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And Another One Bites The Dust... Springfield, OH, March 2023

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Posted by PennsyBoomer on Wednesday, March 8, 2023 6:14 PM

So I am wondering whether the apparent increase in derailments is more likely that lots of people are suddenly taking videos of trains given the recent publicity. It's really bad press - like the wreck of the Penn Central all over, although I doubt track conditions are the main culprits. Interesting video, however, that makes one want to stop way back from a crossing.

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, March 8, 2023 8:01 PM

PennsyBoomer
So I am wondering whether the apparent increase in derailments is more likely that lots of people are suddenly taking videos of trains given the recent publicity. It's really bad press - like the wreck of the Penn Central all over, although I doubt track conditions are the main culprits. Interesting video, however, that makes one want to stop way back from a crossing.

Feature it is a combination of things - more people have dash cameras in their cars.  Nearly everyone has a video capable cell phone and can take pictures even if they don't have a dash cam.

If there are 1000 'reportable' derailments per year, then that means there will be in the neighborhood of 3 derailments per day throughout the year.  90% of the 'reportable' derailments will never make the media - however, sprinkle a little HAZMAT and incidents in public locations and you have what we have today. 

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Posted by Euclid on Wednesday, March 8, 2023 8:15 PM

Fred M Cain
I wonder, could a technology possibly be developed that would cause a train to go into emergency as soon as a wheel would come off the rail head?  As it stands now, a train will not go into emergency until the brake line is severed (or, unless a crew member "dumps the air").

Here is a derailment near Maryville, Tennessee in 2015, in which a derailed-dragging car ran for nine miles without being seen by the crew.
 
News article:
 
Official report:
 
This involved hazardous acrylonitrile, a hotbox detector, and a failed bearing that burned off an axle. 
 
In general railroad practice, there are derailment detectors that are mounted on the railcars.  I recall threads about them in the past.  I don’t think they are used in this country.  I am not sure where their development and use stands at this time.  But they could prevent a derail-dragging car from starting a parting and jacknifing pileup. 
 
A dragging-derailed car phase can precede a pileup.  I wonder if such a phase occurred with the East Palestine derailment.  I don't know if the NS would have offered such information, and I doubt any bystanders or media would have been able to detect such a detail.  It would have to have existed in the form of busted up track behind the actual pilekup in order for anyone to have seen it.    
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Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, March 8, 2023 8:55 PM

PennsyBoomer
So I am wondering whether the apparent increase in derailments is more likely that lots of people are suddenly taking videos of trains given the recent publicity. It's really bad press - like the wreck of the Penn Central all over, although I doubt track conditions are the main culprits. Interesting video, however, that makes one want to stop way back from a crossing.

Even moreso the many railfans who will shoot video of a train at a crossing because it's a train.  

And, of course, there are the bragging rights - "look what I saw!"

And that selfsame video getting sent to media outlets which gladly show it on an endless loop.  Especially if something is burning.

It's not unusual to see a number of derailments "caught on camera" every year on railfan pages.

Several years ago a derailment was caught on (I think) the Kingston Sub across the river from me.  I don't think anything ever turned over, but there was lots of dust and a railfan wondering if he should maybe move sooner rather than later.  He wasn't really too close in the first place...  The only reason the derailment made the news was because said fan was taking video...

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, March 8, 2023 8:58 PM

Euclid
 
Fred M Cain
I wonder, could a technology possibly be developed that would cause a train to go into emergency as soon as a wheel would come off the rail head?  As it stands now, a train will not go into emergency until the brake line is severed (or, unless a crew member "dumps the air"). 
Here is a derailment near Maryville, Tennessee in 2015, in which a derailed-dragging car ran for nine miles without being seen by the crew.
 
News article:
 
Official report:
 
This involved hazardous acrylonitrile, a hotbox detector, and a failed bearing that burned off an axle. 
 
In general railroad practice, there are derailment detectors that are mounted on the railcars.  I recall threads about them in the past.  I don’t think they are used in this country.  I am not sure where their development and use stands at this time.  But they could prevent a derail-dragging car from starting a parting and jacknifing pileup. 
 
A dragging-derailed car phase can precede a pileup.  I wonder if such a phase occurred with the East Palestine derailment.  I don't know if the NS would have offered such information, and I doubt any bystanders or media would have been able to detect such a detail.  It would have to have existed in the form of busted up track behind the actual pilekup in order for anyone to have seen it.    

Can't speak to other carriers.  On CSX most, if not all, Hot Box Detectors were paired with Dragging Equipment detectors.

My 2008 NS ETT for the Pittsburgh Division indicates that there is (was) a Dragging Equipment Detector at mile PC 60.8 Columbiana - the detector PRIOR to East Palestine.

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Posted by Euclid on Thursday, March 9, 2023 8:10 AM

PennsyBoomer

So I am wondering whether the apparent increase in derailments is more likely that lots of people are suddenly taking videos of trains given the recent publicity. It's really bad press - like the wreck of the Penn Central all over, although I doubt track conditions are the main culprits. Interesting video, however, that makes one want to stop way back from a crossing.

 

Railroad union advocacy has taken a strong position against monster trains, and it says that we are seeing more train derailments because monster trains are more likely to derail due to them having excess in-train forces that cause derailments.  They also say monster trains cannot stop as fast as non-monster trains.  Safety is always the best way to advance an agenda.  In my opinion, the agenda here is that monster trains fundamentally reduce labor.  So the pro-safety angle is naturally attached to the cause, which is a big concern for Labor.  
 
I noticed that with this East Palestine wreck, some of the news reports suggested that because the train was so long, it could not stop in time to avoid the derailment.  I doubt that the news reporters came to that conclusion on their own.  I think they were fed the narrative, and saw no reason to question it.   
 
Overall, the country is being led to the conclusion that train wrecks are becoming more frequent.  I think this could be verified or debunked with sufficient statistical analysis.  But to show a meaningful trend, one would have to define their terms very carefully to consider the seriousness and causes for the inventory of derailments.  This should include train speed, train length, train speed, and everything related to the cause.
 
In the meantime, there is a very noticeable trend of train wrecks captured on video, as they happen.  This is because nearly everyone has a camera handy.  And that alone is a big game changer.  Prior to this trend, very few people had ever seen a train derail.  It was statistically extremely unlikely that one would be in the right place at the right time --and have a camera on them. 
 

Even without live video of the derailment, wrecks like East Palestine will surely get the attention of the Public as well as the regulators who will see it themselves as well as hear it from the Public.  In that context, the vivid up close videos of trains derailing at speed right before your eyes at grade crossings will be powerful medicine for the various safety-based agendas.  Such videos are a vivid call to action to solve a problem.  

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, March 9, 2023 9:42 AM

Trains operating at Maximum allowable speed - no matter if they are a large train or a small train  - are not able to stop the train within the range of discernable vision.

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Posted by Convicted One on Thursday, March 9, 2023 9:42 AM

Euclid
Railroad union advocacy has taken a strong position against monster trains, and it says that we are seeing more train derailments because monster trains are more likely to derail due to them having excess in-train forces that cause derailments.  They also say monster trains cannot stop as fast as non-monster trains.  Safety is always the best way to advance an agenda.  In my opinion, the agenda here is that monster trains fundamentally reduce labor.  So the pro-safety angle is naturally attached to the cause, which is a big concern for Labor.

So then, are you saying that "monster" trains are evidence of the railroads prioritizing economics over safety?

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, March 9, 2023 10:05 AM

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, March 9, 2023 10:10 AM

Convicted One
So then, are you saying that "monster" trains are evidence of the railroads prioritizing economics over safety?

I wouldn't say they're doing that deliberately, no-one wants deaths, injuries, or the carnage that wrecks cause.  But they do  seem to be prioritizing economics over everything else without thinking of the results of doing so.  

As they saying goes, "You pay now or you pay later, one way or another." 

In my admittedly inexpert opinion it would make more sense and be cheaper in the long run to run shorter more easily inspected and handled trains and pay the crews to run them than it would be to pay millions for the clean-up, damages, lawsuits, and rotten PR you'd get with monster train wrecks.  

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Posted by Convicted One on Thursday, March 9, 2023 10:23 AM

Flintlock76
deliberately,

Lot of gray area there, subject to various interpretation. 

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Posted by Euclid on Thursday, March 9, 2023 10:32 AM

Convicted One
So then, are you saying that "monster" trains are evidence of the railroads prioritizing economics over safety?

No, I am not saying that.  I am saying that I have seen many articles by railroad workers, including those in train service, that all follow the same narrative.  So they seem to have a common goal of convincing the public that the industry is risking lives of both the public and railroad emplyees by the use of monster trains.  They cite the reason as monster trains having reduced stopping power and greater in-train forces. 

Incidentally, many of these authors also cite the lack of ECP brakes as something that makes monster trains more dangerous.  They criticize the existing air brakes as being outmoded because they date back to the 1800s.

I have not seen the evidence or documentation that proves the monster trains have greater in-train forces or require more stopping distance than non-monster trains.  I don't know how to draw conclusions about that matter.  It would be very easy to convince an outsider that the monster trains take longer to stop because they are longer, and thus heavier.  

But, I see that they also have the same braking effort on each car.  Maybe somebody can post some reference that proves how running longer trains affects in-train forces and stopping ability.  

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Posted by tree68 on Thursday, March 9, 2023 12:12 PM

Flintlock76
In my admittedly inexpert opinion it would make more sense and be cheaper in the long run to run shorter more easily inspected and handled trains and pay the crews to run them than it would be to pay millions for the clean-up, damages, lawsuits, and rotten PR you'd get with monster train wrecks.  

The Pinto effect may be an appropriate consideration here.  It may be cheaper to clean up the occasional wreck than to pay three crews, day in and day out, to run the same number of cars.

To illustrate - I've occasionally computed the cost of staffing a four person fire apparatus 24/7 (I live in an area where fire departments are almost all fully volunteer - that would increase the cost of fire protection locally astronomically).  Depending on base pay rates, it's somewhere north of a half million dollars a year. 

For sake of argument, let's say that the cost of keeping one train moving 24/7 is half that.  Using three crews puts the cost at $1.5 million per year.  Multiply that times the equivalent trains moving on a daily basis (1,000's) and you might get the sense that cleaning up the occasional derailment is, in fact, cheaper than paying the extra help.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the major function of unions is to protect the jobs of their members.  Running fewer trains with fewer employees means their members may be losing their jobs, or at least some portion of their pay.  The union may talk about safety (which is a good thing), but I would opine that's not their prime consideration.

 

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, March 9, 2023 12:29 PM

As has been mentioned by others, three smaller trains will also take up a lot more track space than the one large train.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Thursday, March 9, 2023 9:08 PM

I don't know that the big monsters take longer to stop.  They will have DP consist(s) that do initiate setting and releasing of the air brakes at the same time the head end does, except during comm loss.  Then the DP has to wait for the brake pipe to change.

In-train forces are certainly multiplied, even with DP, the longer the train becomes.  DP helps, but can't always compensate.  Once you start getting over 1-1/2 miles you can have slack moving in two directions at the same time.  Some trains, those with a lot of cushioned drawbars, are harder to handle than others of the same length. 

It's not impossible, because it's done everyday.  However, even when you do everything right, a stressed knuckle or drawbar can still get you.  They have their numbers and statistics.  They have the magic number of acceptable failures and has long as they stay below that, they'll run the big trains.

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Posted by ns145 on Thursday, March 9, 2023 9:55 PM

https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/aar-urges-railroads-to-sideline-new-cars-that-may-have-caused-ns-derailment-in-springfield-ohio/

Loose wheels on new coil steel cars likely cause of Springfield, OH derailment.  AAR issues advisory to remove affected new coil steel cars from service.

Man, NS can't buy a break right now.

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Posted by tree68 on Thursday, March 9, 2023 10:46 PM

ns145
Man, NS can't buy a break right now.

Unless the condition is something your average car knocker or crew member would be able to spot, this one can't be pinned on NS, I wouldn't think.  

That's a point NS should be making loud and clear.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Friday, March 10, 2023 12:00 AM

Have to wonder.  Where in a train is the safest location to put Haz Mat?   If the HM is near front of train and derailment happens in front as it did the cars following pileup into a spill.  but if wreck is behind cars then Haz Mat misses the pile up.  Now Haz Mat at end of train may avoid pile up if it stops before pile up.

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Posted by tree68 on Friday, March 10, 2023 7:10 AM

I would opine that it's the luck of the draw.  No matter where you put the hazmat, if there's a car with loose wheels ahead of it, well...

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Posted by Convicted One on Friday, March 10, 2023 9:34 AM

tree68
I would opine that it's the luck of the draw.  No matter where you put the hazmat, if there's a car with loose wheels ahead of it, well...

That sounds like a good argument for putting as few other cars in front of the hazmat as possible.

Derailments are rare,  so is  winning the lottery.  But by buying 30 lottery tickets, you increase your odds of winning (ever so slightly) my having 30 chances vs one.

I'd think that the fewer  potential "winning tickets" you have in place ahead of the hazmat, is the safer option?

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Posted by cx500 on Friday, March 10, 2023 11:35 AM

But if you have the hazmats towards the front of the train they become more vulnerable in grade crossing derailments, rockslides, collisions and such.

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Posted by tree68 on Friday, March 10, 2023 4:09 PM

cx500

But if you have the hazmats towards the front of the train they become more vulnerable in grade crossing derailments, rockslides, collisions and such.

Exactly. There are reasons that whatever placement that may be suggested for hazmat may be beneficial, and there's reasons why it would be a bad thing.

It's a crap shoot. 

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Posted by mudchicken on Friday, March 10, 2023 5:03 PM

Laws of physics aren't selective. Loads at the front, empties at the rear, no matter the lading.

The other shoe still hasn't dropped...

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 Tuesday, March 14, 2023 1:55 PM

ns145
https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/aar-urges-railroads-to-sideline-new-cars-that-may-have-caused-ns-derailment-in-springfield-ohio/

Loose wheels on new coil steel cars likely cause of Springfield, OH derailment.  AAR issues advisory to remove affected new coil steel cars from service.

Man, NS can't buy a break right now.

Are the loose wheels a Canadian plot against the US?

https://railfan.com/aar-urges-railroads-to-park-defective-coil-cars/?fbclid=IwAR3dBfnJPPyYAEXEpNFOyHMZQMGLvVrikOZuHplo3SUFb_wWyNTGri8xag8

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Posted by cx500 on Tuesday, March 14, 2023 3:14 PM

Do we even know where the wheelsets were sourced.  Quite possibly it was in Hamilton but supply chains can be lengthy.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Wednesday, March 15, 2023 9:35 AM

CSSHEGEWISCH

As has been mentioned by others, three smaller trains will also take up a lot more track space than the one large train.

Shorter trains might not necessarily have to take up a "lot" more track space than a monster train, just some.  Back in the "good ol' days", blocks tended to be one mile long; sometimes shorter.  That allowed the railroads to more easily run fast passenger trains in multiple sections.

With the passenger trains mostly gone (and multiple sections COMPLETELY gone) the railroads have reconfigured their block systems.  Some blocks might occassionaly be up to five miles long.  (By that I mean the distance between signals).

So, this makes running shorter trains such as three trains 70-71 cars long as opposed to one, long 212 car train somewhat more problematic.  So, yes, with blocks that long, three trains would take up a "lot" more track space than one long monser train.

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, March 15, 2023 10:10 AM

The 'correct' answer here is to implement CBTC overlay for 'shorter' trains that are to run on close headway.

Admittedly the modern "PSR" penchant for running at 40mph/notch-5 restricted means that the effective stopping distance is less and hence blocks can be shorter, and on a PTC system without waysides, shorter blocks may not co$t dramatically more.  But that itself is a kludge, and a potentially dangerous one if there is any faster traffic on the line, particularly any at 70 or 79mph.

Correct CBTC is like an electronic version of restricted speed: it tracks the consist ahead, and ensures a safe stop regardless of the 'reason' there's a problem with the preceding consist.  Of course this presupposes the CBTC has been implemented and maintained properly...

(Incidentally, none of the autonomous-boxcar or platooned-block systems work without advanced CBTC.)

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Posted by jeffhergert on Wednesday, March 15, 2023 4:20 PM

Fred M Cain

 

 
CSSHEGEWISCH

As has been mentioned by others, three smaller trains will also take up a lot more track space than the one large train.

 

 

Shorter trains might not necessarily have to take up a "lot" more track space than a monster train, just some.  Back in the "good ol' days", blocks tended to be one mile long; sometimes shorter.  That allowed the railroads to more easily run fast passenger trains in multiple sections.

With the passenger trains mostly gone (and multiple sections COMPLETELY gone) the railroads have reconfigured their block systems.  Some blocks might occassionaly be up to five miles long.  (By that I mean the distance between signals).

So, this makes running shorter trains such as three trains 70-71 cars long as opposed to one, long 212 car train somewhat more problematic.  So, yes, with blocks that long, three trains would take up a "lot" more track space than one long monser train.

 

Back in the good old days blocks tended to be 2 or 3 miles.  It is dependent on braking lengths for freight trains.  Now blocks are (for us) getting shorter to 1.25 +/- miles.  There still are plenty of places with longer legacy blocks.

One reason is going from a block system of clear - approach - stop/stop and proceed/restricting to one that has an advance approach between the clear and approach.

It used to be our longest trains were usually about 9000 feet long.  Coal trains were about 1 and a half miles long.  Plenty of trains in the 6500 to 7500 foot range and we handled them just fine. 

Our problem back then wasn't getting over the road, but getting through crew change points.  Trains would back up waiting for trains ahead to change out and get out of town.

Jeff  

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Posted by ns145 on Wednesday, March 15, 2023 5:40 PM

That's interesting about the new, shorter signal blocks. I didn't realize UP was doing that outside of the Joliet-St. Louis high speed rail corridor. I'm surprised UP would want to foot the bill for all of the extra signal equipment and maintenance.

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Wednesday, March 15, 2023 10:40 PM

mudchicken

Laws of physics aren't selective.

How does that jibe with Murphy's law of selective gravitation, e.g. a dropped hammer will land where it will do the most damage.

 

On a more serious note, anything that decreases the chance of a derailment will almost certainly improve safety.

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