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NS Crew directed to proceed into populated area at speed with hazmat cargo and hotbox detectors going off.

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Posted by Euclid on Saturday, March 11, 2023 8:05 AM

Ulrich

The article reports crew members were "shocked" at being told to continue on, yet not shocked enough I guess to defy the order and bring the train to a stop anyway. Do crew members not have some say in these types of situations? They are after all in harm's way or at least more so than an official who may be miles away in an office. What would have happened had the conductor defied the order to roll on and brought the train to a stop? 

 

Without better verification, I do not accept the narrative as true.  To me, it reads like fiction, particularly with phrases like:  “…on the morning of Feb. 27, a Norfolk Southern train was lurching through Stoneville, North Carolina,…” 
 
As I understand, this UNION PACIFIC RULE is universal in the railroad industry.  Historically, there has been some variance in the wording, but the point is consistent:
 
1.1.1: Maintaining a Safe Course. In case of doubt or uncertainty, take the safe course. Rule Updated Date April 7, 2010
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Posted by n012944 on Friday, March 10, 2023 11:23 AM

jeffhergert

I'm somewhat skeptical.  

 

I am as well.  

 

At CSX there are two types of trending alerts.  The first is stop and inspect.  After the car is inspected, it must be set off not exceeding 10 MPH, regardless if nothing was found on the inspection.  The second is reduce speed to 30 mph, and set off at the next yard.  No visual inspection is required.

 

If the speed on the NS line was 30 mph or less, there would be no reason to inspect, if it was the same type of trending alert.  There is just not enough information given in the Yahoo article to "vote for more federal regulation", as the OP says.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Thursday, March 9, 2023 8:41 PM

I'm somewhat skeptical.  Why notify a crew if you aren't going to have them stop and inspect?  The detector didn't give an alarm.  That the bearing desk would note a bearing trending hot is not surprising.  But if you don't want them to inspect I can't imagine the crew being notified.

Now if the detector had given an alarm, but the powers that be told them to continue, that I could see happening.  I've heard it happen many years ago, back in the days when they still had cabooses. 

A train had just picked up at a yard.  The next hotbox detector, about 5 miles or so down the line, alarmed.  The HBD readout was at the yard office.  The operator, still had them then too, came on the radio and said the readout indicated some heat but not enough to worry about.  When it went by me the wheels on a car were rings of fire.  (Spectacular at night.)   I was able to notify the railroad and they stopped and found a hand brake on that and on an adjacent car.

Unless they want to go down the "malicious compliance" rabbit hole, I think they would have trouble making it stick if a conductor decided to stop and inspect.  At least for that incident.  Although you could expect to be placing a target on your back.

Jeff

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Posted by SD70Dude on Thursday, March 9, 2023 3:20 PM

Was a single bearing or wheel trending hot, or were all the wheels on the car warm?  And how much warmer were they than ambient temperature or the rest of the train?

On CN it is common for the RTC Mechanical desk to call a train and inform the crew that they have a suspected sticking brake, and ask the engineer to 'clean it up' when they get a chance.  By far the most common cause of this is a 'sticker' (an air brake that didn't release normally), these are commonly created through 'short and shallow' air brake applications and are a well known phenomenon.  You need at least a 10 PSI rise in brake pipe pressure to reliably get rid of stickers, making a moderate to heavy brake application and waiting a bit before releasing it normally does the trick and gets rid of stickers.  

If the sticker is near the head end of your train or within a block of cars you recently lifted, the cause is equally likely to be a handbrake that you missed or didn't fully release.  I've also found a couple handbrakes over the years that were likely tied on by vandals, given their location in the train and appearance after we stopped in a location where that part of the train was a bit more accessible to the public.  

On other occasions RTC Mechanical will identify a trending warm bearing and order the crew to set out the car, even though it hasn't caused any detectors to broadcast an alarm message on the radio (yet).  Same for cars with a bearing that has been flagged by an acoustic detector (yes, these exist and CN uses them), flat wheels that have been picked off by a WILD site, or a whole host of other potential problems that the new inspection portals or 'super scanners' look for.  

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Posted by dpeltier on Thursday, March 9, 2023 2:10 PM

CMStPnP

So I vote for more Federal Regulation after reading this little nugget:

https://www.yahoo.com/gma/feds-looking-norfolk-southerns-handling-100150129.html

So:

1.) NS invests in analytics that can help detect a potential problem before it becomes critical.

2.) NS communicates with the train crew so that they are aware of those issues, even if the situation doesn't require immediate action on the part of the crew.

3.) This communication alerts a MOW worker, who can then do a roll by to look for obvious problems like a stuck brake.

4.) The train is ordered to keep going and arrives safely at it's destination.

If you consider this a bad outcome, then you should consider the most likely alternative, which is that companies don't develop analytics and keep the train crews in the dark about what's going on.

The WHOLE POINT of analysis is to be able to better distinguish between problems that need to be addressed immediately, potential problems that may need to be dealt with before they become problems, and non-problems. If everything automatically gets thrown in the "immediate problem" bucket then that defeats the whole purpose of analyzing trends.

Dan

 

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Posted by Ulrich on Thursday, March 9, 2023 12:56 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH

I would assume that the conductor might earn some unpaid time off for insubordination.

 

Hopefully not.. in such case I'd expect my union rep to come out swinging in my defence. But if I had to make a choice between the lesser of two evils, I'd pick insubordination over incineration.. 

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, March 9, 2023 12:33 PM

CMStPnP
So I vote for more Federal Regulation after reading this little nugget:

https://www.yahoo.com/gma/feds-looking-norfolk-southerns-handling-100150129.html

This event would be indicative of why the NTSB is looking into the 'Safety Culture' at NS.  From this event, it sounds like there is very little 'safety culture' in operation.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, March 9, 2023 12:26 PM

I would assume that the conductor might earn some unpaid time off for insubordination.

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Posted by Ulrich on Thursday, March 9, 2023 12:17 PM

The article reports crew members were "shocked" at being told to continue on, yet not shocked enough I guess to defy the order and bring the train to a stop anyway. Do crew members not have some say in these types of situations? They are after all in harm's way or at least more so than an official who may be miles away in an office. What would have happened had the conductor defied the order to roll on and brought the train to a stop? 

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, March 9, 2023 9:44 AM

When I was working on MY division of CSX - the S word was supreme.  If the S word was brought into play - the appropriate assistance was summoned and rendered.

That was over six years ago - what it is like today ???????

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Posted by Convicted One on Thursday, March 9, 2023 9:20 AM

Confirmation bias can be "damning evidence" in the wrong hands.   I'm sure all the conductor's superiors  now  discredit him as an alarmist, based solely upon the fact the car reached its destination without incident?

Regardless, I personally feel this incident is just more testimony that improved analytics are going to be a necessary part of the solution, as well as the additional hardware.

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Posted by CSX Robert on Thursday, March 9, 2023 9:05 AM

I don't see where they were told to continue "at speed"?  Maybe they slowed down?  I don't know, unless I missed it, the article doesn't say.  It also doesn't say how hot "trending hot" is.  As usual, not enough informtion in the article to really tell us anything.

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NS Crew directed to proceed into populated area at speed with hazmat cargo and hotbox detectors going off.
Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, March 9, 2023 8:15 AM

So I vote for more Federal Regulation after reading this little nugget:

https://www.yahoo.com/gma/feds-looking-norfolk-southerns-handling-100150129.html

 

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