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Old 05 February 2018, 01:41 PM
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Psihala Psihala is offline
 
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Default Amtrak train on wrong track in deadly crash; it says freight line controls signals

A Miami-bound Amtrak train appeared to be on the wrong track when it collided with a freight train in South Carolina early Sunday, killing two people and injuring 116, according to authorities.

http://abcnews.go.com/US/amtrak-pass...ry?id=52826058
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Old 05 February 2018, 02:03 PM
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Richard W Richard W is online now
 
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The obvious superficial reading is that the people in charge of the freight train set the points on the main line to put the freight train on the side track, and then didn't set them back before the Amtrack train went through on the main line (and so got diverted onto the side track and into the freight train).

That leaves a signalling issue - did the Amtrack train have a green signal or did it go through a red?

And if there was a green signal, is it because the signalling went wrong somehow (meaning that the freight train operators didn't have time to set the points back correctly, or thought that the signal was red) or because the people who set the points just forgot to set them back? Those two are linked to some extent though, because you'd have hoped that the procedure for doing this would ensure that the signals were set correctly to red when the points were changed, and that the points were set correctly before the signal was changed to allow other trains through. So if it's on the freight operators, there's a possible mechanical error in the signal, or human error in the procedure, or systemic error in the procedure itself...
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Old 05 February 2018, 02:10 PM
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Amtrak train on wrong track in deadly crash; it says freight line controls signals

Amtrak doesn't own the rails in the accident location. CSX does, so the Amtrak train's movements would be under the control of the CSX dispatcher.

Three things from the article trouble me:

1)
Quote:
Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a news conference Sunday afternoon that the track the Amtrak train was on had been manually switched and "lined and locked." It caused it to divert from the main line and onto a side track, where the freight train was parked.
A manually operated switch being aligned and locked for the siding instead of the mainline goes against basic operating procedure. It wouldn't have been aligned that way by Amtrak. The siding is used for loading/unloading automobiles. Once the work train is in the siding, the switch is supposed to be returned to mainline operation.

2)
Quote:
Sumwalt said the CSX controlled tracks were not equipped with Positive Train Control, a high-tech overlay system Amtrak uses on tracks it operates. The system is designed to read signals and automatically stop a train before certain accidents occur.

"An operational PTC system is designed to prevent this type of accident," Sumwalt said.
But elsewhere in the article it says:

Quote:
[An Amtrak spokesman] said at the time of the crash Amtrak crew was communicating with a CSX dispatcher via a telephone communication system. He said the signaling system that controls traffic on the four tracks in the area was down for maintenance.
I don't know if NTSB Chairman Sumwalt had this information available to him when he gave his press conference, but PTC relies heavily on the signal system. If it wasn't functioning (the NTSB will determine that during the investigation), I don't think PTC was going to be of much help in this case. It also suggests the possibility that the switch is normally operated remotely, but was in manual operation due to maintenance.

And 3)

Quote:
"It appears that the Amtrak was on the wrong track," [Gov.] McMaster said at the news conference midday Sunday. "They weren't supposed to be meeting right there by the bridge, clearly. And it may be a time factor, but that's what it appears to me. But I defer to those who are experts in that and do have the correct information, but it appears that Amtrak was on the wrong track."
You were the first person the press quoted after this accident happened, Governor. The phrasing implicates Amtrak. Keep your damned mouth shut on things you don't understand.


I was shocked by the arial view of the accident site. I wondered if the passenger train had just one locomotive (the two freight locos were easy to identify, despite the damage. The cab and front truck assembly of P42DC #47 is completely sheared away.

And railfans closer to the scene than me tell me that was the second locomotive in the consist.



~Psihala

Last edited by Psihala; 05 February 2018 at 02:28 PM.
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Old 05 February 2018, 02:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Psihala View Post
I don't know if NTSB Chairman Sumwalt had this information available to him when he gave his press conference, but PTC relies heavily on the signal system. If it wasn't functioning, I don't think PTC was going to be of much help in this case.
He does qualify to say an operational PTC system.

Quote:
You were the first person the press quoted after this accident happened. The phrasing implicates Amtrak. Keep your damned mouth shut on things you don't understand.
Amtrak was on the wrong track, but through no fault of theirs from the sound of it.
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Old 05 February 2018, 04:22 PM
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Quote:
the track the Amtrak train was on had been manually switched
Does "manually switched" mean the conductor has to get off the train, physically pull a lever to send the train onto the siding, and then pull the lever again after the train is on the siding to return the switch to mainline? Or can it mean that a dispatcher sitting in an office somewhere has to press a button to control the switch as opposed to a computer algorithm doing it?
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Old 05 February 2018, 04:44 PM
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Chairman Sumwalt said in his press briefing that he saw a padlock on the switch, which would indicate a manual switch (automatic switch machines can be manually switched in case of a failure of the controlling equipment, but one usually has to remove a cover to do it).

On a manual switch, its just a lever attached to a metal stand or, if a tall, metal stand isn't practical for whatever reason, mounted on the end of a tie (or "sleeper" for those in the UK). A padlock goes through a hole drilled in both the stand and the lever and is meant to prevent the switch from being tampered with.

During switching operations, the brakeman/conductor will unlock the padlock, 'throw' the switch, wait for the train to enter the side track, and, if its a manual mainline switch, throw the switch back for the main, and then replace and lock the padlock.

~Psihala
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