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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » Wasn't Chatsworth Enough?

   
Author Topic: Wasn't Chatsworth Enough?
Gilbert B Norman
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Wall Street Journal

Associated Press courtesy Yahoo News

Fair Use quotation:

  • The collision, which occurred at around 5:45 a.m. PST in Oxnard in Ventura County, shut down the shared Amtrack/Metolink rail line between Ventura County and Los Angeles, according to Metrolink officials.

Even if in all likelihood, the fault will lay with another party, this was simply too close to Chatsworth and the memories of operator negligence. Either way, taxpayers "open 'em up' and dig deep.

At this time, I think Amtrak again holds the LAMTA operating contract (did not at time of Chatsworth), and maybe riders on 11(23) and 14(24) will get a view of Tehachapi.

Fortunately at this time, no reports of fatalities.

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Ocala Mike
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My early take on this (unless the crossing gates malfunctioned) is that we have another Reno of a few years back, and it's totally absurd for the media and the public to conflate this with Chatsworth (but of course they will).

Far too many grade crossing incidents, especially involving commercial vehicles with drivers "on the clock."

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Ocala Mike

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Vincent206
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Yes, this is a Ventura train and Chatsworth would be 4 stops down the line from Oxnard.

Judging from the photos, it looks like the train was operating in the push mode with the cab car leading. The engineer is reported to be among the injured and I expect this crash will reignite the debate about the safety of cab cars in accidents. Metrolink has a mixed fleet of older cab cars and newer cabs designed to better protect the engineer in accidents. I can't tell from the photos which model was leading this trainset. Let's all hope that everyone involved in this accident is able to make a speedy recovery.

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Gilbert B Norman
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A close look at the video would suggest that the cab car has a safety cab. At another site, it's reported the cab was a "Rotem" car. Maybe that means something to someone out there, but it is meaningless to me.
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Vincent206
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The Rotems are the new "safer" cab cars and in the videos of the crash scene it looks like the overturned car next to the fence is a Rotem cab car. The car that is partially in the roadway looks like a standard BBD Bi-Level. The Rotem appears to be pointed back at the scene of the accident which means that it somehow did a 180 degree turn after the collision. Strange.
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Geoff Mayo
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Car separation is not good though the shells seem to be uncompromised which is good. I wonder how the interiors handled - those cars are mostly "airline style" seating with just four tables upstairs. Tables have been cited as problematic in a few accidents I've noticed.

RE the debate about push/pull operation: yes lots of so-called "experts" have selective opinions but of course studies have been done in many countries and they all tend to come to the same conclusion: push/pull is no more or less safe than pull-only.

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Geoff M.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Looks like it's a no dice for a ride over Tehachapi on either 11 or 14, Starlight today.

The linked Service Bulletin states that both trains will terminate/originate Emeryville and with "alternate transportation provided".

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smitty195
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From a well-placed source of mine: It was an Instructor engineer and Student engineer in the teeny-tiny cab of the Rotem car. Both received serious head and spine injuries. Engineer is in critical condition and might not make it. Student's injuries are also very serious. I don't buy the argument that these new Rotem cars are "safer". This is the first crash involving them, and look what happened.
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Vincent206
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Channel 4 Los Angeles is reporting that the truck had turned onto the rail line and was stuck on the tracks

quote:
A preliminary investigation indicated the driver was southbound on Rice Avenue when he turned onto the tracks instead of 5th Street, police said. It was not immediately clear why the vehicle was stopped on the tracks, police said.
Also:
quote:
Four victims were in critical condition, according to Oxnard Fire Department officials. Doctors at Ventura County Medical Center said three of the nine victims transported to that hospital are in critical condition with head injuries and spine and rib fractures.
No mention is made of the engineer's condition
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DonNadeau
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We need complete separation of road & fast train lines used for passenger service, as is done in Europe.

Outrageously expensive? Yes. Only full solution? I believe so.

In the meantime, so much more could be done than is now.

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Geoff Mayo
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Roundly half an hour before sunrise so it's possible the truck driver got disoriented I guess.

Those cab cars do have small cabs. You can just about see in through a short passage that is normally roped off (but actually contains 2 seats, one behind the other). With two in the cab it doesn't make for a speedy exit, and not to anywhere fast just in case they suspect an imminent cab compromise. Maybe to those two seats which IIRC are rear facing relative to the cab direction. Come to think of it, the rope probably isn't exactly what a fire assessor would consider an unimpeded exit either. I hope the engineers are okay though.

Isn't the North East Corridor relatively crossing-free? Higher speeds of course but shows it could be done if necessary. It would be a daunting task nationwide for even, let's say, anything 60mph+.

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Geoff M.

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dns8560
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The number of railroad accidents involving both vehicles and pedestrians is astounding. Seems like there is at least one a day. I became aware of this when I started using a phone app to do a keyword search for "trains". The app found story after story, almost every day. Whatever public awareness Operation Lifesaver stirred some years ago must be all but forgotten now.

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Everybody has to believe in something. I believe I'll take the train!

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MargaretSPfan
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Smitty195 is right. Thank you, Smitty, for stating what needed to be said!

On another forum it was pointed out that the coupler on the cab car broke because a pin sheared off that was designed to shear, and that allowed the coupler to drop and it dug into the ground and that may have caused that cab car to pivot 180 degrees and and pull car #2 off the tracks.

It was also posted on another forum that Metrolink has already begun to clean up the derailment -- BEFORE the NTSB has even arrived and had even one minute to examine the crash scene!

In any collision between a train and any vehicle, if I am a passenger, I want that 70-foot 130-ton locomotive IN FRONT at all times! The push mode is NOT as safe for passengers or crew as the pull mode.

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George Harris
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Given the distance beyond the crossing where the engine ended up, I would guess the collision speed to be somewhere around 40 mph or less. (Collision speeds are almost invariably overestimated when compared to actual speeds in situations where the actual speed can be determined, which should be the case here.)
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Gilbert B Norman
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Of course we all know that the driver left the scene to "call Saul" or other "abogado", but otherwise is behind bars or at the least wore the bracelets.

Unfortunately, even though Mr. Nadeau's point is well taken, such is simply not reasonable or practical. Metrolink is here to stay, as are the grade X-ings over which it operates.

Regarding Margaret's point, in a perfect investigative world, no evidence would be touched until the on-scene investigation was complete, but the real world conflicts in that in this case, the UP wanted traffic to move again. How often in the half a dozen or so "scrapes" I've had in this life (confession: I "took 30" on one of them; otherwise clean) would I have just preferred to leave the vehicles right where they were until the authorities arrived, but you simply cannot tie up a public thoroughfare for one's personal interests.

Further, I have to wonder if this incident will result in a renegotiation of terms regarding liability between railroads and the various rail passenger agencies. While I have no knowledge of the terms under which the Union Pacific and the LAMTA have agreed, I have learned that Amtrak and the railroads essentially have a "no fault" agreement. Amtrak will pay to remove and patch up their equipment, and settle torts with their passengers and employees. Railroad will pay to restore their tracks and settle torts amongst their employees and trespassers. Of course, any of those injured parties will be after "the ham sandwich".

Now it seems that several passenger agencies have entered into more "railroad favorable" agreements. It is my understanding that where the Central Florida Sun Rail operates over railroad owned rights of way, that they will be liable for any torts caused by either the railroad or the agency.

Again, my understanding, but I could be mistaken and am prepared to stand corrected if need be.

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Geoff Mayo
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quote:
Originally posted by MargaretSPfan:
In any collision between a train and any vehicle, if I am a passenger, I want that 70-foot 130-ton locomotive IN FRONT at all times! The push mode is NOT as safe for passengers or crew as the pull mode.

As I already stated, the expert view on this - in the US and worldwide - is that your opinion is misguided. I only watched one TV report on this accident and the clueless reporter was similarly bleating on about how "clearly the engine at the rear was a problem" - presumably there were more so-called experts being interviewed on TV (hint: most are NOT experts but just paid talking heads because they once said something of interest about a related subject).

quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:
Regarding Margaret's point, in a perfect investigative world, no evidence would be touched until the on-scene investigation was complete, but the real world conflicts in that in this case, the UP wanted traffic to move again. How often in the half a dozen or so "scrapes" I've had in this life (confession: I "took 30" on one of them; otherwise clean) would I have just preferred to leave the vehicles right where they were until the authorities arrived, but you simply cannot tie up a public thoroughfare for one's personal interests.

And even more nonsense. Can you imagine the scene in court when an official is asked why the evidence was moved and the response is "Oh but Deidre needed to get to Walmart"?

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Geoff M.

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DonNadeau
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Geoff, I've never noticed a single at grade crossing on the Northeast Corridor between DC & Boston South Station.

There's been trouble in the past mixing freight & passenger on this high-speed (for America) line. I can only imagine what might happen if road traffic was added to the mix.

Mr. Norman is quite correct. My ideal will not fly, Nevertheless, so much could be done, e.g., eliminating many crossings--perhaps a majority of them--and focusing on protecting the most popular ones left.

Galesburg, IL did a good job restraining the number of crossing on its busy ex-Burlington and ex-Santa Fe lines:

https://goo.gl/maps/46G6c

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George Harris
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California DOT prohibits construction of new grade crossings. You have at least got to acknowledge an act of good sense for that one.

I would love to see what was on this truck and trailer.

The "safety cab" appears to have been a complete failure.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Nadeau, there are several grade X-ings along the Corridor in Eastern Connecticut. There was at one time, Federal funding to eliminate them all, but several "Quainty Oldie New England" towns such as Mystic and Stonington, with tourist trap economies, objected to having tracks elevated through the middle of their "attractions".
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HopefulRailUser
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The latest info is that the truck was not at a crossing but was quite a ways up the track, in other words, he had been driving on the track. He exited the truck at some point and continued walking away. When he was found he was not very coherent. What a mess. The engineer had a cardiac arrest in hospital but was resuscitated. Don't know about the other critically injured folks.

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Vicki in usually sunny Southern California

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DonNadeau
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"Mr. Nadeau, there are several grade X-ings along the Corridor in Eastern Connecticut."

Yikes. Hopefully they are very well protected.

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@DonNadeau

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MargaretSPfan
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IMO, it is way past time for commute railroads to install obstacle-detection technology along their tracks and in all locomotive cabs and cab-car cabs. Such a system should warm engineers of danger(s) ahead and allow them to slow or stop the train before hitting any obstruction(s). or at least allow the hapless engineer to exit the cab after trying to stop the train, to get out of the crumple zone.

And, yes, grade separations must be fast-tracked. The monies that have already been wasted on high-speed rail here in California would have paid for many grade separations. But -- guess we are stuck with the HSR boondoggle because ya gotta cater to the wealthy and give them every shiny new toy they demand, no matter how much that costs the rest of us. Sigh.....

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chrisg
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All the seats in the Rotem cab cars face backwards so people aren't thrown in a normal accident., This one wasn't normal!
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Geoff Mayo
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quote:
Originally posted by George Harris:
I would love to see what was on this truck and trailer.

Apparently an F450 pickup truck with a trailer of welding equipment. Something like this presumably.

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Geoff M.

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George Harris
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Well, it appears that my earlier guess at collisions speed was way off base. It was actualy 56 mph. This speed does make the vehicle damage more understandable, and it also says that the decelleration rate post-collision was very high.

see: http://www.scpr.org/news/2015/02/26/50067/metrolink-train-crash-no-charges-to-be-filed-again/

Items from that reference relating to speed/distance:

quote:
The train's horn sounded 12 seconds before impact

The throttle position of the train was moved to idle 11 secs prior to impact

The train's emergency brakes were applied 8 seconds before impact

At the time the emergency brakes were applied, the train was traveling 64 mph, and 56 mph at the time of impact

I am surprised by the long period of time between closing throttle and application of emergency brake. I would have expected them to be almost simultaneous.
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Vincent206
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The report says the student engineer was at the controls. I'm guessing this was his first experience with a serious emergency situation and that may explain the 3 seconds between moving the throttle to idle and the application of the emergency brakes. What would the train's speed have been at impact if the emergency brakes had been applied by the 10 second point? [N.B. I'm certainly not trying to blame student engineer for this accident.]
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Geoff Mayo
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http://abc7.com/news/amtrak-train-hits-vehicle-stuck-on-tracks-in-camarillo/540076/

An Amtrak vs car, no injuries, not sure if Starlight or Coastliner.

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Geoff M.

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MargaretSPfan
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Surfliner. 180 pax, bussed to LAUS.

http://www.vcstar.com/news/local-news/camarillo/train-hits-vehicle-near-camarillo_68066777

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DonNadeau
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Just came upon an online article in Trains.com titled--

"212,000 grade crossings in the U.S. Can we close more of them?" dated 2/26.

Access if you're a print subscriber:

http://cs.trains.com/trn/b/staff/archive/2015/02/26/212-000-grade-crossings-in-the-u-s-can-we-close-more-of-them.aspx

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@DonNadeau

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Geoff Mayo
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Surfliner 796 with 86 passengers.

CBS LA - warning, intense media experience (otherwise known as way too much crap on their website which may crash your browser)

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Geoff M.

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Gilbert B Norman
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To the extent that Amtrak again holds the contract to operate LAMTA Metrolink, this sad news is Amtrak related:

http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/metrolink-train-engineer-derailment-crash-oxnard-294858011.html

Fair Use quotation:

  • A train engineer who was hospitalized after a Southern California commuter train derailed when it slammed into a truck on the tracks has died in the hospital, police said Tuesday.

    The death of train engineer Glenn William Steele, 62, marks the first fatality in the Feb. 24 crash in which a Metrolink train struck a Ford F-450 truck, towing a trailer, on the Ventura County Line tracks and derailed, injuring 28.

    "We are deeply saddened by the news," Oxnard Police Cmdr. Marty Meyer said in a statement. "And, we are concerned for those still recovering from this collision and their families."

    The Metrolink train bound for Los Angeles struck the heavy duty pickup truck and trailer as it straddled the tracks. Three of the train's five cars toppled over.

    Metrolink said in a statement that Steele, who was an employee of Amtrak, worked in the rail industry for over 40 years and was the longest tenured engineer among Metrolink operators
I think it is a safe assumption that a charge of manslaughter will move forth.
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Ocala Mike
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:


a charge of manslaughter will move forth.


Really? Source for this, please. The last newspaper accounts of this incident seem to imply that no charges whatever were filed against the driver of the pickup who was deemed to have accidentally turned his vehicle onto the tracks, then vamoosed to save his hide.

Prayers for the engineer's family, and may he rest in peace.

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palmland
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"accidentally turned his vehicle onto the tracks"?? He should be charged for stupidity.
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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:

I think it is a safe assumption that a charge of manslaughter will move forth.

Mike, that is my opinion, and I believe the full quote as captioned makes that clear, but if not, please accept my apology.
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Ocala Mike
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quote:
Originally posted by palmland:


He should be charged for stupidity.


Agree, Palmland, but if stupidity were a crime there wouldn't be enough prisons.
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