Why 79 MPH rule??

2346 views
14 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    December, 2007
  • From: Georgia USA SW of Atlanta
  • 8,280 posts
Why 79 MPH rule??
Posted by blue streak 1 on Thursday, April 24, 2008 1:48 PM
Can anyone provide the background of when and why the ICC instituted the less than 80MPH rule for any train without some kind of cab signaling system? Any references would be greatly appreciated. Did the ICC have hearings or did they just implement the rule? Etc, etc
  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: NW Wisconsin
  • 3,627 posts
Posted by beaulieu on Thursday, April 24, 2008 5:01 PM
The rule states that if you want to go at 80 mph or greater you must have some type of signal enforcement system, for many railroads this was Automatic Train Stop, which is much less than Cab Signaling.
  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Austin, TX
  • 462 posts
Posted by 4merroad4man on Thursday, April 24, 2008 8:03 PM
See 49CFR Part 213 and part 236.  The 79 mph figure is directly related to the signaling used (ABS or CTC allowed), 49 for freight in non block and 59 for passenger in non block and are one mph under the maximum allowed for certain classes of track as specified by the FRA.  Track classification is directly related to rail weight, ballast depth and tie spacing.
Serving Los Gatos and The Santa Cruz Mountains with the Legendary Colors of the Espee. "Your train, your train....It's MY train!" Papa Boule to Labische in "The Train"
  • Member since
    April, 2003
  • 289,155 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, April 24, 2008 9:03 PM
So tell me why it was safe in 1949 to do 100 MPH on section rail (zephers and 20th century) and it is not safe to do that in 2008 on welded rail ?
  • Member since
    August, 2005
  • 964 posts
Posted by gardendance on Thursday, April 24, 2008 10:46 PM

It may be that it's somebody's perception of safety, or willingness to take risk, not the actual safety, that changed from 1949 to now. Maybe there was 1 death per xxx passenger miles at 100 mph, at some point somebody in authority said that was too much, let's lower the speed limit so that now there's 1 death per xxx+yyy passenger miles.

Even more ironic is that we accept high death tolls on our nation's highways that we'd never tolerate in trains.

Patrick Boylan

Free yacht rides, 27' sailboat, zip code 19114 Delaware River, get great Delair bridge photos from the river. Send me a private message

  • Member since
    October, 2003
  • 49 posts
Posted by clash on Thursday, April 24, 2008 11:14 PM
If i remember correctly, that 79 MPH rule has been in place since the late 40's or early 50's. In one of my BRHS bulletins, there is an article about a big wreck of two Burlington passenger trains in Illinois where one rear ended the other in the late 1940's. The article stated that this wreck was one of the reasons for creating the 79MPH rule.
  • Member since
    November, 2007
  • 2,989 posts
Posted by Railway Man on Thursday, April 24, 2008 11:16 PM

 transitrapid wrote:
So tell me why it was safe in 1949 to do 100 MPH on section rail (zephers and 20th century) and it is not safe to do that in 2008 on welded rail ?

Because the public's elected representatives told the ICC then and the FRA now to make it so.  "Safe" is like "bulletproof" -- there's no such thing.  Only a level of acceptable risk.  The public wants less risk, and is willing to pay a higher price to get it.

RWM 

  • Member since
    January, 2001
  • From: Atlanta
  • 10,491 posts
Posted by oltmannd on Friday, April 25, 2008 8:08 AM

The ruling wasn't exactly like "flipping a switch".  The ICC had been pushing ATS and cab signal for quite a while even mandating that RRs install it on their busiest divisions in the 1920s(?)

Like other safety mandates, some incident or incidents starts the ball rolling.  I believe there was some particular wreck that nudged the ICC into the ruling.  Sort of like the Chase MD wreck and LSL and Graniteville SC and the new hazardous regs recently floated.

Railwayman is right about society's increasing demand for safety.  100+ years ago, RRing was a deadly profession.  It was rare to survive a career unscathed.  Now, safety is a big, big deal and RRing is safer than work in other heavy industry.

On the automotive side, Ford tried to "sell safety" in the 1950s, putting seatbelts in cars.  The public wasn't interested.  But now, safety sells.  The ads are full of claims of multiple airbags, crash test ratings, etc.

One other item...  Welded rail is actually bad for vehicle stability at high speeds.  Truck hunting did not become a big issue until RRs had switched to welded rail.  It turns out, the slight movement induced by the joints broke up any incipient instability.  Truck hunting at high speed is managed these days by maintaining proper wheel taper and profile. 

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • 2,219 posts
Posted by Paul Milenkovic on Friday, April 25, 2008 10:01 AM

We complain about FRA rules such as the 79 MPH and the ever-boosted buff force requirement.  I have complained about "cabbage cars" substituting for RDC-style control cabs as adding weight and aero drag and increasing fuel consumption.

But who among us wants to roll back any of those safety regs, attach our name to that order, and answer the reporter's questions after the next crash?  Will saying that crashes happen all the time on the highway before the TV cameras assuage the families of the victims?

Of all of the safety regs, I would argue that 79 MPH is the least problematic.  Going faster is a question about having the right kind of signals, and signals are a matter of information technology, not a question of building train cars like steel battleships.  If we ever win the battle on allowing more lightweight passenger trains, it will be because of improvements in signals.

As to 79 MPH holding back train travel, I seems you have to be 1) going a lot faster than 79 MPH, and 2) have a completely new grade-separated right-of-way with new tunnels and bridges and access to stations that gets rid of a lot of the below 79 MPH speed restrictions on existing lines to have much difference. 

If GM "killed the electric car", what am I doing standing next to an EV-1, a half a block from the WSOR tracks?
  • Member since
    August, 2006
  • From: South Dakota
  • 1,542 posts
Posted by Dakguy201 on Friday, April 25, 2008 10:19 AM

As Mason said to Dixon, "Well, we have to draw the line somewhere!"

 Big Smile [:D]

 

  • Member since
    October, 2006
  • From: Chicago, Ill.
  • 2,843 posts
Posted by al-in-chgo on Tuesday, April 29, 2008 4:56 PM
 Dakguy201 wrote:

As Mason said to Dixon, "Well, we have to draw the line somewhere!"

 Big Smile [:D]

 

Still, I am reminded of the example of CN corridor varnish and now VIA.  Double-track, mostly, with curves and grade crossings, and still they run (with conventional equipment) about 10 mph faster; with newer generation equipment even faster; and if the death rate is more horrendous that Amtrak's I'm sure not aware of it.  Why NOT the US (us)? 

 

 

al-in-chgo
  • Member since
    March, 2004
  • From: Central Valley California
  • 2,841 posts
Posted by passengerfan on Tuesday, April 29, 2008 5:47 PM

Al

I don't know where to find a copy of it but Transport Canada recommended the same 79 MPH rule after the Hinton. Alta wreck that was Via Rail Canada's most serious. I don't remember the details off the top of my head (CRS again) but it involved the Canadian and it was operating at 89 mph at the time if what little memory I have serves me correctly.

Al - in - Stockton

  • Member since
    October, 2006
  • From: Chicago, Ill.
  • 2,843 posts
Posted by al-in-chgo on Tuesday, April 29, 2008 5:54 PM
 passengerfan wrote:

Al

I don't know where to find a copy of it but Transport Canada recommended the same 79 MPH rule after the Hinton. Alta wreck that was Via Rail Canada's most serious. I don't remember the details off the top of my head (CRS again) but it involved the Canadian and it was operating at 89 mph at the time if what little memory I have serves me correctly.

Al - in - Stockton

Those "blue series" Budd streamlined cars that are part of "The Canadian"'s consist are my age exactly and in much better shape!  But owing to their age and the mountainous territory, I wouldn't complain about a 79 mph restriction. 

Notice, though, that no one is trying to force same on the Corridor: (Windsor [Sarnia-] - London - Toronto - [Ottawa] - Montreal - Quebec).   

 

al-in-chgo
  • Member since
    January, 2001
  • From: Atlanta
  • 10,491 posts
Posted by oltmannd on Tuesday, April 29, 2008 6:22 PM
 al-in-chgo wrote:
 Dakguy201 wrote:

As Mason said to Dixon, "Well, we have to draw the line somewhere!"

 Big Smile [:D]

 

Still, I am reminded of the example of CN corridor varnish and now VIA.  Double-track, mostly, with curves and grade crossings, and still they run (with conventional equipment) about 10 mph faster; with newer generation equipment even faster; and if the death rate is more horrendous that Amtrak's I'm sure not aware of it.  Why NOT the US (us)? 

'Cause the FRA is trying to push PTC/PTS onto the railroads.  Higher speeds for passengers is a "carrot".  If you allow 90 mph w/o cab/ATC, you lose a "carrot".  They've funded part of some of the demo programs (MI and IL). 

There are no technical/mechanical reasons why not.  Class 5 track and conventional equipment is OK for 90 mph.

The FRA also wants to limit poisonous tank cars to 30 mph in dark and 50 mph in signalled territory.  No technical issues here, either.

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

  • Member since
    January, 2001
  • From: Atlanta
  • 10,491 posts
Posted by oltmannd on Tuesday, April 29, 2008 6:22 PM
 al-in-chgo wrote:
 Dakguy201 wrote:

As Mason said to Dixon, "Well, we have to draw the line somewhere!"

 Big Smile [:D]

 

Still, I am reminded of the example of CN corridor varnish and now VIA.  Double-track, mostly, with curves and grade crossings, and still they run (with conventional equipment) about 10 mph faster; with newer generation equipment even faster; and if the death rate is more horrendous that Amtrak's I'm sure not aware of it.  Why NOT the US (us)? 

'Cause the FRA is trying to push PTC/PTS onto the railroads.  Higher speeds for passengers is a "carrot".  If you allow 90 mph w/o cab/ATC, you lose a "carrot".  They've funded part of some of the demo programs (MI and IL). 

There are no technical/mechanical reasons why not.  Class 5 track and conventional equipment is OK for 90 mph.

The FRA also wants to limit poisonous tank cars to 30 mph in dark and 50 mph in signalled territory.  No technical issues here, either.

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy

Search the Community