• Empire Builder on the Ground in MT

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

  by Arborwayfan
 
Better to wait and get the answer right than to give a possible answer and have it turn out to be wrong. Even if they said "Our top guesses at this point are a and b" that would filter out through various media as "STB and FRA say wreck caused by a and b" and when the final report said "actually it was b and c" that would filter out as "STB and FRA take back original statement, correct error" and readers would lose confidence. Would be different if these were new cars, new locomotives, new type of turnout or signals or something else that they might want to take out of service pending investigation, no?
  by Railjunkie
 
F40 wrote: Wed Oct 27, 2021 10:36 pm PTC not being activated simply ruled out a seemingly obvious factor. Speaking of which, can PTC detect kinks in the rail if it is not broken? Of course piecing the facts together to find the cause and effect will take time.
PTC WAS cut in and working as intended. The system can give you plenty of info and keeps track of your train within about 25ft of your location but it can not detect things like heat kinks, low spots, bad rail joints etc. Even the signal system would not be able to pick up a heat kink or some of the listed above unless it broke a joint or a bond wire.
  by JimBoylan
 
Almost any warning is possible if the proper options are added or connected to the Positive Train Control System.
A mechanism to detect that a switch point is not in its proper position could also be used to detect that a rail has moved due to a sun kink, earthquake, etc.
  by John_Perkowski
 
Links:

Railway Age has a précis of the NTSB preliminary report.

The NTSB preliminary report

From NTSB

What Happened
​This information is preliminary and will be either supplemented or corrected during the course of the investigation.​ Release date OCT 26, 2021.

On September 25, 2021, about 3:47 p.m. local time, westbound National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) train 7 (also known as the Empire Builder) carrying 154 people derailed in a right-hand curve at milepost 1014.57 on the BNSF Railway (BNSF) Hi Line Subdivision near Joplin, Montana.[1] (See figure.) As a result of the derailment, 3 passengers died, and 44 passengers and crew were transported to local hospitals with injuries. Damage was estimated by Amtrak to be over $22 million.

​Amtrak train 7 consisted of two locomotives and 10 railcars. Eight of the 10 railcars derailed with four railcars derailing on their sides. In the vicinity of the accident area, BNSF authorizes train movements with a traffic control system. Train movements are coordinated by a BNSF train dispatcher located at the Dispatch Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Train movements on the Hi Line Subdivision are governed by operating rules, special instructions, timetable instructions, and the signal indications of the traffic control system and supplemented with an overlaid positive train control (PTC) system. The maximum allowable speed on this section of track was 79 mph for passenger trains. The PTC system was enabled and operating at the time of the derailment. Preliminary data from the leading locomotive’s event recorder showed that train 7 was traveling between 75 and 78 mph when its emergency brakes were activated. The locomotives and the first two railcars remained on the rail. The weather was clear with no precipitation at the time of the accident.

While on scene, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators conducted track and equipment inspections, reviewed signal and train control data logs, obtained data from the lead locomotive’s forward-facing image recorder and event recorder, and conducted interviews. NTSB’s investigation is ongoing. Future investigative activity will focus on track and engineering, equipment, survival factors, and passenger railcar crashworthiness.

Parties to this investigation include the Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak, BNSF, the Brotherhood of Maintenance-of-Way Employes Division, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. [2]

​(a) All times in this document are local time unless otherwise noted. (b) Amtrak is a passenger railroad service that provides medium- a​​nd long-distance intercity passenger rail service in the contiguous United States and to nine cities in Canada. Train 7 operates from Chicago, Illinois, to Seattle, Washington, with a portion of the train removed at Spokane, Washington, and then continuing to Portland, Oregon, as train 27.

​​The Brotherhood of Maintenance-of-Way Employes Division spells the word “Employes” in its name with one e. Therefore, we are using that spelling in this report.
  by F40
 
Railjunkie wrote: Thu Oct 28, 2021 10:17 am
F40 wrote: Wed Oct 27, 2021 10:36 pm PTC not being activated simply ruled out a seemingly obvious factor. Speaking of which, can PTC detect kinks in the rail if it is not broken? Of course piecing the facts together to find the cause and effect will take time.
PTC WAS cut in and working as intended. The system can give you plenty of info and keeps track of your train within about 25ft of your location but it can not detect things like heat kinks, low spots, bad rail joints etc. Even the signal system would not be able to pick up a heat kink or some of the listed above unless it broke a joint or a bond wire.

True, I meant PTC did not trigger an emergency braking event in this instance.
  by David Benton
 
A few years ago , some company proposed a remote controlled "cart" , that would travel at braking distance in front of the train , to detect track problems or objects on the track . Never knew what came of it .
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Mr. Benton, back when dignitaries traveled by train (such as President-Elect Obama during Jan '17), there was always a Pilot train ahead. Between that train and the dignitary's, the track, if not the whole railroad, was sealed.
  by NYCRRson
 
"Mr. Benton, back when dignitaries traveled by train (such as President-Elect Obama during Jan '17), there was always a Pilot train ahead. Between that train and the dignitary's, the track, if not the whole railroad, was sealed."

Indeed, way way back in 1942 my Pop was called to fire a Hudson Locomotive Eastbound from Buffalo Central Terminal with no cars of any kind attached. Being a newer employee (Hire date as a fireman of 12/9/1941, just after a date that will live in infamy) he though this was odd.

But they made the trip and arrived in Syracuse (next Division Point) on time with no events. Later he asked what the heck that was all about and was told his "train" (a single engine) was a Pilot train for POTUS (FDR at that time) and my Dad was supposed to take one for POTUS in case some neer-do-well or enemy agent decided to blow up a bridge or pull some spikes out of the ties...
  by justalurker66
 
David Benton wrote: Thu Oct 28, 2021 7:10 pmA few years ago , some company proposed a remote controlled "cart" , that would travel at braking distance in front of the train , to detect track problems or objects on the track . Never knew what came of it .
Sanity prevailed.

Putting the cart ahead of the horsepower is an interesting concept. Logistically it would mean something that would trigger crossing gates (on CN that could mean a train that met axle counts) and a rule that would allow the train it was protecting to run at the same speed. With current signalling systems a "cart" breaking distance ahead would force the following train to operate at Restricted Speed (due to a train being ahead of it in their block). The "cart" would need to be several miles ahead of the protected train if both were to run at track speed (at least two full signal blocks). Running on an unsignalled railroad might be easier but there would need to be constant communication so that if there was an issue detected there would be reaction time to stop the following train.

It would make more sense to fly a drone ahead of the train. And if flying a drone makes MORE sense than a cart then you have your answer as to why railroads don't use carts. Carts are a solution that cause more problems than they solve. But push hard enough and they could be the next unfunded Congressional mandate.
  by Bracdude181
 
@justalurker66 Lots of companies now use drones to visually inspect hard-to-reach areas of whatever it is they deal with. In concept having a drone fly ahead of the train to keep an eye out sounds cool, but wouldn’t that drone have a hard time maintaining “braking distance” from a train? Most drones don’t fly too terribly fast. Maybe between 30-50 MPH for really high end ones. Fine for some slower speed freight ops maybe but 70 MPH or higher passenger trains? You’d need one of those crazy racing drones that can go 100+ MPH and those aren’t really suited for the inspection work commercial drones can do.
  by STrRedWolf
 
Bracdude181 wrote: Fri Oct 29, 2021 2:43 am @justalurker66 Lots of companies now use drones to visually inspect hard-to-reach areas of whatever it is they deal with. In concept having a drone fly ahead of the train to keep an eye out sounds cool, but wouldn’t that drone have a hard time maintaining “braking distance” from a train? Most drones don’t fly too terribly fast. Maybe between 30-50 MPH for really high end ones. Fine for some slower speed freight ops maybe but 70 MPH or higher passenger trains? You’d need one of those crazy racing drones that can go 100+ MPH and those aren’t really suited for the inspection work commercial drones can do.
Not only that, you have to sustain that drone for 2+ days, and you got weather to deal with.

Meanwhile, you got the pilot train idea... which gets shortened to "the last train that went through about an hour or so ago"... and that kinks tend to happen whenever there's a gap...
  by eolesen
 
It would be far cheaper in the long run to install CCTV for dispatchers to monitor remote track than it would for carts or drones.
  by scratchyX1
 
Bracdude181 wrote: Fri Oct 29, 2021 2:43 am @justalurker66 Lots of companies now use drones to visually inspect hard-to-reach areas of whatever it is they deal with. In concept having a drone fly ahead of the train to keep an eye out sounds cool, but wouldn’t that drone have a hard time maintaining “braking distance” from a train? Most drones don’t fly too terribly fast. Maybe between 30-50 MPH for really high end ones. Fine for some slower speed freight ops maybe but 70 MPH or higher passenger trains? You’d need one of those crazy racing drones that can go 100+ MPH and those aren’t really suited for the inspection work commercial drones can do.
What about rolling drones, which could do inspections through the day?
I saw one that could even get out of the way of trains.
  by justalurker66
 
Thank you for illustrating the point: "And if flying a drone makes MORE sense than a cart then you have your answer as to why railroads don't use carts."

Sanity has prevailed.
  by hxa
 
eolesen wrote: Fri Oct 29, 2021 9:28 am It would be far cheaper in the long run to install CCTV for dispatchers to monitor remote track than it would for carts or drones.
Equipping every remote rail line with CCTV is not a cheap solution, though. Typical wayside signal devices, such as track circuits, physical signals and radio towers, occur every one or few miles, while a camera (or LiDAR, or anything being tested on autonomous cars) cannot see anything beyond half a mile. This will lead to an order of magnititude larger amount of maintenance work.
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