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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » Cascades Derailment (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Cascades Derailment
Vincent206
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The NTSB issued an update on January 25th.

Some of the most interesting bullet points:

a) In the five weeks preceding the derailment, the engineer had qualified on the Point Defiance Bypass section of track following the completion of seven to 10 observational trips in the locomotive as well as three trips operating the equipment, two northbound and one southbound.
b) The engineer told investigators that he was aware that the curve with the 30 mph speed restriction was at milepost 19.8, and that he had planned to initiate braking about one mile prior to the curve.
c) The engineer said that he saw mileposts 16 and 17 but didn’t recall seeing milepost 18 or the 30 mph advance speed sign, which was posted two miles ahead of the speed-restricted curve.

So, how did the engineer miss the speed restriction sign 2 miles before the curve and then also miss the MP 18 sign? Lack of attention or lack of training? I imagine the NTSB will find fault with both Amtrak and the individual engineer.

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yukon11
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Yes, I think it all boils down to your last paragraph, Vincent.

If there was a lack of attention, how do you remedy that problem? There does seem to be a number of reports pointing to a lack of adequate training for Amtrak engineers and crew members:

https://is.gd/4BQwa3

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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Today I observed a Wisconsin Talgo near MP 18 being moved Westward at about 2PM. Heading it were two P-42's and a SC-44. On the rear was "Duckbill Platypus". There are reports at other sites that the move is now on former ATSF rails, so it would appear off to Pueblo.

Will next stop be Cascade revenue service?

This Letter from Amtrak to the FRA suggests that both Wisconsin sets will enter Cascade revenue service.

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daniel3197
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:
Today I observed a Wisconsin Talgo near MP 18 being moved Westward at about 2PM. Heading it were two P-42's and a SC-44. On the rear was "Duckbill Platypus". There are reports at other sites that the move is now on former ATSF rails, so it would appear off to Pueblo.

Will next stop be Cascade revenue service?

This Letter from Amtrak to the FRA suggests that both Wisconsin sets will enter Cascade revenue service.

Gil,
Reliable sources report that THe Talgo extra AMtrak train 963 that you saw today (weds 31 Jan 2018) in INdeed enroute to the Pac Northwest after testing is complete at PUeblo CO. This talgo set WILL be a replacement for the crashed talgo that was destroyed on Dec 18, 2017.

I must says it was very interesting to follow this via Railcam today.

This special trian departed Chicago MH Twer at 1334 CT --Passed Galesburg amtrak dpot at 412 PM CT or 1612 CT and passed La Plata MO at 1957 CT--or 757pm CT. This special Talgo extra was held at Ft Madison, IA for Amtrak trian 3 of 31 to overtake it.
Those are the timepoints that I saw it pass various Live Railcams.
---Daniel

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Jerome Nicholson
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HLN says some of the trainees were seated facing backwards on the training trips. This might account for the engineer's lack of awareness.
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Vincent206
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Some updates regarding restarting service on the Bypass:

Testing is scheduled to start sometime "in the coming months" on the Bypass route.
quote:
In the coming months, please expect to see periodic Sounder and/or other test trains operating on the Lakewood Subdivision tracks adjacent to I-5 between Lakewood and DuPont as part of ongoing implementation of positive train control systems.
OregonBusiness.com has an interview with an ODOT official, Hal Gard, who gives a progress report on restoring service on the Bypass route.

quote:
OB: What is the status of implementation?
HG: Per Class I freight railroads that use PTC for their systems and equipment, it is up and running. And for the Point Nisqually bypass [the site of the derailment], the trackside sensors are there; it’s ready to go. Essentially all the major pieces for the WSDOT locomotives are ready to go. All of Amtrak's locomotives have hardware installed. We are in the process of having two Oregon train sets retrofitted; that should be done by this spring.The tall pole in the tent are the back office servers for Amtrak that make parts talk.

Adding up the 2 interviews, it seems that the PTC technology is ready to go but Amtrak is working on its back office servers and building its safety culture. Until those boxes are checked off, the Cascades trains will stay on the Point Defiance route.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Bloomberg reports that the Preliminary Report from the NTSB has now been released. There is interesting reading regarding the Talgo equipment.

Fair Use:
  • The passenger rail cars on an Amtrak train that derailed near Seattle last December, killing three people, were allowed by federal regulators to stay in service even though they didn’t meet current crash-protection standards, federal investigators said Tuesday......The NTSB is conducting a two-day hearing . As part of the hearing, it released preliminary reports on the Dec. 18 accident in DuPont, WA...The three people who died had been traveling in one of the rail cars that was severely disfigured by the crash impact, NTSB said. Two of them were thrown from the car. A total of 74 people were injured, including 57 passengers on the train.....The car’s floor buckled, its roof collapsed and most of the seats were crushed, the NTSB said
Mr. Anderson has deemed, and I'd dare say with much foundation, that the Amtrak safety culture - passenger and employee - is broken. Even if the incident is clearly laid at the feet of employee negligence, Anderson was never in his past life persuading the FAA to allow flying of aircraft that did not meet prevailing safety standards.

While I doubt if the Talgos will be withdrawn from service, I would not expect to see any further orders for such.

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:
"The passenger rail cars on an Amtrak train that derailed near Seattle last December, killing three people, were allowed by federal regulators to stay in service even though they didn’t meet current crash-protection standards, federal investigators said Tuesday..."

Anderson was never in his past life persuading the FAA to allow flying of aircraft that did not meet prevailing safety standards.

While I doubt if the Talgos will be withdrawn from service, I would not expect to see any further orders for such.

Actually Amtrak's management had very little to do with the realities for the use of the Talgo trainsets. This was one of the outcomes of "The way they do it in Europe has got to be the way to go" mindsets. It was known from the get-go that these things did not and could not be made to meet FRA safety standards. But, but: They meet the Spanish (and probably also UIC) safety standards so they got to be good. Therefore they were ordered and put into service. Given that these trains consist of a string of these Talgo cars sandwiched between US diesels on each end, I have felt since I first saw them that this was a string of soft drink cans with a brick on each end of the string.

If you want to really understand how good the Euro standards are, look up information on the Eschede derailment in Germany. Aside from it being used as an example of the "cascade of events" in a disaster, in at least one of the pictures you can see where in the collision with the bridge at least one of the cars unzipped along the welds between sides and roof and sides and floor, so rather than protect the occupants it probably either ejected or crushed them. There were several conditions in this equipment and features of this location and structures that simply would not be allowed in the USA.

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Gilbert B Norman
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If you had to be a passenger at either, which would you choose?

Chase v. Eschede

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Vincent206
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I watched a good bit of the hearing tonight. The NTSB panel seemed to be focused most directly on the plan (or lack of plan) for ensuring that the 30mph curve was handled safely. There also were quite a few questions about the training program for the engineers and conductors prior to the start date. A few questions were asked about the grandfathering of the Talgo equipment. Amtrak and WSDOT didn't have a lot of good answers for the panelist's questions. At one point an NTSB panelist asked who was responsible for the overall safety coordination of the project and none of the reps could answer the question.
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Vincent206
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WSDOT is planning to return to the Pt. Defiance bypass route "In spring 2019". No firm date or month was announced because WSDOT is waiting for the NTSB to finish its investigation and issue recommendations before switching service back to the bypass route.

WSDOT also expects PTC to be fully implemented on the Cascades route by the December 31, 2018 deadline.

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Vincent206
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We've now reached the one year anniversary of the deadly derailment. Cascades trains will remain on the water route until the NTSB final report is released and Amtrak and WSDOT have a chance to address all the concerns raised by the Board. WSDOT expects the move back to the Bypass will occur sometime next spring. Positive Train Control is activated and currently is being used by all Cascades, Sounder, BNSF and UP trains operating on the Cascades Corridor. Meanwhile, over 35 lawsuits stemming from the crash are working their way through the legal system.
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Vincent206
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The NTSB will announce the "probable cause" of the DuPont wreck at its board meeting on May 21, 2019. WSDOT has said that they are waiting for the NTSB final report before the trains are switched back to the Bypass route. PTC has been tested and it's operational. I'm sure the NTSB will recommend some advanced training for the train crews before service resumes.
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Vincent206
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The NTSB has released their report on the December 18, 2017 derailment near Dupont WA that killed 3 passengers. The headline for me is the statement regarding the crashworthiness of the Talgo VI trainsets, which are not fully compliant with current federal safety standards, but are operated with a waiver from the FRA. The NTSB says:
quote:
Grandfathering is not in the public interest or consistent with railroad safety
The main issues cited by the NTSB are ineffectiveness of the passenger compartments to remain structurally intact during a crash and lack of securement of the train seats that are designed to rotate at the end of each trip. It appears that the fatalities were linked to the failure of one of the post and wheel devices that connects the cars together. It failed during the accident and separated from the cars which compromised the structural integrity of the railcars. The rotating seats also didn't hold in place during the accident which led to several injuries. The NTSB recommends that WSDOT:
quote:
Discontinue the use of the Talgo Series VI trainsets as soon as possible and replace them with passenger railroad equipment that meet all current United States safety requirements.
Fault is also placed on Sound Transit for not identifying, mitigating and resolving the problems created by the 30 mph curve. Amtrak is faulted for inadequate crew familiarization and safety oversight procedures. The FRA is faulted for failing to properly oversee the train operations and allowing new service on tracks that don't have operating PTC. There are over 30 recommendations in the report, too many to list in detail.

I don't remember if the new Talgo trainsets are compliant with the latest safety standards, but it looks like we'll soon be saying good-bye to the older Talgos. I've enjoyed riding on them, but I can't see how they could be allowed to continue for much longer given the findings of the NTSB.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Vincent, with the "broken" safety culture, Mr. Anderson "inherited" and having come from an industry (despite some recent "missteps") in which safety is paramount, I don't think Talgo equipment has much further "life expectancy" on US rails.

Until new equipment is ordered and placed in service, I think the Horizons, as they are released from Midwest service, will make the Northwest their "retirement comminity".

Talgos? "Send 'em back where they came from". Maybe RENFE can find something to do with them. One ride, Bilbao to Madrid during '90, was enough for me.

The lawyers are looking at a "profit opportunity"; for by the time its over, there will be more suits in court than Men's Wearhouse has on the racks.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Here is the confirmation of my thoughts immediately noted.

There is an open production line building short distance cars to a proven European, and a "proving" US on Brightline, design, and many fewer layers of bureaucracy to wade through, it's no surprise this is where WSDOT wants to go.

Even though this incident, apparently named du Pont, was the result of Amtrak negligence, the equipment did not make a good showing of itself. That reportedly no work has been done to repair and return to service the set involved at Port Tacoma, and that no movment has been made to place the two Wisconsin sets into service, suggests a lack of confidence in the equipment.

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PullmanCo
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I read the reports. Amtrak tried to pin the tail on the engineer. NTSB flat out rejected that one.

Amtrak will be paying full tariff freight on the wrongful death suits.

--------------------
The City of Saint Louis (UP, 1967) is still my standard for passenger operations

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Vincent206
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The NTSB's final accident report was released today. There are more details in this report but the main narrative remains the same. This was the engineer's first trip over the territory with a revenue passenger load; he was in a locomotive that he was unfamiliar with; he saw the 2 mile marker but somehow missed the 1 mile marker; about 30 seconds before the train approached the 30 mph restricted curve an overspeed alarm sounded that distracted the driver until it was too late to slow down the train. The train entered the curve at 78 mph and derailed. Three passengers were killed and dozens were injured.

The most significant addition I noticed was the risk analysis chart prepared for the 30 mph curve by Sound Transit. ST clearly understood the danger the curve posed. Their risk analysis rated the danger as "Unacceptable" but their mitigation plan was wholly inadequate, particularly without active PTC on the line. The mitigation plan also failed to include any input from the engineers.

Another point of failure was the placement of the 2 mile warning sign. Amtrak's foreman of engines told the NTSB:
quote:
“An advanced speed board doesn’t really have any effect on their operation because it’s just too far out…to be of any use to them for braking for a curve 2 miles away.”
A 2 mile warning might be useful for an engineer with a heavy freight train but for a light weight passenger train, 2 miles is too far out to be helpful. Unfortunately, the markings at 1 mile out were too inconspicuous to be noticed by either the engineer or the qualifying conductor who was riding in the lead locomotive.

Like so many accidents, this was a combination of several lapses that individually wouldn't lead to disaster, but the unforeseen consequences of one mistake combining with another mistake led to a disaster that no one would have predicted.

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Vincent206
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The first jury verdicts have been returned in damage suits against Amtrak following the Dupont crash in 2017. Three people have been awarded almost $17 million in compensation for their injuries and losses. Amtrak admitted in testimony that it made mistakes before the crash.

I wonder if Amtrak will settle the rest of the cases out of court. Jury deliberations in this case took a full week.

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George Harris
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This is the link to the accident report. Note, the report number: RAR1901.
https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/RAR1901.pdf
It is the typical NTSB fine toothed comb discussion, and as usual followed by an over the top list of suggestions. After reading quite a few of these over the years, it should be clearly understood the wisdom in giving the NTSB no regulatory powers.

Among the highest overreaction was to cease to use this line until all proposed signal work was done. It should have been put back in service as soon as repaired. You can be sure that any railroad man likely to be on a train through this subdivision would be well aware of this curve.

When going through this report, note on page 74 of the pdf, which is page 60 on the page numbering, the item labeled as "Utility Hammer AMTK 7422". This hammer's sole real purpose is to break the windows in case of the need to use them as exits. This is a European normal. Zip strips they do not use. My opinion of this is that it is truly nuts. You want to give the people broken glass to climb over to get out of your train??

Incidentally, when I first saw anything about one of these trains, an American Diesel on each end and a string of Tallgo cars between was, this is a string of soda cans with a brick on each end.

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