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Pennsylvania NS Derailment

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Pennsylvania NS Derailment
Posted by tree68 on Saturday, March 2, 2024 3:44 PM

Three trains involved.  Reportedly, one train entered a block on a restricting signal, but still managed to collide with a stopped train.  A third train then collided with the wreckage.

Engines in the river, some plastic pellets spilled.  Any hazmat cars were reportedly empty.  No evacuations, etc.

UPI story, with pictures from the Nancy Run Fire Company:  https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2024/03/02/norfolk-southern-train-derailment-pennsylvania/1411709407167/

A fellow railroad volunteer who lives nearby says it's a mess...

 

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, March 2, 2024 4:11 PM

Oh brother....Bang Head

At least no-one got hurt or killed.

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Posted by Backshop on Saturday, March 2, 2024 5:10 PM

When it rains, it pours...

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Posted by croteaudd on Saturday, March 2, 2024 5:52 PM

ANOTHER rear-ender!  And it spilled over and hit yet another passing train, a third!  Where was Positive Train Control (PTC)?  Or did the incident expose a weak link in PTC?

This one seems similar to UP’s Bertram, CA incident of a year and a half ago, the tragic incident by Salton Sea.  On that one I’m convinced track conditions, sleep deprivation, AND sabotage were factors, and am sitting patiently for the NTSF’s final report on the incident, which somehow I believe I will question.

Glad no one was hospitalized in the Pennsylvania incident.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, March 2, 2024 6:28 PM

Unfortunately more ammo for the Piranha investors.

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, March 2, 2024 7:37 PM

croteaudd
ANOTHER rear-ender!  And it spilled over and hit yet another passing train, a third!  Where was Positive Train Control (PTC)?  Or did the incident expose a weak link in PTC?

This one seems similar to UP’s Bertram, CA incident of a year and a half ago, the tragic incident by Salton Sea.  On that one I’m convinced track conditions, sleep deprivation, AND sabotage were factors, and am sitting patiently for the NTSF’s final report on the incident, which somehow I believe I will question.

Glad no one was hospitalized in the Pennsylvania incident.

PTC has never been what outsiders think it is.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Saturday, March 2, 2024 7:56 PM

croteaudd

ANOTHER rear-ender!  And it spilled over and hit yet another passing train, a third!  Where was Positive Train Control (PTC)?  Or did the incident expose a weak link in PTC?

 

 

There have been a number of incidents under restricted speed conditions.  PTC knows a block is showing an occupancy, but does not know what, or necessarily where, the obstruction is.  This is nothing that hasn't been known, even when PTC was being developed.

Jeff

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Posted by MidlandMike on Saturday, March 2, 2024 7:57 PM

Lower Saucon Township, PA is located to the south of the Lehigh river, and the portion along the river is east of Bethlehem.

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Posted by croteaudd on Saturday, March 2, 2024 8:39 PM

BaltACD:

I am definitely an outsider!  And feel so more and more as rail employment continues to shrink and contacts continue to die off!  So, what have I missed?  Is there a top secret cult that, as an outsider, I can’t possibly understand?  Curious minds want to know!

jeffhergert:

Thanks for the response, Jeff!  I knew ALL that but hearing it nicely from a respected railroader was super wonderful to hear, and I’m sure new ones at the forum learned from it!   

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Posted by tree68 on Saturday, March 2, 2024 10:33 PM

Croteaudd - I think the disconnect is between what many perceive PTC to be and what PTC actually is.  I suspect that the general public thinks PTC will prevent all incidents...

In this case, PTC would have enforced the maximum speed for restricted speed operation (usually ~20 MPH), but unless it knows exactly where the train is, it's all for naught, as we have now seen.  And that assumes that 1-PTC was working and in use, and 2-the engineer was actually observing that speed limit (it's been suggested he wasn't).  At this point, I don't believe EOTs are broadcasting their location, so all the oncoming engineer knows is that there's another train somewhere in the next block.

Of course, restricted speed is not a speed, as such, but rather a method of operation.  It requires that a train be able to stop within 1/2 the distance to an obstruction, whatever it is.  Clearly that was not the case here.  It does appear that the incident occurred on a curve, which will, of course, reduce sight distance considerably.

The secret cult isn't so secret, actually.  It's just the product of real-life experience, just as it is in any field.

LarryWhistling
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Posted by croteaudd on Sunday, March 3, 2024 1:07 AM

tree68:

You speak wisdom and it was a pleasure to read your above reply post!

For Union Pacific it seems that ‘restricted speed’ is or was 15 M.P.H.

Forumist jeffhergert may be willing to refresh my memory on this.

Unless the windshield was dirty and difficult to see ahead, it would seem the NS engineer should have seen the train ahead, even with low Intermodal well-cars, which suggests to me the crew might have fallen asleep!

In the UP Bertram wreck here in Southern California, the hodge podge of conflicting news reports said the CTC board track went dead, which suggest to me that ‘someone’ put the Control Point (CP) track in signal testing mode and the signal very well could have displayed red over yellow for an occupied siding!  And if the crew had fallen asleep, well, you know, boom!  But, since the siding had been occupied for some time, a rust-over may have occurred that fooled the signal system!  However, unless proved otherwise, I’m going with the sabotage theory!  Interestingly, there was much labor unrest at the time!

Around 1968 when a teenager I had a close, older friend that was a Santa Fe conductor.  He told me every siding had to be used every twenty-four hours.  If UP had such a policy in effect, the Bertram accident may have never happened, unless of course, it was sabotage!

 

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Posted by caldreamer on Sunday, March 3, 2024 10:15 AM

The engines in question are NOT in the water.  Only the rear ends are in the river and they are upright facing the bank.  The crews had to be helped up the bank by having the fire crews thorw them ropes.

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Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, March 3, 2024 10:28 AM

croteaudd
...

Around 1968 when a teenager I had a close, older friend that was a Santa Fe conductor.  He told me every siding had to be used every twenty-four hours.  If UP had such a policy in effect, the Bertram accident may have never happened, unless of course, it was sabotage!

 

 

Don't know your friend - I tend to think his statement that sidings must be used daily is at variance with any operations I came across in my 51+ year career - not on ATSF - but a Class 1 that laid its first stone on July 4, 1828 - and the various carriers that one morphed into to become a part of today's CSX.  With that being said, if signalled tracks are used infrequently - the rust on the rail can interrupt the signalling action.  It will normally take several weeks of disuse for rail to get sufficiently rusty to inhibit signalling functions.  Roadmasters/Track Inspectors DO have Dispatcher's issue rust rail orders on specific tracks when necessary.

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Posted by tree68 on Sunday, March 3, 2024 3:16 PM

BaltACD
With that being said, if signalled tracks are used infrequently - the rust on the rail can interrupt the signalling action.  It will normally take several weeks of disuse for rail to get sufficiently rusty to inhibit signalling functions. 

We don't run on our own rails at all from December through April, so we normally start the season with "rusty rail" rules in place (ie, approach all signalled crossings with caution until activation is assured).  But during the season, we don't run every day, yet once we wear off the winter's oxidation, we don't have to deal with that.

We're in dark territory, so crossings are the only place we have to deal with track circuits.

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Posted by mvlandsw on Sunday, March 3, 2024 7:08 PM

The P&LE had some gated crossings on seldom used tracks. They put some stainless steel weld beads on the rails in the approach circuits and the gates operated reliably. 

If cars are parked long term on signalled tracks maybe a shunt should be placed on the rails to insure that rust doesn't interfere with their detection.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Monday, March 4, 2024 12:01 AM

UP, like other General Code of Operating Rules users, has a top speed of 20 mph for restricted speed.  Like Tree said, the important part of restricted speed is operating at a speed which allows the stopping within 1/2 the sight distance to an obstruction.  It's a bad habit to think restricted speed is 20 mph.  

PTC starts warning at 17 mph and will take the air, penalty application - not an emergency application, at 20 mph. 

UP does have a signal, Approach Restricting (Yellow over Lunar or Yellow over flashing red, the flashing red is slowly replacing lunar) that requires passing the next signal not exceeding 15 mph.  A holdover from when 15 mph was the top speed on most railroads.  

Jeff

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Monday, March 4, 2024 10:04 AM

I remember from some years back that the conductor on my afternoon ride home explained to some other passengers that restricted speed was NOT TO EXCEED 15 MPH, implying that it could be lower.

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 rrnut282 on Monday, March 4, 2024 12:15 PM

tree68

Three trains involved.  Reportedly, one train entered a block on a restricting signal, but still managed to collide with a stopped train.  A third train then collided with the wreckage.

Engines in the river, some plastic pellets spilled.  Any hazmat cars were reportedly empty.  No evacuations, etc.

UPI story, with pictures from the Nancy Run Fire Company:  https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2024/03/02/norfolk-southern-train-derailment-pennsylvania/1411709407167/

A fellow railroad volunteer who lives nearby says it's a mess...

 

 

The quote from the former council member at the end of the linked article is SO helpful.  Makes the entire article sound like a hit-piece.  

Mike (2-8-2)
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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, March 4, 2024 12:26 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH
I remember from some years back that the conductor on my afternoon ride home explained to some other passengers that restricted speed was NOT TO EXCEED 15 MPH, implying that it could be lower.

How far can you see?  Can you STOP your train in 1/2 that distance?  If you can't STOP within 1/2 the distance you CAN SEE - you are exceeding Restricted Speed.

If you can see a mile and can stop the train in 1/2 a mile and you are not exceeding 20 MPH you are good on Restricted Speed.

If you can see 100 feet and you can stop the train in 100 feet - you have exceeded Restricted Speed even if you are only traveling at 1 MPH.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, March 4, 2024 2:28 PM

Unsafe at any speed!

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, March 4, 2024 2:50 PM

charlie hebdo
Unsafe at any speed!

Vision is EVERYTHING.  Those that can't SEE are in fact unsafe at any speed.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, March 4, 2024 3:02 PM

BaltACD

 

 
charlie hebdo
Unsafe at any speed!

 

Vision is EVERYTHING.  Those that can't SEE are in fact unsafe at any speed.

 

We don't yet know whether the engineer could see or was his perception and judgement faulty.  Or was he impaired in some way?

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Posted by tree68 on Monday, March 4, 2024 4:07 PM

charlie hebdo
We don't yet know whether the engineer could see or was his perception and judgement faulty.  Or was he impaired in some way?

Any of those could be factors.  It could have been the result of "we've always done it this way") in that the engineer isn't used to encountering a train at that point.  He could have been distracted ("How about those [insert team name here]")

The event recorder will tell us if he was exceeding 20 MPH.  We also don't know how far beyond the signal displaying restricting the collision occurred, or when he actually started reducing his speed.

It'll all (or mostly) come out in the end.

 

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Posted by Euclid on Monday, March 4, 2024 4:50 PM
With different speeds below 20 mph, different methods of braking, different train lengths, and different train make up; there can also be a problem of not knowing the stopping distance.
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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, March 4, 2024 4:51 PM

tree68
 
charlie hebdo
We don't yet know whether the engineer could see or was his perception and judgement faulty.  Or was he impaired in some way? 

Any of those could be factors.  It could have been the result of "we've always done it this way") in that the engineer isn't used to encountering a train at that point.  He could have been distracted ("How about those [insert team name here]")

The event recorder will tell us if he was exceeding 20 MPH.  We also don't know how far beyond the signal displaying restricting the collision occurred, or when he actually started reducing his speed.

It'll all (or mostly) come out in the end.

But since it was a derailment that DID NOT result in death, HAZMAT Spill or anything of that nature - we will likely never hear the DETAILS of what actually happened.

The FACT that there was a rear end collision indicates that Restricted Speed was being exceeded.

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Posted by tree68 on Monday, March 4, 2024 5:45 PM

BaltACD
The FACT that there was a rear end collision indicates that Restricted Speed was being exceeded.

No question there.

LarryWhistling
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Posted by caldreamer on Monday, March 4, 2024 6:21 PM

The crew of the lead locomotive were NOT injured.  I can gurantee you that they will be questioned by the NTSB investigators.  As stated above the data recorder on the lead locomotive is probably in Washington, DC at the NTSB lab. The signals, weather, fatigue and track conditions will be checked.  We WILL know what happened and why. I will be very interested in reading the NTSB report on this accident. BTW: It can take up to a year for the final report to come out.

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, March 4, 2024 7:23 PM

caldreamer
The crew of the lead locomotive were NOT injured.  I can gurantee you that they will be questioned by the NTSB investigators.  As stated above the data recorder on the lead locomotive is probably in Washington, DC at the NTSB lab. The signals, weather, fatigue and track conditions will be checked.  We WILL know what happened and why. I will be very interested in reading the NTSB report on this accident. BTW: It can take up to a year for the final report to come out.

Without DEATH and/or HAZMAT release, it is highly unlikely there will be a published NTSB report.

NTSB has limited investigation funding and have to allocate their resources on the basis of 'if it bleeds, it leads'.

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Posted by Euclid on Monday, March 4, 2024 8:20 PM
This wreck may not interest the NTSB, but I think extensive information will come from other sources.  No doubt, the employees of the NS will learn all of the details and discuss them with each other as well as outsiders.  The FRA may cover it especially if the first collision had a cause related to train length and or excess in-train forces.  They published some interesting information about the NS derailment in Springfield, OH a few weeks after the East Palestine pileup. 
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Posted by jeffhergert on Monday, March 4, 2024 10:59 PM

The FRA investigates accident, too.  The FRA will investigate this one, with or without NTSB participation. 

The NTSB may be happy to not participate in this one.  I'm betting the line is PTC equipped.  While never actually saying PTC would eliminate all such collisions, the NTSB certainly heavily implied that it would.  Enough to get a mandate passed by congress.  If PTC was active (It is permitted to operate without PTC when it fails enroute.) all it did was make sure the train was moving 20 mph or less.  A lot of damage can still happen below 20 mph.

Question for anyone who cares to answer.  The last signal you passed requires restricted speed and you're running in compliance. At MP 199 you see ahead of you a red flag between the rails at about MP 200. Where do you have to stop ?  MP 199.99, just short of the flag at MP 200?  MP 199.5,  half the distance you can see to the flag?  Somewhere else?

I will note the answer I have is based on the interpretation of the rule given to us by the company. It is possible other railroads may use a different interpretation of the rule.

Jeff

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