Pa. Court Reinstates Charges Against Amtrak Engineer

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Saturday, June 13, 2020 9:59 AM

Let's be realistic.  The last point would be impossible to include in the next round of labor contract negotiations.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by Euclid on Saturday, June 13, 2020 10:17 AM

Overmod
...and Joe understands that Amtrak has wide and conflicting policies in crew recruiting, selection, training and retention that would never have factored into classical railroad best practice.

What are those policies and how do they conflict?

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Posted by zugmann on Saturday, June 13, 2020 11:32 AM

In talking new training/policies/managing:

 

Are we going for a more independent style, or a more regimented style?  Do we want employees that may not be able to write a 500-word rule 100% from memory, but do understand the rule and why it is there? Or do we want employees that know the rules and will follow them like a duck follows its mother? 

Basically, do we want a teacher that gives essays as tests - or simply fill in the bubble multiple choice?  

 

Arguments can be made in favor and against both styles - I'm curious where we should be.  I hired out with more of the first style, but the trend seems to be going to the latter. 

 

But I still argue we are missing a major compnonet in attracting the best of the next generation.  That is a work/life balance.  The pay and benefits aren't as great as they once were - and face it -  many of the younger generation don't want to live at work, or spend the next 20 years tied to a phone.  And that's not getting into the screwed up sleep cycles.

I hope these questions can be taken seriosuly, and not met with links to some webpage that was a reddit favorite 14 years ago. 

 The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, June 13, 2020 11:57 AM

What i cannot understand why there has never been an anomyous reporting system for the railroads much like the airplane industry.  Reports of procedures and the necessary corrections that lead pilots into a gotcha have saved many lives.  I have often wondered if the reporting system has been in place that an engineer(s) would have noted the ability to overspeed at Frankford going north without ATC slowing the train ?.  

 Personally know of at least one gotcha that was fixed in about a year later by the FAA.  NASA takes the reports and scrubs any public information that will identify persons involved.  Then NASA investigtes especially if they have multiple reports of the same gotcha.  Then go to relevant agency or business with recommendations of how to prevent a reoccurrence.

So here at Frankford it took an accident that cost more than an operation of a reporting system would have ever cost.

Imasgine if there was a reporting system that Amtrak's overspeed at Back  Bay or the MNRR over speed at NY City .  That might have initiated several reports by  engineers of other overspeed gotchas through out the USA ?  The reporting systems has no time limits so if I report something that happened 5 years ago because of something I have noted there is no penalty.

Maybe this reporting system nees to be included in the present reauthorization bill ?  That could include air, rail, highways, and water. 

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, June 13, 2020 12:10 PM

Vetting, Training, Supervision - a easy mantra to repeatedly say.  However, those three things do no apply to all incidents equally and the do not apply to all elements of the incidents equally.

By focusing on an incident, any incident you have a demonstrated FAILURE of some aspect of the operation.  The real necessity of accident investigation is not to just say that this rule or procedure was not followed - what has to be learned for the future is WHY was the rule of procedure not followed.  The WHY may be in the mindset of the employee, it may be in only the specific action, it may be in not having followed the rule or procedure for years without incident, it may be in having followed 'the letter' of the rule or procedure without understanding what the rule or procedure was devised to protect against.  How do vetting, training, and supervision fit into each of the failure modes that ended up into incident being investigated - varying levels of each will apply every incident.  One size doesn't fit all.

I suggest people read through the range of accidents reported in the DOT Online Database https://dotlibrary.specialcollection.net/Contents  That covers many accident from the period of 1911-1993.  The site requires a free registration.

One can also wade into the NTSB Website   https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Pages/AccidentReports.aspx  for more recent accident investigations.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, June 13, 2020 12:51 PM

BalACD:  That is so correct.  As well as the ASRS reporting system can prvent fatal failures from happening.   ( Air safety reporting system ) . Certainly system can pervent Rail incidents as well.  Just a  though if grade crossing incidents could be reduced with such a system ? Drivers reporting near misses could get more light on many crossings ?

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Posted by zugmann on Saturday, June 13, 2020 1:00 PM

But then the railroads can't just lay the blame on the employee. 

 The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, June 13, 2020 1:30 PM

zugmann

But then the railroads can't just lay the blame on the employee. 

 

 
How true!  Back before ASRS the airlines did have quite a bit of reluctance to accepting the concept.  One reason probably it was proposed by the airline unions.  Both ALPA, AA pilots union, SW pilots union were some proposing as well as non operating unions at various airlines even some non union persons at Delta.  ( basically non union ).  ASRS does  apply to all airline personnel.
 
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Posted by daveklepper on Saturday, June 13, 2020 1:44 PM

How many readers of this thread know of the 9 November 2016 derailment at Sandilands Junction on the London Croyden Light Rail System?   Definite parallels between it and this one and the one on the Tacoma, WA, bypass.  What is important to me is the depth of the investigation and the very practical measures introduced, most novel for UK light rail:

1.   New system for automatic speed control in speed restricted zones, with notice to control center and records when activated.

2.  Better and additional speed restriction warning signs.

3.   Driver (operator) alert indication and notice and record when alert device indicates problem and on-board audio alarm.

4.   Better monitoring of health issues for drivers, sufficient sleep, sufficient food, even sufficient clothing.  More frequent medical check-ups

5.   Industry-wide reporting of safety issues and recommendations for relief.

Some of this is discussed in the article "London's Transportation Hero,"  the history of the Croyden system, in the June 2020 issue of Trams and Urban Transit, published by the UK Light Railway Transport Assocation, www.lrta.org.  Croyden is one of two London light rail systems, the other being Docklands, which is third raill, high platform, and grade separated, so is more of a light Metro.  The Croyden system was formed by using new downtown Croyden street trackage to connect three underused and abandoned regular rail lines, and had about 25,000 - 30,000 daily weekday passengers before Coronavirus.

 

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Posted by 243129 on Saturday, June 13, 2020 8:51 PM

The engineer of 175 who was involved in the Ivy City tragedy where two CSX employees were killed is still running trains.

https://dms.ntsb.gov/public/62000-62499/62103/622756.pdf

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Posted by daveklepper on Saturday, June 13, 2020 9:28 PM

Here, the Amtrak engineeer was clearly absolved.  He did not contribute to the tragedy.  He received no instructions to limit speed while facing switches.  He had no knowledge that it was even possible that the switch was set to the siding.  He had an excellent safety record prior to the horror.

I can only be glad that he has recovered from any injuries, physical and mental, that he received at the time.

What about supervision (CSX and/or Amtrak) that allowed the removal of safety insurance one week before installation of improved replacement:  Are they still drawing pay-checks for supervision?

This event is quite different than the other two USA and the London one, all of which involved exsessive speed on curves.

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, June 15, 2020 11:42 AM
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Posted by Overmod on Monday, June 15, 2020 12:58 PM

This is useful, but there is considerably more to the story than he describes, and some of the details are familiar to me from critical-systems analysis.  One difficulty was that there was far from 'perfect knowledge' about the state of the plant: the faults as detected were teletyped and there was no priority to how they were reported.  Meanwhile, many of the valve controls were tagged (you can see an example in the video) to indicate what they 'repeated' was not accurate -- you would be surprised and dismayed to see the number of these tags.  I did not observe him mention the plethora of warning horns, some of them dramatically loud, sounding at various times.

Incidentally a problem that deserves greater attention in this context is that valve logic not only doesn't give 'green' indication for normal plant operation, it doesn't indicate 'green' for correct position open or closed, a bit like having electrical switches that are NC and NO use the same code to show their position.  These things are fine in plant design, but when critical foreground attention is lost in stressful emergency ... and plant training, as it was provided by B&W, involved only weekly exams with no cumulative or finals (!) ... some of the training and supervision issues become a bit less incomprehensible even without resorting to the 'naval reactor' rationale for not "letting the pressurizer go solid" (btw. something with potentially dramatic consequences for a PWR with no possible resumption of secondary cooling during most of the period of need for decay-heat removal.

One thing he perhaps ought to have mentioned is the temperature at the exit of the pressurizer PORV.  See this reference which describes the effects:

https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1121/ML11216A099.pdf

in case anyone might be thinking 'why did those morons not see saturation temps corresponding to high pressure at mass flow corresponding to that observed going into the overflow containment and then sump?'

One of the interesting 'lessons learned' here was when to believe in and when to ignore "sophisticated" complex automatic safety systems when 'expert opinion' says they are not functioning correctly ... or safely.

(Note that he claims there was no major release of radioactivity, but notes near-complete failure of cladding intensity without mentioning the gaseous and volatile daughters present after ~3mo burnup.  Where does he think those went?)

 

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Monday, June 29, 2020 10:03 AM

daveklepper

Here, the Amtrak engineeer was clearly absolved.  He did not contribute to the tragedy.  He received no instructions to limit speed while facing switches.  He had no knowledge that it was even possible that the switch was set to the siding.  He had an excellent safety record prior to the horror.

I can only be glad that he has recovered from any injuries, physical and mental, that he received at the time.

Dave, I think you are confusing the Cayce accident with the Ivy City accident.

The Cayce engineer died.

The Ivy City incident had nothing to do with signaling and switches. It had to do with two CSX men walking on a high-speed Amtrak line. The accident was 100% the fault of the victims. The engineer's performance should have been better; but she could not have prevented the accident.

https://dms.ntsb.gov/public/62000-62499/62103/622756.pdf

I don't think she should have been fired, and I'm glad she was not.

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Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 3:26 AM

You are absolutely right on both counts.  Thanks.

And I can repeat that I am glad she is still working.

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Posted by 243129 on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 7:51 PM

Lithonia Operator
The engineer's performance should have been better; but she could not have prevented the accident. https://dms.ntsb.gov/public/62000-62499/62103/622756.pdf I don't think she should have been fired, and I'm glad she was not.

The engineer's performance was abominable. Having the victims in sight for 15 or 20 seconds and not applying the brake in emergency until she hit them? She deprived them of any chance of escape by not applying the brake to emergency sooner. She should not be running trains.

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 9:47 PM

243129
 
Lithonia Operator
The engineer's performance should have been better; but she could not have prevented the accident. https://dms.ntsb.gov/public/62000-62499/62103/622756.pdf I don't think she should have been fired, and I'm glad she was not. 

The engineer's performance was abominable. Having the victims in sight for 15 or 20 seconds and not applying the brake in emergency until she hit them? She deprived them of any chance of escape by not applying the brake to emergency sooner. She should not be running trains.

By whose estimate were the CSX men 'in sight' for 15 - 20 seconds?  

15-20 seconds sounds trivial in one respect.  With the Amtrak permissible speed in the area being in the neighborhood of 100 MPH - 15-20 seconds amounts to a distance of between approximately 2200 feet to 3000 feet, or just about the distance from the end of Amtrak's curve to the East of CSX to the location of the incident while also looking into the headlight of the NB Amtrak train with the CSX train being the backdrop for the scene.

Does a engineer 'always' take braking actions when 'trespassers' are over 1/4 mile in advance of the train's location when running at track speed?

It has been my observed experience that individuals involved in incidents do not possess Rolex accuracy when estimating the timing of their actions as it relates to the incident.  The statement 'time stood still' ends up being their reality and at variance with actual reality.

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Posted by 243129 on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 8:48 AM

Your response indicates that you have not read, or perhaps not comprehended the NTSB report.

BaltACD
By whose estimate were the CSX men 'in sight' for 15 - 20 seconds?

#175's engineer.That fact is in the NTSB report.

BaltACD
while also looking into the headlight of the NB Amtrak train with the CSX train being the backdrop for the scene.

Had you read the report you would have seen that both trains had dimmed their headlights.

BaltACD
Does a engineer 'always' take braking actions when 'trespassers' are over 1/4 mile in advance of the train's location when running at track speed?

In a situation such as described in the report, yes. Northbound on one track, freight on another track and your train in the middle of the two, and you see 'trespassers' on your track with no route for escape. An experienced engineer should be able to assess this situation instantly and apply the brake to emergency thereby granting precious seconds or even milliseconds to the 'trespassers' She did not.

BaltACD
It has been my observed experience that individuals involved in incidents do not possess Rolex accuracy when estimating the timing of their actions as it relates to the incident. The statement 'time stood still' ends up being their reality and at variance with actual reality.

Your "observed experience" given you not reading or lack of comprehending the report along with no experience of real-time operations in the field does not bear any credibility.

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 9:33 AM

As I recall, Sahara's self-reported time estimates in her interview transcript were ridiculously wrong, and at least one of the interviewers commented on this (sympathetically).  You need to look at a scale track map or satellite picture when reviewing these testimonies.

If I recall correctly, it was corroborated by folks with running experience in that area that practical recognition of people on the tie ends would have given much less alert time (iirc something on the order of 7 seconds for the speed profile she was following).  Considering the curves into the accident area there might have been little more warning had they actually been in the gauge, as the engineer of the 'opposing' train testified (note he is the only actual eyewitness to the impact damage, and we have thankfully not seen pictures of the impact point on the engine, so his recollection carries some weight)

The moral, though, is that 'inching toward full suppression' is not as "good" as (at least) prompt blended full service as soon as a dangerous situation goes unacknowledged.


As noted (and how it was noted!) in the several discussions since the accident, if you put the train in emergency for every 'trespasser' you'd be late with jostled passengers on every trip.  There's also the presupposition that was mentioned at one point, that 'reflective vests' meant railroad-trained personnel who could be understood as knowing the particular danger and taking prompt action... so a little more delay 'setting up the brakes'  -- maybe even a full couple of seconds -- would not be out of order.  In my non-running perception I think it at least plausible that Sahara thought her horn warning would be clearly heard, and this too would justify less initial application with trained railroad personnel involved.

On the other hand, only applying emergency after the physical impact was appalling to me, and I saw nothing in the interview testimony that would indicate Sahara even had substantial blended service applied by then.  So those were extra seconds that might have made the difference too.

We are leaving out a consideration related to prompt emergency as opposed to full blended that might have mattered here: the noise.  I'd expect considerable highly-distinctive shriek and perhaps wheelslide from full-set emergency, for at least several seconds -- this might have been a distinctive advance warning that the conductors would promptly realize even in a confusing high-ambient environment.

These things factor into the only really meaningful reason to take this issue of engineer judgment up again: what are the implications for amending the vetting, training, and supervision going forward.

 

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Posted by 243129 on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 10:06 AM

Overmod
As noted (and how it was noted!) in the several discussions since the accident, if you put the train in emergency for every 'trespasser' you'd be late with jostled passengers on every trip.

Each situation is unique and calls for instant assessment, a quality 175's engineer seems to lack. The situation at Ivy City required instant action.

Overmod
These things factor into the only really meaningful reason to take this issue of engineer judgment up again: what are the implications for amending the vetting, training, and supervision going forward.

Amtrak's culture has evolved into the unknowing teaching the unknowing and the unknowing supervisors supervising the unknowing. A 'pedigree' search of said supervisiors and instructors would bear this statement out.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 2:18 PM

I might add that my assumption is that there are very few good senior engineers remaining and few would want to be involved in the vts process.  I will also assume that although an engineer with ~30 years of service is well paid,though nobody ever discusses this and the numbers would be difficult to find, there isn't sufficient incentive. 

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 2:29 PM

243129
Your response indicates that you have not read, or perhaps not comprehended the NTSB report. 
BaltACD
By whose estimate were the CSX men 'in sight' for 15 - 20 seconds? 

#175's engineer.That fact is in the NTSB report. 

BaltACD
while also looking into the headlight of the NB Amtrak train with the CSX train being the backdrop for the scene. 

Had you read the report you would have seen that both trains had dimmed their headlights. 

BaltACD
Does a engineer 'always' take braking actions when 'trespassers' are over 1/4 mile in advance of the train's location when running at track speed? 

In a situation such as described in the report, yes. Northbound on one track, freight on another track and your train in the middle of the two, and you see 'trespassers' on your track with no route for escape. An experienced engineer should be able to assess this situation instantly and apply the brake to emergency thereby granting precious seconds or even milliseconds to the 'trespassers' She did not. 

BaltACD
It has been my observed experience that individuals involved in incidents do not possess Rolex accuracy when estimating the timing of their actions as it relates to the incident. The statement 'time stood still' ends up being their reality and at variance with actual reality. 

Your "observed experience" given you not reading or lack of comprehending the report along with no experience of real-time operations in the field does not bear any credibility.

I am sure your Vetting, Training and Supervision would have prevented the incident in its entirety had you been at the control stand of #175.

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Posted by 243129 on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 3:49 PM

BaltACD

 

 
243129
Your response indicates that you have not read, or perhaps not comprehended the NTSB report. 
BaltACD
By whose estimate were the CSX men 'in sight' for 15 - 20 seconds? 

#175's engineer.That fact is in the NTSB report. 

BaltACD
while also looking into the headlight of the NB Amtrak train with the CSX train being the backdrop for the scene. 

Had you read the report you would have seen that both trains had dimmed their headlights. 

BaltACD
Does a engineer 'always' take braking actions when 'trespassers' are over 1/4 mile in advance of the train's location when running at track speed? 

In a situation such as described in the report, yes. Northbound on one track, freight on another track and your train in the middle of the two, and you see 'trespassers' on your track with no route for escape. An experienced engineer should be able to assess this situation instantly and apply the brake to emergency thereby granting precious seconds or even milliseconds to the 'trespassers' She did not. 

BaltACD
It has been my observed experience that individuals involved in incidents do not possess Rolex accuracy when estimating the timing of their actions as it relates to the incident. The statement 'time stood still' ends up being their reality and at variance with actual reality. 

Your "observed experience" given you not reading or lack of comprehending the report along with no experience of real-time operations in the field does not bear any credibility.

 

I am sure your Vetting, Training and Supervision would have prevented the incident in its entirety had you been at the control stand of #175.

 

I'm not sure if it would have been prevented  in its entirety but at least they would have had a chance with a well-trained engineer at the throttle something that was denied them due to her inaction.

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Posted by 243129 on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 3:53 PM

charlie hebdo

I might add that my assumption is that there are very few good senior engineers remaining and few would want to be involved in the vts process.  I will also assume that although an engineer with ~30 years of service is well paid,though nobody ever discusses this and the numbers would be difficult to find, there isn't sufficient incentive. 

 

I can assemble personnel for an operations department oversight committee should the new president choose to entertain my offer.

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 4:45 PM

243129
 
BaltACD 
243129
Your response indicates that you have not read, or perhaps not comprehended the NTSB report. 
BaltACD
By whose estimate were the CSX men 'in sight' for 15 - 20 seconds? 

#175's engineer.That fact is in the NTSB report. 

BaltACD
while also looking into the headlight of the NB Amtrak train with the CSX train being the backdrop for the scene. 

Had you read the report you would have seen that both trains had dimmed their headlights. 

BaltACD
Does a engineer 'always' take braking actions when 'trespassers' are over 1/4 mile in advance of the train's location when running at track speed? 

In a situation such as described in the report, yes. Northbound on one track, freight on another track and your train in the middle of the two, and you see 'trespassers' on your track with no route for escape. An experienced engineer should be able to assess this situation instantly and apply the brake to emergency thereby granting precious seconds or even milliseconds to the 'trespassers' She did not. 

BaltACD
It has been my observed experience that individuals involved in incidents do not possess Rolex accuracy when estimating the timing of their actions as it relates to the incident. The statement 'time stood still' ends up being their reality and at variance with actual reality. 

Your "observed experience" given you not reading or lack of comprehending the report along with no experience of real-time operations in the field does not bear any credibility. 

I am sure your Vetting, Training and Supervision would have prevented the incident in its entirety had you been at the control stand of #175. 

I'm not sure if it would have been prevented  in its entirety but at least they would have had a chance with a well-trained engineer at the throttle something that was denied them due to her inaction.

SoapBoxBang Head

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Posted by 243129 on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 8:01 PM

BaltACD, had you some experience 'in the trenches' you might have been able to participate intelligently in this discussion instead of posting emojis.

 

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 10:54 PM

243129
BaltACD, had you some experience 'in the trenches' you might have been able to participate intelligently in this discussion instead of posting emojis.

I had my time in the trenches - 10 years worth.  You have only become worthy of emojis.

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Posted by 243129 on Thursday, July 2, 2020 6:09 AM

BaltACD
I had my time in the trenches - 10 years worth.

Ah, one of the unknowing supervising the unknowing.

BaltACD
You have only become worthy of emojis

I'm devastated.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, July 2, 2020 7:22 AM

This *discussion* has degenerated into a mere, childish name-calling, confounding two separate and very different incidents as though they were one and the same. 

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, July 2, 2020 8:27 AM

Agree

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