Runaway train in India travels 43 miles without a driver

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cirdan

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The Indian Railways has ordered an investigation after a freight train travelled more than 70km (43.4 miles) without drivers.

Videos shared on social media showed the train zooming past several stations at high speed.
Reports say the train ran without a driver from Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir to Hoshiarpur district in Punjab on Sunday.
The railways says the train was brought to a halt and no-one was hurt.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-68399868
 
The Indian Railways has ordered an investigation after a freight train travelled more than 70km (43.4 miles) without drivers.

Videos shared on social media showed the train zooming past several stations at high speed.
Reports say the train ran without a driver from Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir to Hoshiarpur district in Punjab on Sunday.
The railways says the train was brought to a halt and no-one was hurt.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-68399868

Possibly it had been "shut down" awaiting new crew, rather like the tragic event in Canada, the air gradually leaked out, parking brakes not applied, and being a heavy train, once it started moving on its own, the rest is history.
Best news is nothing was in it's path 'till it slowed and stopped.
 
According to local reports in Hindi, the crew did not follow standard specified procedure for tying up the train before leaving the cab in Kathua. Six people have been suspended pending an inquiry which was started the day after the incident.

BBC got the wood block thing wrong. It was mentioned by the press person of the railways that wood blocks are used to prevent such runaways when trains are left unattended, and not that they were used to stop the train.

The train slowed down enough on an up gradient for a a rail employee to jump on board and apply emergency brakes to bring it to a halt. Lot of good luck all around for things to have been resolved without a major mishap.

Just found a relevant local Internet News Channel segment on this incident:

 
If I were to leave my car running (I have an automatic transmission), I can set the shifter to park and the mechanism physically prevents the car from moving. The gears are disengaged and I believe there's actually a pin in place to keep the car from moving. The parking brake isn't really necessary, it's just an extra layer of protection.

It would seem to me that it should be able to design a locomotive with a mechanism that would not only disengage the motors while the engine was running, but would also make it impossible for the locomotive to move. Of course, there's always the issue of having to engage brakes on all of the cars behind the locomotive, too, but it seems to me that something could be designed to better keep unattended trains from moving, even if they need to keep the engine running. I was also told that the reason they keep diesel locomotive engines running all the time is because the engines are hard to start when they get cold. I would think this wouldn't be as much of a problem in most of India, as the climate is pretty warm there. Surely there must be a way to design locomotives that can be turned off when they're not actually pulling trains. It would do a lot to reduce noise and pollution.
 
If I were to leave my car running (I have an automatic transmission), I can set the shifter to park and the mechanism physically prevents the car from moving. The gears are disengaged and I believe there's actually a pin in place to keep the car from moving. The parking brake isn't really necessary, it's just an extra layer of protection.

It would seem to me that it should be able to design a locomotive with a mechanism that would not only disengage the motors while the engine was running, but would also make it impossible for the locomotive to move. Of course, there's always the issue of having to engage brakes on all of the cars behind the locomotive, too, but it seems to me that something could be designed to better keep unattended trains from moving, even if they need to keep the engine running. I was also told that the reason they keep diesel locomotive engines running all the time is because the engines are hard to start when they get cold. I would think this wouldn't be as much of a problem in most of India, as the climate is pretty warm there. Surely there must be a way to design locomotives that can be turned off when they're not actually pulling trains. It would do a lot to reduce noise and pollution.
We don't know if the engine was running.
These are diesel engines which drive an electric motor.
You can turn the engine off if you wish.
The engine needs to be running to hold the brakes on the train.
There are hand brakes which can hold a train which is "shut down", a certain number, weight plays a big part, need to be engaged.
The fact that these things don't happen 24/7 points up a failure to follow correct procedures, rather than a design fault, imho...
 
New fuel conservation method! Is the grade mostly downhill until the train arrived at the uphill location?
Yes. It is a downhill segment followed by an uphill segment. That is how the person who stopped it knew where to wait for the train to board it.
 
shouldn't the brakes come on automatically and at full force if the train either SPADs or the dead man's handle times out?
Actually most of IR routes do not have the facility for an unmanned engine to discover that a SPAD has happened. That is possible only on routes equipped with Kavach and the locomotive also equipped with it, which is relatively rare at present, and only limited to trunk routes, and that too if the Kavach system is energized on the locomotive.

If the train started moving because brake air bled out then a dead man's handle would have no way to apply brakes. The engines were not really running the train was just coasting down the slope. It was supposed to have been tied down before the cab was left unattended. As has been mentioned in local press, all that was required and was not done was installing wood blocks under a set number of wheels or apply hand brakes on set number of cars, a standard protocol in these cases and guaranteed to work without depending on multiple other systems.
 
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It would seem to me that it should be able to design a locomotive with a mechanism that would not only disengage the motors while the engine was running, but would also make it impossible for the locomotive to move. Of course, there's always the issue of having to engage brakes on all of the cars behind the locomotive, too, but it seems to me that something could be designed to better keep unattended trains from moving, even if they need to keep the engine running. I was also told that the reason they keep diesel locomotive engines running all the time is because the engines are hard to start when they get cold. I would think this wouldn't be as much of a problem in most of India, as the climate is pretty warm there. Surely there must be a way to design locomotives that can be turned off when they're not actually pulling trains. It would do a lot to reduce noise and pollution.
there is already a well established procedure to keep unattended trains from moving. It does not involve layers upon layers of technology with their own failure modes and what not. The established procedure was not followed in this case.

Turning diesel engines off is very common in India. As a matter of fact it is encouraged when things will not be moving for a long while as India has to import almost every drop of oil that it burns, the same reason that they are fully electrifying the railroad. But in any case when a train is stabled specific procedures are supposed to be followed to so called "tie down" the train. A heavy freight train cannot be kept from rolling away merely by applying the locomotive brakes. All that you will get a is a very few very flat wheels on the locomotive while the train runs away anyway. :D

Frankly, it is a fool's errand to try to design how to tie down a heavy freight trains based on ones experience with a puny little sedan, sort of like trying to design how to tie down an oil tanker based on ones experience of how ones little motor boat can simply be pulled out of the water to completely stabilize it :D
 
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If I were to leave my car running (I have an automatic transmission), I can set the shifter to park and the mechanism physically prevents the car from moving. The gears are disengaged and I believe there's actually a pin in place to keep the car from moving. The parking brake isn't really necessary, it's just an extra layer of protection.
The PCC streetcar had a "parking brake" that was engaged by holding the brake pedal halfway down and releasing the deadman. I'm not sure how it functioned, whether it used the existing tread brake and air pressure (in an air car). In any case, at the trolley museum we always put wood chocks under the wheels when a car was to be taken out of service, not depending on the parking brake.
 
Yes. It is a downhill segment followed by an uphill segment. That is how the person who stopped it knew where to wait for the train to board it.
I wonder how one would go about stopping a train on which the air had leaked off the brakes cylinders?

I guess one would first apply the hand brake on one of the locomotives? Would that suffice to hold the train? Or maybe it might slow the train sufficiently that you can safely transfer to the other locomotive and also apply the hand brake there. Would that be sufficient to hold the train? I guess if not then one would hurry along while the train was still slow and apply the handbrakes on sufficiently many freight cars until the train comes to a complete stop. Then secure it with chocks. Then re-start the engines and get air back into the cylinders.
 
I wonder how one would go about stopping a train on which the air had leaked off the brakes cylinders?

I guess one would first apply the hand brake on one of the locomotives? Would that suffice to hold the train? Or maybe it might slow the train sufficiently that you can safely transfer to the other locomotive and also apply the hand brake there. Would that be sufficient to hold the train? I guess if not then one would hurry along while the train was still slow and apply the handbrakes on sufficiently many freight cars until the train comes to a complete stop. Then secure it with chocks. Then re-start the engines and get air back into the cylinders.
With a lot of luck. Apparently this train had slowed down to a crawl due to the upgrade and they were able to stop it with judicious use of whatever form of braking was available. The scuttlebutt is that the drivers simply forgot to set the brakes properly when they walked off to get some tea. It was a rank amateur mistake. I am still wondering why they suspended the Station Master of Kathua in addition to the drivers and a few others, so there may be a bit more to it that we don't know about. Maybe they all sat together for Tea while the train ran away? 🤔

Of course we will know the actual details when the Inquiry Report comes out, until then it is all speculation since we don't really have all the facts at hand. IR is pretty good at publishing those, since they will get raked over coal in the Parliament if they try to hide stuff, specially on such a highly publicized event.
 
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With a lot of luck. Apparently this train had slowed down to a crawl due to the upgrade and they were able to stop it with judicious use of whatever form of braking was available. The scuttlebutt is that the drivers simply forgot to set the brakes properly when they walked off to get some tea. It was a rank amateur mistake. I am still wondering why they suspended the Station Master of Kathua in addition to the drivers and a few others, so there may be a bit more to it that we don't know about. Maybe they all sat together for Tea while the train ran away? 🤔

Of course we will know the actual details when the Inquiry Report comes out, until then it is all speculation since we don't really have all the facts at hand. IR is pretty good at publishing those, since they will get raked over coal in the Parliament if they try to hide stuff, specially on such a highly publicized event.
From what I've read about India in various places, that literally might be what happened.
 
I wonder how one would go about stopping a train on which the air had leaked off the brakes cylinders?

I guess one would first apply the hand brake on one of the locomotives? Would that suffice to hold the train? Or maybe it might slow the train sufficiently that you can safely transfer to the other locomotive and also apply the hand brake there. Would that be sufficient to hold the train? I guess if not then one would hurry along while the train was still slow and apply the handbrakes on sufficiently many freight cars until the train comes to a complete stop. Then secure it with chocks. Then re-start the engines and get air back into the cylinders.
Now I'm confused, which is probably pretty obvious from my last post on this topic. I always thought the design of air brakes was such that the air pressure kept the brake shoe (pad? Whatever it's called) disengaged from the wheel. Thus, if the system lost pressure, the brakes would automatically engage. You wouldn't need a manual handbrake, you could just bleed air from the system and get all the brakes on the train engaged. Obviously, things are more complicated than that.
 
Now I'm confused, which is probably pretty obvious from my last post on this topic. I always thought the design of air brakes was such that the air pressure kept the brake shoe (pad? Whatever it's called) disengaged from the wheel. Thus, if the system lost pressure, the brakes would automatically engage. You wouldn't need a manual handbrake, you could just bleed air from the system and get all the brakes on the train engaged. Obviously, things are more complicated than that.
Here is a nice video that explains it quite well, with lots of pictures of Indian trains.

 
Thus, if the system lost pressure, the brakes would automatically engage. You wouldn't need a manual handbrake, you could just bleed air from the system and get all the brakes on the train engaged. Obviously, things are more complicated than that.
Only if the reservoir tank has pressure. If that is not charged then eventually it will lose its air through leakage and brakes will slowly get released. That is why when you wish to remain stationary for a long time and will leave the train unattended you need to apply mechanical brakes or wood chocks or whatever. In a twin pipe system the reservoir can be recharged without fiddling around with the brake.

At this point a short tutorial on air brake systems may be in order, specially to understand terms like "train brake" and "emergency brake".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railway_air_brake

Indian Railways uses twin pipe system for coaching stock and single pipe system for freight stock. So what is shown in the video above with a passenger train is actually incorrect since it shown a single pipe system.

Now one more complication in this case is we don't know for sure that this was an air braked train. It could have been vacuum braked of which there still are many around, and most older locomotives are equipped to provide either compressed air or vacuum braking for the train., and that opens up a different can of worms. Best to wait for the report.
 
Yes. It is a downhill segment followed by an uphill segment. That is how the person who stopped it knew where to wait for the train to board it.
Or possibly if there was a human engineer operator the train heading up the slope would need that engineer to apply more power to continue up the incline.
But what is this deal about throwing chunks (blocks) of wood in front of the locomotive to slow the train ?
Wouldn't that create a possible derailment situation ?
Runaway trucks are where possible diverted to an upward off ramp with windrows of gravel to catch the
undercarriage snaring the movement to a halt.

This sounds like some bad "B" movie plot from Bollywood (India Hollywood) - - - LOL !
 
Or possibly if there was a human engineer operator the train heading up the slope would need that engineer to apply more power to continue up the incline.
But what is this deal about throwing chunks (blocks) of wood in front of the locomotive to slow the train ?
That happened only in the fertile imagination of a BBC Reporter apparently and then has been mindlessly copied by many, or so I am told. :D Afterall, how could the great BBC be wrong? ;)
 
There is a detailed video with Hindi commentary that has been posted on Youtube. Here are a few salient points.
  • It was a departmental ballast train which came down from Jammu and was stabled in Kathua. The Drivers went off duty at Kathua.
  • The Diesel Engines were shut down before the Drivers went off duty as instructed by the Loco Superindentant.
  • Proper procedure would have been to apply the loco hand brakes and hand brakes on at least six wagons and in addition to place wood or metal chocks adjacent to the locomotive wheels thus making it impossible for them to move. None of this was apparently done.
  • So when the loco was shut down the pressure in the brake train line went to zero, and the reservoirs in the cars started bleeding some air as they always do. Eventually there was enough bleed to release the brakes in the train and the whole thing started rolling down hill since the train had not been mechanically tied down.
  • The VCD (Vigilance Control Device or Dead Man's Handle or equivalent) did not operate since the locomotives were not on.
  • When they realized what had happened they cleared the path in front of the train, including moving a passenger train out of its path, and closing down all grade crossings. They did try to spread ballast on the track but short of derailing it in a mess on the downhill such attempts did not work. It rolled down from Kathua at 394m above MSL to the low point at Mukrain, past Pathankot at 257m above MSL. Then they set up shop on the upgrade to Unchi Basti at 329m above MSL. They filled the track up with ballast and sand bags in the short time available and commandeered a passenger Driver who was awaiting the passenger train to go on to wherever he was to get on duty. The train going uphill plowing through all the sand and ballast slowed down enough without derailing (fortunately) for the Driver to jump on Board and apply the handbrake and the Engine brake on the lead locomotive to stop the train at the top of the uphill. Apparently the direct engine brake pressure reservoir had not bled out..
That is the first blush story of what happened. Of course the actual Inquiry will probably bring out more details and correct some other details.

6 people were suspended by the DRM Ferozpur Divn:
  • The two Drivers for failing to secure the train while going off duty.
  • The Station Master for failing to supervise operations
  • The Loco Suprindentant for failing to give proper instructions
  • The Guard for failing to secure the train
  • The Pointsman on duty for failing to set the Derailing Switch properly on the loop where the train was stabled.
 
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