BNSF Arizona Collision on Transcon, One Dead

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BNSF Arizona Collision on Transcon, One Dead
Posted by ChuckCobleigh on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 12:36 AM
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Posted by saguaro on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 8:43 AM

Amtrak #3 is sitting in Flagstaff, apparently waiting for passengers to be bussed from #4 on the other side of the accident/derailment. So #3 will become #4 and return to Chicago. Apparently there is a BNSF loco on the east end of #3 that will take it to Albuquerque, where the train may be turned. You can see #3 in Flagstaff here (at 8:50am central time on Wednesday they look like they are getting ready to load passengers):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aNl9W_qaAk

 

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Posted by ChuckCobleigh on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 10:12 AM

saguaro
Amtrak #3 is sitting in Flagstaff,

Under way at about 8:10 MST, finally.  Saw one PHX bound (it would seem) manifest go by while #3 was loading.

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Posted by mudchicken on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 10:43 AM

Chico's grapevine is hearing that a relief crew on a stack train had a situational awareness issue that cost a work train and a track department contract operator dearly. (Human error either with the train crew or the DS having a train flag an absolute signal)

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
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Posted by LensCapOn on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 10:46 AM

Will have to wait for the details of the crash. However the July Trains (page 15) had a piece about how far along BNSF is on PTC with a huge number of trains already running with it. If this was simply a collision it would be exactly what PTC is supposed to prevent. The Transcon is the first line PTC would be expected on, long though it is.

 

As a personal aside, to many PTC articles in all media have presented it as a miracle device that could have prevented whatever rail accident is the story of the day. Honest descriptions PTC's performance, limits and cost (include opportunity cost) seem rare.

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Posted by VOLKER LANDWEHR on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 10:57 AM

ChuckCobleigh
Under way at about 8:10 MST, finally. Saw one PHX bound (it would seem) manifest go by while #3 was loading.

It isn't underway. It backed into the position where it had waited before boarding. There it still sits.
Regards, Volker

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Posted by jeffhergert on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 11:16 AM

The current state of PTC won't prevent collisions at restricted speed.  People have been killed in restricted speed collisions.  Emerson, IA (BNSF) and Clinton, IA (IMRL/BNSF) come to mind.

Jeff

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 12:35 PM

jeffhergert
The current state of PTC won't prevent collisions at restricted speed.  People have been killed in restricted speed collisions.  Emerson, IA (BNSF) and Clinton, IA (IMRL/BNSF) come to mind.

Jeff

Every 'quantum leap' in railroad equipment has been sold with the basic premis that it will end all rail accidents in the future.

Janney couplers
Air brakes
Automatic block signalling
CTC
and now PTC

There are no magic bullets that will eliminate ALL rail accidents.  The bullets will eliminate some accidents but will also create ones that are not forseen.

As long as humans are involved mistakes will happen.  Even when computers are involved one has to remember one thing - computer programming is done by humans.

         

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Posted by NP Eddie on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 1:57 PM

Balt:

I always enjoy your observations! Many years ago, a crew into Northtown overlooked a Form B order to call a flagman at a construction site. They were on the wrong radio channel and did not hear said flagman. This had fatal consequences for a City of Minneapolis employee working near a bridge.

Ed Burns

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 2:09 PM

BaltACD

 

 
jeffhergert
The current state of PTC won't prevent collisions at restricted speed.  People have been killed in restricted speed collisions.  Emerson, IA (BNSF) and Clinton, IA (IMRL/BNSF) come to mind.

Jeff

 

Every 'quantum leap' in railroad equipment has been sold with the basic premis that it will end all rail accidents in the future.

Janney couplers
Air brakes
Automatic block signalling
CTC
and now PTC

There are no magic bullets that will eliminate ALL rail accidents.  The bullets will eliminate some accidents but will also create ones that are not forseen.

As long as humans are involved mistakes will happen.  Even when computers are involved one has to remember one thing - computer programming is done by humans.

 

Very true.  But as a result of finally adopting each of those safety measures, the accident rate dropped an enormous amount.  No one in their right mind would suggest going back to the 1880s.

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Posted by mudchicken on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 2:12 PM

(There was more than just two trains involved here...This one is gonna need a scorecard to sort out all the possible moving parts & growing confusion. Hopefully no more regulatory knee-jerk dictates until all of the investigation is complete. The comments from Chico's grapevine seem to indicate there are a couple additional mysteries to be solved beyond what's been discussed so far.)

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 2:18 PM

charlie hebdo
 
BaltACD
 
jeffhergert
The current state of PTC won't prevent collisions at restricted speed.  People have been killed in restricted speed collisions.  Emerson, IA (BNSF) and Clinton, IA (IMRL/BNSF) come to mind.

Jeff 

Every 'quantum leap' in railroad equipment has been sold with the basic premis that it will end all rail accidents in the future.

Janney couplers
Air brakes
Automatic block signalling
CTC
and now PTC

There are no magic bullets that will eliminate ALL rail accidents.  The bullets will eliminate some accidents but will also create ones that are not forseen.

As long as humans are involved mistakes will happen.  Even when computers are involved one has to remember one thing - computer programming is done by humans. 

Very true.  But as a result of finally adopting each of those safety measures, the accident rate dropped an enormous amount.  No one in their right mind would suggest going back to the 1880s.

I am not insinuating that the railroads go back to the 1880's.  I am just stating that PTC is not a magic bullet.  It is a tool, an advanced one, but a tool never the less.  Tools WILL fail; not to the degree that issues happened before the tool was adopted, but there will be incidents where for one reason or another the tool fails.  PTC is no different than any other tool.

         

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Posted by Euclid on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 3:19 PM

jeffhergert

The current state of PTC won't prevent collisions at restricted speed.  People have been killed in restricted speed collisions.  Emerson, IA (BNSF) and Clinton, IA (IMRL/BNSF) come to mind.

Jeff

 

 

I am just curious.  Why doesen't PTC prevent collisions at restricted speed?  Can it be modified so it can do that?  If so, why is that feature omitted? 

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Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 3:34 PM

Modification: perhaps put an optical sensor on the locomotive which will cause the train to stop within one-half of the seeing distance when an obstacle appears?

Johnny

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Posted by VOLKER LANDWEHR on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 3:42 PM

Euclid
I am just curious. Why doesen't PTC prevent collisions at restricted speed? Can it be modified so it can do that? If so, why is that feature omitted?

I'm not sure about restricted speed requirements. For me it looks like PTC has to prevent train to train collissions at restricted speed. But I admit that as foreigner I have sometime problems interpreting legal language correctly: https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/49/236.1005

49 CFR 236.1005 Requirements of Positive Train Control systems

(a)PTC system requirements. Each PTC system required to be installed under this subpart shall:

(f)Train-to-train collision. A PTC system shall be considered to be configured to prevent train-to-train collisions within the meaning of paragraph (a) of this section if trains are required to be operated at restricted speed and if the onboard PTC equipment enforces the upper limits of the railroad's restricted speed rule (15 or 20 miles per hour). This application applies to:

(1) Operating conditions under which trains are required by signal indication or operating rule to:

(i) Stop before continuing; or

(ii) Reduce speed to restricted speed and continue at restricted speed until encountering a more favorable indication or as provided by operating rule.

(2) Operation of trains within the limits of a joint mandatory directive.

Perhaps I read it wrong. Even if it were not required, it shouldn't be a technical problem to design it.
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Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 4:16 PM

Volker, I believe that GCOR 6.27 tells what is basically necessary to know concerning moving at restricted speed:

"When required to move at restricted speed, movement must be made at a speed that allows stopping within half the range of vision short of a train, engine, railroad car, men or equipment fouling the track, stop signal, or derail or switch lined improperly. When a train or engine is required to move at restricted speed, the crew must keep a lookout for broken rail and not exceed 20 MPH. Comply with these requirement until the leading wheels reach a point where restricted speed is no longer required."

My experience as a passenger with restricted speed has been when a train is backing into a station, as when the California Zephyr is backed into the Denver station: one of the train crew is on the ground, lining switches as is necessary, and the other member of the train crew is standing at the rear and continually telling the engineer what the line of sight distance is in carlengths.

It may be psossible to devise an optical sensor that will meet the requirements as well as the human eye can, and translate what is seen into instructions to stop when it is necessary.

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Posted by rdamon on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 4:16 PM

Do we know if the signals were in service?

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Posted by jeffhergert on Thursday, June 07, 2018 12:23 AM

PTC is an overlay on the existing signal system.  PTC on the locomotive only "sees" the condition of the signal system ahead.  It will see that a block is showing an occupancy, but not what or where the obstruction is.  Until every locomotive (head end) and EOT/rear end DPU and every switch is equipped to communicate with the PTC system, there will be a need for human operation at restricted speed in certain situations.  

Jeff  

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Posted by SD70Dude on Thursday, June 07, 2018 12:26 AM

jeffhergert

PTC is an overlay on the existing signal system.  PTC on the locomotive only "sees" the condition of the signal system ahead.  It will see that a block is showing an occupancy, but not what or where the obstruction is.  Until every locomotive (head end) and EOT/rear end DPU and every switch is equipped to communicate with the PTC system, there will be a need for human operation at restricted speed in certain situations. 

Even after that there will still be a need for human operation, if a block drops for no apparent reason.

Or will trains be prohibited from entering that block in such a situation?

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by jeffhergert on Thursday, June 07, 2018 12:39 AM

VOLKER LANDWEHR

 

 
Euclid
I am just curious. Why doesen't PTC prevent collisions at restricted speed? Can it be modified so it can do that? If so, why is that feature omitted?

 

I'm not sure about restricted speed requirements. For me it looks like PTC has to prevent train to train collissions at restricted speed. But I admit that as foreigner I have sometime problems interpreting legal language correctly: https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/49/236.1005

49 CFR 236.1005 Requirements of Positive Train Control systems

(a)PTC system requirements. Each PTC system required to be installed under this subpart shall:

(f)Train-to-train collision. A PTC system shall be considered to be configured to prevent train-to-train collisions within the meaning of paragraph (a) of this section if trains are required to be operated at restricted speed and if the onboard PTC equipment enforces the upper limits of the railroad's restricted speed rule (15 or 20 miles per hour). This application applies to:

(1) Operating conditions under which trains are required by signal indication or operating rule to:

(i) Stop before continuing; or

(ii) Reduce speed to restricted speed and continue at restricted speed until encountering a more favorable indication or as provided by operating rule.

(2) Operation of trains within the limits of a joint mandatory directive.

Perhaps I read it wrong. Even if it were not required, it shouldn't be a technical problem to design it.
Regards, Volker

 

PTC enforces the top end of restricted speed.  It will make a penalty application if speed rises above 21MPH.  (I've noticed the PTC speedometer, that goes by GPS, is usually 1 to 2 mph slower than the locomotive's speedometer.)  Since PTC doesn't know where the obstruction is in the block, it can't stop you short.  It only keeps the collision at a relatively slow speed.  But still fast enough to cause damage that can lead to, and has led to, fatalities.  It will query the position of facing point switches.  Which requires the engineer to select the correct position.  If no position is selected or the open position is selected, the PTC will then stop the train short.

Jeff 

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Posted by VOLKER LANDWEHR on Thursday, June 07, 2018 4:00 AM

I thought PTC knows the location of any locomotive from GPS? If it knows the locomotive's location it should be possible to know where the rear end is in an occupied block.

This knowledge has to be available if not now at latest when the overlay PTC would be developed in a system allowing moving block. If that ever happens?
Regards, Volker

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, June 07, 2018 6:07 AM

VOLKER LANDWEHR
I thought PTC knows the location of any locomotive from GPS? If it knows the locomotive's location it should be possible to know where the rear end is in an occupied block.

This knowledge has to be available if not now at latest when the overlay PTC would be developed in a system allowing moving block. If that ever happens?
Regards, Volker

That would be adding another two levels of complexity.

         

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Posted by jeffhergert on Thursday, June 07, 2018 9:23 AM

VOLKER LANDWEHR

I thought PTC knows the location of any locomotive from GPS? If it knows the locomotive's location it should be possible to know where the rear end is in an occupied block.

This knowledge has to be available if not now at latest when the overlay PTC would be developed in a system allowing moving block. If that ever happens?
Regards, Volker

 

The locomotive knows where it is, the back office computer knows where the head end is.  The rear end could be approximated from data in the system.  However, the actual position could vary by up to a few hundred feet.  I've seen GPS up to 75 feet off.  When initiaizing PTC, we are to make sure the PTC consist totals equals the paper train list totals.  If the PTC numbers are different we are to edit the PTC consist.  (Usually it's the length that needs changing.  The PTC number is usually shorter than the paperwork by a car length or two.)  A mistake somewhere in the process (man or machine) could set up an incident.

Until rear DP units and EOTs are brought into the system, the position of the rear end is an educated guess.

Our east Iowa side had the PTC suspended for about five or six weeks recently.  The reason given was there were so many temporary speed restrictions that it overwhelmed the system.  I don't know if they cut down the number of slows or fixed a bug in the system.  More complexety can lead to more problems, at least in the short term.

Jeff   

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Posted by mudchicken on Thursday, June 07, 2018 11:53 AM

The locomotive knows where it is, the back office computer knows where the head end was.  The rear end could maybe be approximated from data in the system. 

If half a football field is good enough, then maybe you have acceptable precision. The GPS myths still abound with those who buy-in to thev original false pretext. GPS in autonomous mode is never going to get you the level of precision, much less accuracy that is being falsely promoted. You'd need another locomotive carbody full of computers, numerous more relay  and a whole slew of HARN stations to get the post-processed precision you want, even with the p-code fully accessible. (This is the railroad GPS/PTC version of the emperor's new clothes continuing to play out Hmm)....We haven't even gotten into the grid to ground conversion or how we get off the geoid into the real world thing.

- With the locomotive, you have to know if the speed is calibrated to wheel diameter or the ground radar sensor in your wheel slip sensor in the traction motor case housing)...both can be "off" under normal wear and use.

...and still have not seen reference to the third vehicle involved yet or if some of the other questions causing so much heartburn at BNSF.

PTC continues to be the panacea pushed by techno-muggles that will never do what all these wrongheaded clowns with unrealistic expectations think it already does. It might get there, but not in my lifetime. (I hope I'm wrong, but reality is what it is. Quantum leaps in the technology are still needed and those solutions are hardly predictable as to when they show up.)

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
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Posted by VOLKER LANDWEHR on Thursday, June 07, 2018 12:55 PM

mudchicken
If half a football field is good enough, then maybe you have acceptable precision. The GPS myths still abound with those who buy-in to thev original false pretext.

I know it is not that precise. That is one of the reasons it is not used in the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS).

I think for a breaking curve under restricted speed you don't need the exact train end location. Take the EOT's GPS location or the calculated train end location and add a sufficient safety margin (perhaps 500 ft) and you have something to work with. But as Balt said it adds to the complexity.

If PTC ever gets developed into system allowing moving block this will be a by-product.
Regards, Volker

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Posted by MidlandMike on Thursday, June 07, 2018 6:52 PM

PTC may know the position of the loco, and may know how far away the end of the train may be, but would it know what track it is on if the train was part way thru a cross-over?

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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Friday, June 08, 2018 8:04 AM

Never think GPS in failsafe when it comes to proving where something is at.  We just had one go goofy on our Sat dispatch system.  It said a truck carrying acid was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on the bottom of the Mariana's trench and had been there for 2 days.  The truck had made the delivery in PA and come back to the yard.

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Posted by Deggesty on Friday, June 08, 2018 8:11 AM

Shadow the Cats owner

Never think GPS in failsafe when it comes to proving where something is at.  We just had one go goofy on our Sat dispatch system.  It said a truck carrying acid was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on the bottom of the Mariana's trench and had been there for 2 days.  The truck had made the delivery in PA and come back to the yard.

 

That is a bit worse than telling a person to turn right instead of left and so confusing the driver when he or she is trying to find an address.

Johnny

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Posted by diningcar on Friday, June 08, 2018 8:19 AM

Photos show the BNSF train striking the rear of a train loaded with continous welded rail that was being operated by a contractor. The location was a place that was difficult to access with no visable roadways shown. MC's sources may be the best info until some official information becomes available. 

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, June 08, 2018 10:53 AM

And when the Head end crosses over its rear end at Tehachapi - will the train be its own collision?

         

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