT all way through to SAV though.

In addition, where is the equipment for 92 (05) coming from?
The train yard.
 

anumberone

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Sad day for the victims. It was a Bad day for Railroading. Amtrak is probably not at fault, it certainty appears that way. That being said, they have to take responsibility and set procedures to make it impossible for this to happen in the future.
 
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FormerOBS

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Amtrak President Anderson released a statement. I have cut out all the chaff and gone straight to the wheat. "Early media reports indicated that Amtrak was 'on the wrong track' when it hit the CSX freight train, but that statement is inaccurate because we were on the track as designated by CSX, the host railroad".

He goes on: "Our crew on [train] 91 was cleared to proceed by CSX dispatch, but CSX had lined and padlocked the switch off the mainline to the siding, causing the collision."

At the Press Briefing conducted by NTSB, Mr. Sumwalt said the CSX freight crew had picked up empty auto racks from the Hansen & Adkins automobile storage facility on the east side of the mainline. Once they had completed that work, they secured their train of 2 locomotives and 30+ freight cars on the siding on the west side of the mainline. and left their train parked. Mr. Sumwalt did not say where the freight train crew was at the time of the accident, but everything I have heard indicates that they were not on the scene. That crew should have left the switch lined and locked for the mainline. Mr. Sumwalt said the switch was lined and locked for the siding.

Some Unanswered questions:

1. Who lined and locked the switch in the wrong position? The most likely candidate is some member of the freight train crew, although I suppose a signal maintainer or a vandal could have done it.

2. When was the switch lined and locked improperly. In other words, did the Amtrak engineer have any warning time?

3. How long was this situation in place before it was detected the hard way?

4. Since the signals were not functioning normally, what were the exact orders under which the train was being operated?

Tom
 
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George K

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From reading early reports and Anderson's comments, I imagine that, 10 years from now, when you go to the dictionary to look up "Human Error," this will be listed.

So sad.
 

Bob Dylan

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Good to get factual info from those with expertise and truthful info. ,ie the NTSB Chairman and Amtrak' s CEO.

It doesn't look good for CSX based on this info.
 

tomfuller

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Very lucky that the injured started arriving at the hospital at shift change. It sounds like poor reporting that 5000 gallon of GASOLINE spilled but there was no

environmental damage. Where did the Amtrak engine refuel last with diesel fuel?
 

Lonestar648

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I see ABC has a report that AMTRAK is involved in four deadly accidents in 2 months. Only if you get into the details, which most people will not, do you learn that Amtrak was not at fault.
 

Seaboard92

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Very lucky that the injured started arriving at the hospital at shift change. It sounds like poor reporting that 5000 gallon of GASOLINE spilled but there was no

environmental damage. Where did the Amtrak engine refuel last with diesel fuel?
Washington, DC. I agree it was good it was on shift change. And I can tell you the smell of that fuel and the electronic smell is something I'm still smelling. It's unlike anything you've smelled before
 

Devil's Advocate

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Ok, I was watching The Pheonix Open and saw an advertisement for CBS Evening News. Third Amtrak crash in two months. The tone of the announcer wanted to make me jump through the television and strangle her.
Even though it's looking like this collision and the incident in Virginia with the GOP a few days ago weren't Amtrak's fault, to the general public it's going to look like it. I think this is really going to hurt Amtrak, which to me is sad.
Not only are the media reports going to hurt Amtrak's image, but also the lopsided indemnity agreements that force Amtrak to pay for legal costs and penalties incurred by CSX in court.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/15/us/amtrak-pays-millions-for-others-fatal-errors.html

Looks like the freight was waiting on a siding for AMTRAK to pass on the main. Somehow the passenger train was switched onto the same passing track causing a head-on that killed the AMTRAK engineer and conductor. PTC can't get here soon enough!
The signal system already in place should have prevented this. Except that it was down for maintenance. What good will PTC do when it's down for maintenance? The problem isn't our technology so much as America's continuing reluctance to embrace a genuine safety culture and our absurd reliance on disastrous cowboy logic.
 
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