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

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greatcats

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Mike from Crete - Your explanation makes some sense, but I believe there still should have been a second engineer.

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jis

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Mike from Crete - Your explanation makes some sense, but I believe there still should have been a second engineer.

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There were just two Engineers and no Conductor in the cab, is what the railroad folks from the area familiar with the district tell me. Originally I thought similar to Mike, but I stand corrected by folks in the know.
 

MikefromCrete

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Mike from Crete - Your explanation makes some sense, but I believe there still should have been a second engineer.

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There were just two Engineers and no Conductor in the cab, is what the railroad folks from the area familiar with the district tell me. Originally I thought similar to Mike, but I stand corrected by folks in the know.
Well, I also stand corrected, but I thought Amtrak identified one of the deceased as a conductor.
 

jis

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Yeah, I don't know what their official designations are, but the length of the district requires two people in the cab is the main point I guess. It did not have anyting to do with yesterday's special operating circumstances.
 
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John Bobinyec

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I'm confused about the detour of 91(4).

How could this train stop at Raleigh when it was supposed to go down the A-Line? And if it did go to Raleigh, how did it skip Cary?

jb

* Train 91 of 02/04/2018. Map Details Formatted Data
* THIS TRAIN EXPERIENCED A SERVICE DISRUPTION.
* Silver Star
* +---------------- Station Code
* | +----------- Schedule Arrival Day
* | | +-------- Schedule Arrival Time
* | | | +----- Schedule Departure Day
* | | | | +-- Schedule Departure Time
* | | | | | +------------- Actual Arrival Time
* | | | | | | +------- Actual Departure Time
* | | | | | | | +- Comments
* V V V V V V V V
* NYP * * 1 1102A * 1102A Departed: On time.
* NWK 1 1118A 1 1122A 1116A 1123A Arrived: 2 minutes early. | Departed: 1 minute late.
* TRE 1 1157A 1 1200P 1156A 1200P Arrived: 1 minute early. | Departed: On time.
* PHL 1 1230P 1 1235P 1226P 1237P Arrived: 4 minutes early. | Departed: 2 minutes late.
* WIL 1 1258P 1 102P 100P 104P Arrived: 2 minutes late. | Departed: 2 minutes late.
* BAL 1 150P 1 155P 152P 155P Arrived: 2 minutes late. | Departed: On time.
* WAS 1 235P 1 305P 249P 311P Arrived: 14 minutes late. | Departed: 6 minutes late.
* ALX * * 1 323P * 328P Departed: 5 minutes late.
* RVR 1 507P 1 517P 508P 520P Arrived: 1 minute late. | Departed: 3 minutes late.
* PTB * * 1 551P * 554P Departed: 3 minutes late.
* RMT * * 1 721P * 735P Departed: 14 minutes late.
* RGH 1 848P 1 901P 837P 901P Arrived: 11 minutes early. | Departed: On time.
CYN 1 923P 1 923P
SOP * * 1 1036P
HAM 1 1118P 1 1118P
CAM * * 2 1247A
CLB * * 2 138A
DNK * * 2 235A
SAV 2 413A 2 418A
* JAX 2 639A 2 659A 629A 659A Arrived: 10 minutes early. | Departed: On time.
* PAK * * 2 802A * 828A Departed: 26 minutes late.
* DLD * * 2 856A * 914A Departed: 18 minutes late.
* WPK * * 2 943A * 957A Departed: 14 minutes late.
* ORL 2 1006A 2 1020A 1009A 1021A Arrived: 3 minutes late. | Departed: 1 minute late.
* KIS * * 2 1044A * 1049A Departed: 5 minutes late.
* LAK * * 2 1129A * 1159A Departed: 30 minutes late.
TPA 2 1223P 2 1237P 111P Arrived: 48 minutes late.
LKL * * 2 113P
WTH * * 2 135P
SBG * * 2 216P
OKE * * 2 252P
WPB * * 2 417P
DLB * * 2 441P
DFB * * 2 453P
FTL * * 2 517P
HOL * * 2 533P
MIA 2 558P * *
 
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Railroad Bill

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Yeah, I don't know what their official designations are, but the length of the district requires two people in the cab is the main point I guess. It did not have anyting to do with yesterday's special operating circumstances.
Freight trains operate with one person designated as the engineer and one as "conductor". This may be the explanation in terminology as to the two people in the cab. Although my brother was an freight engineer, his compadre in the cab was the conductor (acted as a brakeman at times as well) but was in technical control of the train. Not sure how that works for Amtrak as I have always heard them called "assistant engineer". ?
 
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I am late with my condolences because this is the first time I've been near a computer since this happened, but they are heartfelt and sincere. I am so dreadfully sorry about these two men passing away and leaving their families and friends.
 

William W.

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So the second victim wasn't the conductor? I haven't seen any photos yet, but I've ridden that corridor enough that I might recognize him if he was.
 
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KmH

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Is this heaven? No. It's Iowa.
In looking at the satellite image of the scene (https://www.google.com/maps/@33.9088977,-81.0669683,445a,35y,357h,1.19t/data=!3m1!1e3), it looks like the switch was a couple hundred feet before the location of the lead CSX locomotive. I only bring this up because the NTSB chairman said in his presser that the train would have surely derailed going over that switch at 59 MPH. It seems as though the train took the switch well (though no telling how the whole train would have fared at full speed).
Using the distance measurement feature on Google Maps indicates the lead CSX locomotive was about 700 feet from the switch.

One could also add up the cumulative length of the train car by car.

I too wondered how the Amtrak train was able to negotiate the switch at 59 mph or more without derailing.

Which raises the question - What is the passenger train speed limit on that section of the mainline - 60 mph?

At the least I would expect the engineer to have activated an emergency stop upon seeing the CSX lead dead ahead reducing the train's speed somewhat before the collision.

Would the engineer be surprised by the change of track?

Is it possible the change of track was violent enough to put the engineer(s) out of position to manipulate any of the controls?
 

brianpmcdonnell17

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Amtrak has recently started doing engineer changes at Savannah, with the engineer from northbound 92 becoming the engineer for southbound 91. Is it possible that this was done so two people are no longer needed in the cab? This would mean that the second person was actually the conductor.

As to the route of 91, could it have run the normal route to Raleigh before running the same route back to Selma to continue south on the A-Line? The only other explanation I can think of is that the train did stop at Cary, Southern Pines, and Hamlet, but it was not recorded for some reason.
 

PaulM

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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.
Reasonable people can disagree about public funding for public transportation; but I strenuously disagree with including CSX. Isn't it a private business known for its heads I win, tales you lose business model?

It's axiomatic that the greater the risk, the greater the profits, at least in the short term, which is the only thing Wall Street cares about. And it gets even better if you can lay off the risk on innocent bystanders, as you seem to want.
 

MattW

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As to the question about "what if PTC was there, but down for maintenance?" I can already guess that the NTSB would just "recommend" to not run the trains at all, or to run restricted speed.
 

Thirdrail7

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If the crew assignment map that I have is correct, the crew of 91 would operate between Hamlet, NC and Jacksonville, FL, a trip scheduled to take over 7 hours. This should require 2 engineers, Plus it is a middle of the night trip. Mr. Cella, one of the deceased, has been mentioned as the Conductor. It is indeed possible that he was riding the engine, or has he been mislabeled as the second engineer? If he was the Conductor, What is the status of the second engineer? Rest In Peace, gentlemen.

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Yes...if only your crew assignment map was correct...which it isn't. Perhaps you can throw it away or use it to start a bonfire before you pass more incorrect information?

Yeah, I don't know what their official designations are, but the length of the district requires two people in the cab is the main point I guess. It did not have anyting to do with yesterday's special operating circumstances.
The length of the district for engineers as mentioned by Greatcats in inaccurate. Therefore, the the second person in the cab was correctly identified as the conductor, who was on the head end so the train could comply with copying rules during a signal suspension. It had everything to do with operating circumstances sicee the engineer would have normally been alone.

I'm confused about the detour of 91(4).

How could this train stop at Raleigh when it was supposed to go down the A-Line? And if it did go to Raleigh, how did it skip Cary?
Those are the bus times. The train operated down the A-line from RMT-SAV, bypassing the intermediate stops. It actually arrived SAV almost 2 hours early.
 
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greatcats

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Third Rail- I indicated that my information may not be up to date. I have encountered other examples of this. Do you know where an up to date crew assignment map can be found?

Also, I thought 2 engineers are to be in the cab when the train is operating in the middle of the night.

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jis

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As to the question about "what if PTC was there, but down for maintenance?" I can already guess that the NTSB would just "recommend" to not run the trains at all, or to run restricted speed.
Using track warrants is a method that is accepted by the NTSB and I don't see that changing.

Just watched the NTSB News Conference. They simultaneously released a brief on the events found on the event recorder which has been recovered:

From the train’s last stop, the maximum speed reached 57 mph. The track speed, under signal suspension rules, is 59 mph. About 7 seconds before the end of the recording, the train’s horn was activated for three seconds. Speed was 56 mph.
Two seconds later, the brake-pipe pressure began decreasing. The following second, the throttle transitioned from full throttle to idle, while the train was at 54 mph.

One second later, while the train was at 53 mph, emergency braking was initiated. The recording ended 2 seconds later. The train’s speed was 50 mph as the train’s air braking system was approaching max braking.
Mr. Sumwalt of NTSB confirmed that the second person in the cab was a Conductor, and presumably my (and Matt's) original theory was correct, as can also be surmised from what Thirdrail mentioned above.

Some additional info:

- The distance from the switch to the collision point was 659'

- The freight train was pushed back 15' by the collision, from its original position.

- The CSX train crew, Dispatcher and Train Master have been interviewed today. Surviving Amtrak crew will be interviewed tomorrow.

- The Amtrak locomotive has been moved from the site to the adjacent auto loading facility yard.

- NTSB expects to be present on the ground through the coming weekend.

- The freight had two crew members, an Engineer and a Conductor.

- Amtrak had 139 pax and 8 crew members consisting of 1 Engineer, 1 Conductor, 1 Assistant Conductor and the rest OBS crew.

- The speed limit in the area for operations using track warrant under signal suspension is 59mph. Amtrak was compliant with that.

- The correct procedure before releasing the track warrant by the freight train would be to align the switch to the main line, lock it in that position, then install a derail on the siding, and then release the warrant.

- The track warrant was released by the freight train crew but the switch was found locked in the position towards the siding.

- Amtrak did have the necessary track warrant to operate as they were.

That's all I can find in my notes from the presser.
 
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Cho Cho Charlie

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Seaboard, I understand how you feel. When we look at rail collisions, we see 2 dead and it is a statistic. I can only see it as a statistic, too. I didnt know them, and the human heart would never survive if it mourned every tragic loss in plane crashes, train crashes, car crashes, and good men like my neighbor (who I mourned because I knew him) who tragically died from a heart attack leaving three kids and an entirely unfit mother.

That above is a horrible tragedy that has left me sick for years, and you didnt even know about it. Hearing about this, I am sure you are going to feel bad about it; but you will not be affected by it the way you feel about your friends; nor should you.

So mourn them; you knew them as good men. I feel sorry that they died. I cant mourn them; I didnt know them. Since that part is what it is, I will also lament the loss of some equipment on a system that is already short of it, and a reality that while cars can be replaced, they wont be for years. In fact, and excuse my coldness, but mechanically, you cant replace a human soul, but training a new conductor and engineer is actually easier than replacing a car.

It is not unreasonable for me as a transit advocate (retired) to consider all of those practical things. That doesnt mean I dont see or understand the human tragedy; it means that saying Im sorry Amtrak lost two good men, and meaning it, is all I can do about it.
Thank you for saying, what I was feeling.

I understand Seaboard's grief. I am deeply saddened with reading about the loss of two fine and dedicated Amtrak employees. I have road the Silvers many times, and it is quite possible that these men could have provided some great and professional service to me. If I was never so blessed, then that's my loss.

However, I am also deeply saddened with the loss of what I believe is critical Amtrak equipment, and I resent that anyone says its wrong for me to feel this way. While, technically, equipment can always be replaced. I have to challenge anyone to show me how this particular Amtrak engines and rolling stock will be quickly replaced. Where's the money and where's the signed contract? That's all because, I would not want to see any of the Silver service be hobbled or killed off.
 

City of Miami

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Reasonable people can disagree about public funding for public transportation; but I strenuously disagree with including CSX. Isn't it a private business known for its heads I win, tales you lose business model?

It's axiomatic that the greater the risk, the greater the profits, at least in the short term, which is the only thing Wall Street cares about. And it gets even better if you can lay off the risk on innocent bystanders, as you seem to want.
Pt#1

Precisely. I included CSX due to their unwillingness to fund their own operation sufficiently for safety. They do in fact get considerable public funding for track improvements in exchange for allowing passenger trains.

Pt#2

***???
 
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Dakota 400

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As much as I respect Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News, this evening NBC's reporting on this tragedy seemed to me to point the finger of responsibility at Amtrak. I would classify this "reporting" as "incomplete news". Like others, I want to see the NTSB report to determine what happened and where responsibility lies. For me, at this time, CSX seems to be the responsible culprit.
 

Bierboy

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As much as I respect Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News, this evening NBC's reporting on this tragedy seemed to me to point the finger of responsibility at Amtrak. I would classify this "reporting" as "incomplete news". Like others, I want to see the NTSB report to determine what happened and where responsibility lies. For me, at this time, CSX seems to be the responsible culprit.
And as much as I totally disagree about your opinion of Holt, I will say this -- all he does is read the crap that is put before him. Don't entirely blame him; point the finger where it belongs...
 
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Bob Dylan

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CNN is doing the same thing putting out "canned" reports talking about the horrible accidents on Amtrak in the past few months!
 

railiner

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It's the same old story....

While investigative reporting does sometimes yield good results, the temptation to sensationalize stories, to gain more audience, (and sales), is very strong....

The press will milk Amtrak "danger" as long as possible, until the next big story drives it away....

Unfortunately, it goes counter to their interest to report these incidents fairly.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Investigative reporting generally takes weeks if not months of effort to complete. This is not investigative reporting. This is sensationalistic tabloid journalism. Journalists have always struggled with the moral and ethical weight of their positions, but back in the 1980's the news staff of major media companies were moved under their entertainment divisions. Instead of being judged on their accuracy and relevance reporters were now judged on how many eyeballs they could command through whatever means were available. Ever since then then the goal and obligation of informing a diverse audience in an objective fashion has slowly been abandoned and replaced with targeted emotion based reporting.
 
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railiner

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Investigative reporting generally takes weeks if not months of effort to complete. This is not investigative reporting. This is sensationalistic tabloid journalism. Journalists have always struggled with the moral and ethical weight of their positions, but back in the 1980's the news staff of major media companies were moved under their entertainment divisions. Instead of being judged on their accuracy and relevance reporters were now judged on how many eyeballs they could command through whatever means were available. Ever since then then the goal and obligation of informing a diverse audience in an objective fashion has slowly been abandoned and replaced with targeted emotion based reporting.
That's pretty much what I meant to say, but you said it much better.....
 
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