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

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jis

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I understand if the CSX folks actually bothered to follow their own procedures regarding documentation of switch position state with time of each change recorded in SPAFs (Switch Position Awareness Form) and reporting those with acknowledgement readout to the Dispatcher, then all of exactly what happened at what time is a matter of record that NTSB would have access to, and we will know sooner or later. if not, well, someone will have hell to pay for. As I understand it the SPAFs are for each individual switch, thus more or less eliminating switch identity based confusions - if the procedures are followed that is.

Until that information becomes available, it is somewhat pointless to come up with dozens of different possibilities.
 

Hytec

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Nov 17, 2009
Messages
251
The question I hope gets answered is. Due to the cuts made by E Hunter Harrison in staffing, and operations do you think that could have contributed to this disaster.
Approximately one-half of the Jacksonville dispatcher staff had been told that they would be relocated last year well before Hunter Harrison died. Those that were to relocate then made arrangements to move, including selling their homes in Jacksonville and relocating their families. Then Hunter Harrison died and everything was put on hold. To this day those dispatchers that were to relocate are currently living in motels and other temporary facilities and dispatching in Jacksonville, while their families are at the new location(s). CSX dispatcher morale is less than optimum to say the least.
 

Lonestar648

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The NTSB very carefully and very methodically reviews every bit of information which unfortunately requires an enormous amount of time. All of us are patiently or impatient;y waiting for the facts to become public, but still want to figure out what really happened. Based on available information, it seems like CSX did not follow procedures after parking the autorack. With the warrant having been released, the dispatcher clearing thought the switch was properly set when giving Amtrak their warrant. This brings the focus to the few CSX employees working with that switch, even though some "uneducated" media spout off that the Amtrak engineer drove onto the wrong track, comparing driving onto the wrong exit on an interstate. Will be glad when the NTSB can give us more details.
 

AlanB

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Also Chicago Union Station I believe.
Correct, Amtrak owns from just east of the Lumber Street Bridge through to Union Station, and AFAIk out the other side (north) of Union Station up to the diamonds where the tracks cross the leads coming out of Olgilvie Station. They also own a small bit of track running west, basically the wye they use to turn trains up until the start of BNSF territory. The dispatch office for all of this, as well as the Michigan line sits below the tower in the Lumber Street Yard.

.
 

chakk

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May 26, 2011
Messages
2,553
If this territory was operating under signal suspension, would CSX rules require trains to approach facing-point switches prepared to stop?
Short answer: no. And the reasons are described in detail by many railroad employees over on the BBS trainorders dot com. The speed limit on this section of track under suspended signal conditions is 59 mph for passenger trains, 49 mph for freight trains. Amtrak was moving at a few mph below speed limit.

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum
 

Thirdrail7

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I really wonder how this statement

Due to the cuts made by E Hunter Harrison in staffing, and operations do you think that could have contributed to this disaster.
and this procedure

I understand if the CSX folks actually bothered to follow their own procedures regarding documentation of switch position state with time of each change recorded in SPAFs (Switch Position Awareness Form) and reporting those with acknowledgement readout to the Dispatcher, then all of exactly what happened at what time is a matter of record that NTSB would have access to, and we will know sooner or later. if not, well, someone will have hell to pay for. As I understand it the SPAFs are for each individual switch, thus more or less eliminating switch identity based confusions - if the procedures are followed that is.
interact. Leaving the accident aside, the workforce has been cut down, people have been reassigned and are under the gun to do more with less. They want performance and movement. This isn't a CSX or Amtrak problem. It is labor problem.

Without addressing this incident, and I'm not making excuses but I've always had a problem with part of the switch awareness form as I think it can lead to unnecessary pressure, particularly being rushed. Here is the part i never liked (which is admittedly my problem, not the railroads):

608.9 When hand-operated switches are used in Track Warrant Control non-signal territory (TWC-D), the

train dispatcher must use the train dispatcher radio to confirm:

1. Location of the switch(es) operated,

2. Switch(es) were restored and locked in normal position,

3. Time switch(es) were initially reversed,

4. Time switch(es) were restored and locked in normal position,

5. Name of the employee who operated the switch(es), and

6. The Switch Position Awareness Form (SPAF) was initialed by both the conductor and

locomotive operator.

Now, I just want you to consider this scenario. You're the conductor and you're shoving a draft of 75 cars into a siding. As such, you are riding the point of the movement. You make an agreement with your engineer to stop and line the switch for the main and report clear. He stops and tells you he did this...but you're 75 cars away and the dispatcher wants the track. Do you them to standby while you walk up 75 cars (which would take a considerable amount of time) to verify that your crew member actually threw the switch before initialing the Awareness form or trust them?

Conversely, you're the engineer and you stop at a hand thrown switch. You drop your conductor off and he lines the movement. You now pull a 9000 ft freight train off the main. The conductor stops you, reports the switch locked and lined for the main and report clear. You both begin working towards each other while you secure the train. The conductor hands you the awareness form and wants you to initial it. Meanwhile the dispatcher wants the main. Again, I know we all speak of safety and trust but verify. However, how patient will everyone be when you delay a hotshot because it took 40 minutes for you to walk a mile and half to verify what was allegedly done?

I'm not a fan of signing something I didn't personally witness but in the current rush rush environment, I really wonder if pressure is put on the crews.
 
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Seaboard92

Conductor
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
3,422
I really wonder how this statement

Due to the cuts made by E Hunter Harrison in staffing, and operations do you think that could have contributed to this disaster.
and this procedure

I understand if the CSX folks actually bothered to follow their own procedures regarding documentation of switch position state with time of each change recorded in SPAFs (Switch Position Awareness Form) and reporting those with acknowledgement readout to the Dispatcher, then all of exactly what happened at what time is a matter of record that NTSB would have access to, and we will know sooner or later. if not, well, someone will have hell to pay for. As I understand it the SPAFs are for each individual switch, thus more or less eliminating switch identity based confusions - if the procedures are followed that is.
interact. Leaving the accident aside, the workforce has been cut down, people have been reassigned and are under the gun to do more with less. They want performance and movement. This isn't a CSX or Amtrak problem. It is labor problem.

Without addressing this incident, and I'm not making excuses but I've always had a problem with part of the switch awareness form as I think it can lead to unnecessary pressure, particularly being rushed. Here is the part i never liked (which is admittedly my problem, not the railroads):

608.9 When hand-operated switches are used in Track Warrant Control non-signal territory (TWC-D), the

train dispatcher must use the train dispatcher radio to confirm:

1. Location of the switch(es) operated,

2. Switch(es) were restored and locked in normal position,

3. Time switch(es) were initially reversed,

4. Time switch(es) were restored and locked in normal position,

5. Name of the employee who operated the switch(es), and

6. The Switch Position Awareness Form (SPAF) was initialed by both the conductor and

locomotive operator.

Now, I just want you to consider this scenario. You're the conductor and you're shoving a draft of 75 cars into a siding. As such, you are riding the point of the movement. You make an agreement with your engineer to stop and line the switch for the main and report clear. He stops and tells you he did this...but you're 75 cars away and the dispatcher wants the track. Do you them to standby while you walk up 75 cars (which would take a considerable amount of time) to verify that your crew member actually threw the switch before initialing the Awareness form or trust them?

Conversely, you're the engineer and you stop at a hand thrown switch. You drop your conductor off and he lines the movement. You now pull a 9000 ft freight train off the main. The conductor stops you, reports the switch locked and lined for the main and report clear. You both begin working towards each other while you secure the train. The conductor hands you the awareness form and wants you to initial it. Meanwhile the dispatcher wants the main. Again, I know we all speak of safety and trust but verify. However, how patient will everyone be when you delay a hotshot because it took 40 minutes for you to walk a mile and half to verify what was allegedly done?

I'm not a fan of signing something I didn't personally witness but in the current rush rush environment, I really wonder if pressure is put on the crews.
That's also a question I want to ask. I'm going to shoot you a PM in a second.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
7,681
"Cutting corner's", to expedite, to get the job done, is fine.....until you get caught.....

Then it's back to "Safety First".....for a while.....(sigh)
 

amtrakpass

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 21, 2016
Messages
118
it seems to me an unusual management decision by CSX to run a bunch of trains under track authority during a signal cutover instead of just having a couple hour outtage.

All the forms in the world would not prevent a mistake. In actuallity too many forms and too much talking on the radio would confuse things. It is best to keep it simple, consise and clear with no unecessary info.

That being said what happened was a tragic mistake, especially the loss of life.

Shove moves with hand throw switches happen thousands of times a day in the rail yards and main lines around the U.S. everyday without incident. What is unusual about this situation is doing it under signal suspension. Dark Territory procedures are easy and common sense for crews who operate with them consistently but less so if it is a rare occurance like a signal suspension.

The railroad probably just could have waited until the signals were back up to resume operations.
 

daybeers

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 6, 2016
Messages
691
Now, I just want you to consider this scenario. You're the conductor and you're shoving a draft of 75 cars into a siding. As such, you are riding the point of the movement. You make an agreement with your engineer to stop and line the switch for the main and report clear. He stops and tells you he did this...but you're 75 cars away and the dispatcher wants the track. Do you them to standby while you walk up 75 cars (which would take a considerable amount of time) to verify that your crew member actually threw the switch before initialing the Awareness form or trust them?

Conversely, you're the engineer and you stop at a hand thrown switch. You drop your conductor off and he lines the movement. You now pull a 9000 ft freight train off the main. The conductor stops you, reports the switch locked and lined for the main and report clear. You both begin working towards each other while you secure the train. The conductor hands you the awareness form and wants you to initial it. Meanwhile the dispatcher wants the main. Again, I know we all speak of safety and trust but verify. However, how patient will everyone be when you delay a hotshot because it took 40 minutes for you to walk a mile and half to verify what was allegedly done?

I'm not a fan of signing something I didn't personally witness but in the current rush rush environment, I really wonder if pressure is put on the crews.
Very interesting points, Thirdrail.
 

daybeers

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 6, 2016
Messages
691
This is a quote from someone in another forum, which I personally agree with. In case it isn't clear, someone said the inside quote and the one below it is the response.

I am starting to wonder if the overall picture points to a weak regulatory framework and that the real reform in addition to completing PTC implementation will be enabling improved safety education and enforcement from the FRA.
Perhaps the FRA should spend more time and resources on safety education and enforcement and less time on drawing politically-unbuildable imaginary railroads across New York and Southern New England.
 
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Steve4031

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
Aug 27, 2002
Messages
5,650
I really wonder how this statement

Due to the cuts made by E Hunter Harrison in staffing, and operations do you think that could have contributed to this disaster.
and this procedure

I understand if the CSX folks actually bothered to follow their own procedures regarding documentation of switch position state with time of each change recorded in SPAFs (Switch Position Awareness Form) and reporting those with acknowledgement readout to the Dispatcher, then all of exactly what happened at what time is a matter of record that NTSB would have access to, and we will know sooner or later. if not, well, someone will have hell to pay for. As I understand it the SPAFs are for each individual switch, thus more or less eliminating switch identity based confusions - if the procedures are followed that is.
interact. Leaving the accident aside, the workforce has been cut down, people have been reassigned and are under the gun to do more with less. They want performance and movement. This isn't a CSX or Amtrak problem. It is labor problem.

Without addressing this incident, and I'm not making excuses but I've always had a problem with part of the switch awareness form as I think it can lead to unnecessary pressure, particularly being rushed. Here is the part i never liked (which is admittedly my problem, not the railroads):

608.9 When hand-operated switches are used in Track Warrant Control non-signal territory (TWC-D), the

train dispatcher must use the train dispatcher radio to confirm:

1. Location of the switch(es) operated,

2. Switch(es) were restored and locked in normal position,

3. Time switch(es) were initially reversed,

4. Time switch(es) were restored and locked in normal position,

5. Name of the employee who operated the switch(es), and

6. The Switch Position Awareness Form (SPAF) was initialed by both the conductor and

locomotive operator.

Now, I just want you to consider this scenario. You're the conductor and you're shoving a draft of 75 cars into a siding. As such, you are riding the point of the movement. You make an agreement with your engineer to stop and line the switch for the main and report clear. He stops and tells you he did this...but you're 75 cars away and the dispatcher wants the track. Do you them to standby while you walk up 75 cars (which would take a considerable amount of time) to verify that your crew member actually threw the switch before initialing the Awareness form or trust them?

Conversely, you're the engineer and you stop at a hand thrown switch. You drop your conductor off and he lines the movement. You now pull a 9000 ft freight train off the main. The conductor stops you, reports the switch locked and lined for the main and report clear. You both begin working towards each other while you secure the train. The conductor hands you the awareness form and wants you to initial it. Meanwhile the dispatcher wants the main. Again, I know we all speak of safety and trust but verify. However, how patient will everyone be when you delay a hotshot because it took 40 minutes for you to walk a mile and half to verify what was allegedly done?

I'm not a fan of signing something I didn't personally witness but in the current rush rush environment, I really wonder if pressure is put on the crews.
These scenarios describe the do more with less demands placed on employees in many industries in this country. If this trend isn't reversed more accidents will happen.

Stay safe out there.

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum
 

DSS&A

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Aug 21, 2015
Messages
379
Also Chicago Union Station I believe.
Correct, Amtrak owns from just east of the Lumber Street Bridge through to Union Station, and AFAIk out the other side (north) of Union Station up to the diamonds where the tracks cross the leads coming out of Olgilvie Station. They also own a small bit of track running west, basically the wye they use to turn trains up until the start of BNSF territory. The dispatch office for all of this, as well as the Michigan line sits below the tower in the Lumber Street Yard.

.
On the north end of Chicago Union Station, Amtrak owns only north to Clinton Street which is about 50 feet west of the railroad bridge that carries the Union Pacific (ex C&NW) tracks over the tracks running out the north end of Union Station. Metra owns the tracks west of Clinton Street to (and beyond) the diamonds at Tower A-2 where the UP tracks from Olgilvie cross the tracks going to Union Station.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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....

Shove moves with hand throw switches happen thousands of times a day in the rail yards and main lines around the U.S. everyday without incident. What is unusual about this situation is doing it under signal suspension. Dark Territory procedures are easy and common sense for crews who operate with them consistently but less so if it is a rare occurance like a signal suspension.

....
Bing we have a winner. Easy to do if done everyday, not so easy if you are recalling stuff from school 5-10 years later.
 

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
25,617
I really wonder how this statement

Due to the cuts made by E Hunter Harrison in staffing, and operations do you think that could have contributed to this disaster.
and this procedure

I understand if the CSX folks actually bothered to follow their own procedures regarding documentation of switch position state with time of each change recorded in SPAFs (Switch Position Awareness Form) and reporting those with acknowledgement readout to the Dispatcher, then all of exactly what happened at what time is a matter of record that NTSB would have access to, and we will know sooner or later. if not, well, someone will have hell to pay for. As I understand it the SPAFs are for each individual switch, thus more or less eliminating switch identity based confusions - if the procedures are followed that is.
interact. Leaving the accident aside, the workforce has been cut down, people have been reassigned and are under the gun to do more with less. They want performance and movement. This isn't a CSX or Amtrak problem. It is labor problem.

Without addressing this incident, and I'm not making excuses but I've always had a problem with part of the switch awareness form as I think it can lead to unnecessary pressure, particularly being rushed. Here is the part i never liked (which is admittedly my problem, not the railroads):

608.9 When hand-operated switches are used in Track Warrant Control non-signal territory (TWC-D), the

train dispatcher must use the train dispatcher radio to confirm:

1. Location of the switch(es) operated,

2. Switch(es) were restored and locked in normal position,

3. Time switch(es) were initially reversed,

4. Time switch(es) were restored and locked in normal position,

5. Name of the employee who operated the switch(es), and

6. The Switch Position Awareness Form (SPAF) was initialed by both the conductor and

locomotive operator.

Now, I just want you to consider this scenario. You're the conductor and you're shoving a draft of 75 cars into a siding. As such, you are riding the point of the movement. You make an agreement with your engineer to stop and line the switch for the main and report clear. He stops and tells you he did this...but you're 75 cars away and the dispatcher wants the track. Do you them to standby while you walk up 75 cars (which would take a considerable amount of time) to verify that your crew member actually threw the switch before initialing the Awareness form or trust them?

Conversely, you're the engineer and you stop at a hand thrown switch. You drop your conductor off and he lines the movement. You now pull a 9000 ft freight train off the main. The conductor stops you, reports the switch locked and lined for the main and report clear. You both begin working towards each other while you secure the train. The conductor hands you the awareness form and wants you to initial it. Meanwhile the dispatcher wants the main. Again, I know we all speak of safety and trust but verify. However, how patient will everyone be when you delay a hotshot because it took 40 minutes for you to walk a mile and half to verify what was allegedly done?

I'm not a fan of signing something I didn't personally witness but in the current rush rush environment, I really wonder if pressure is put on the crews.
These scenarios describe the do more with less demands placed on employees in many industries in this country. If this trend isn't reversed more accidents will happen.

Stay safe out there.

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum
One of the the things we learned in a random course on Control Systems that I took many eons ago is that in general more efficient systems are also more fragile systems and tend to fail to recover from exceptional conditions more often. Special exception paths can be designed to work around this problem for more common exceptions. but as you add more of these the system becomes more inefficient as it becomes more resilient. Interesting tension there that is well understood at least at a technical level.
 

Hotblack Desiato

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Joined
Jan 16, 2012
Messages
186
Also Chicago Union Station I believe.
Correct, Amtrak owns from just east of the Lumber Street Bridge through to Union Station, and AFAIk out the other side (north) of Union Station up to the diamonds where the tracks cross the leads coming out of Olgilvie Station. They also own a small bit of track running west, basically the wye they use to turn trains up until the start of BNSF territory. The dispatch office for all of this, as well as the Michigan line sits below the tower in the Lumber Street Yard.

.
On the north end of Chicago Union Station, Amtrak owns only north to Clinton Street which is about 50 feet west of the railroad bridge that carries the Union Pacific (ex C&NW) tracks over the tracks running out the north end of Union Station. Metra owns the tracks west of Clinton Street to (and beyond) the diamonds at Tower A-2 where the UP tracks from Olgilvie cross the tracks going to Union Station.
Also, the dispatch office is actually at CUS, in the same building as the Great Hall (but not accessible from inside the Great Hall).
 

AlanB

Conductor
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Messages
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[Also, the dispatch office is actually at CUS, in the same building as the Great Hall (but not accessible from inside the Great Hall).
Then it's been moved is the last few years, because I was in the office a few years ago when our Gathering group got a yard & tower tour.
 

railiner

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Messages
7,681
[Also, the dispatch office is actually at CUS, in the same building as the Great Hall (but not accessible from inside the Great Hall).
Then it's been moved is the last few years, because I was in the office a few years ago when our Gathering group got a yard & tower tour.
I seem to recall from 'eons' ago, that there was a train order office known as 'GB' in CUS...I think I once obtained an employee timetable there...not sure...is that still there?

Besides NEC, Chicago, and the Michigan line, doesn't Amtrak also own or control some trackage in NOL and LAX area's?
 

Trogdor

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Aug 3, 2004
Messages
5,396
[Also, the dispatch office is actually at CUS, in the same building as the Great Hall (but not accessible from inside the Great Hall).
Then it's been moved is the last few years, because I was in the office a few years ago when our Gathering group got a yard & tower tour.
I want to say its been since 2012, maybe earlier, that theyve been at CUS, though my understanding is that the place near the yard can still serve as backup.

They do also dispatch NOUPT from there. I dont know if Amtrak still technicallly owns the LA Union Station trackage, but that is dispatched by Metrolink.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled topic.
 

VentureForth

Conductor
Joined
Jan 23, 2007
Messages
5,847
Also Chicago Union Station I believe.
Correct, Amtrak owns from just east of the Lumber Street Bridge through to Union Station, and AFAIk out the other side (north) of Union Station up to the diamonds where the tracks cross the leads coming out of Olgilvie Station. They also own a small bit of track running west, basically the wye they use to turn trains up until the start of BNSF territory. The dispatch office for all of this, as well as the Michigan line sits below the tower in the Lumber Street Yard.

.
Dadgum - AlanB made a post and I almost didn't notice he was here. Welcome back, sir (even if you've been posting a long time and I haven't noticed)!
 

brianpmcdonnell17

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Mar 5, 2016
Messages
1,290
Is there anything new on how long the detour will last? I am booked on 92 a week from tonight and am curious what route the train will take.
 

Grandpa D

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Dec 5, 2010
Messages
346
If I remember correctly, at the first press conference the NTSB person said they'd probably be done with their investigation by this coming weekend. After that CSX should be able to clean up the site in a couple days. But if I were you I'd keep checking. I don't know how much track they have to repair and that could take time.
 
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