• Maspeth: Slow moving Freight hits Tractor-Trailer 7/8/2015

  • Discussion related to NYAR operations on Long Island. Official web site can be found here: www.anacostia.com/nyar/nyar.html. Also includes discussion related to NYNJ Rail, the carfloat operation successor to New York Cross Harbor that connects with NYAR.
Discussion related to NYAR operations on Long Island. Official web site can be found here: www.anacostia.com/nyar/nyar.html. Also includes discussion related to NYNJ Rail, the carfloat operation successor to New York Cross Harbor that connects with NYAR.
  by Head-end View
Kamerad, watch the video........You can see that the red lights don't start flashing until the truck was already driving over the crossing and the train was already entering the crossing. That is not how this is supposed to work. It appears not to have been the truck driver's fault as the red lights were not flashing when he entered the crossing.
  by DogBert
jtunnel wrote:Not to pile on, but they could have been making a run for the hill.
Mt. Olivet is the steepest grade on Long Island and trash cars are heavy.
When they were running trash out of Maspeth for SAB Trucking (GADX flats) sometimes the train would almost stall at the top of the hill, quite a smoke and sound show as it came from under the factory over the tracks.
That's my guess too.

As I said before, this was one of the first runs of this trash train. It's not hard to imagine the operating notching up and being a bit too fast at that point on the line. When was the last train of loaded cars pulled out of LIC? Decades ago. The depth of railroader experience making this move is, how shall we say, limited.

10mph would be a safer speed but that gate should have been set up for 20 or 30... With the amount of accidents there, let the drivers wait. Or just close the crossing completely to vehicular traffic. Lord knows NYC's DOT isn't about to pay for an underpass... they won't even fix potholes anymore.
  by jayrmli
Making a "run at the hill" is no excuse for exceeding the speed limit, nor blowing through an unprotected crossing and taking a chance.

Either you make sure the railroad gives you enough power to haul the tonnage or double/triple the hill.

Most railroad rulebooks have on Page 1: "Safety is of the utmost importance in the discharge of duty."
  by DogBert
Certainly. Just the same, having a crossing gate that seemingly doesn't activate until a train arrives flies in the face of what everyone is taught from their parents, drivers ed, etc. I just don't think you can blame one factor without the other. Those gates should have been down at least 30 seconds before the train showed up, regardless of speed or if there's a rule that the train needs to stop and proceed when they get there. There's little excuse for excess speed, and there's even less for having a gate wired in a manner that no average citizen would anticipate. We'll see what the investigators think.
  by jayrmli
This is a practice that goes on all over the country, including elsewhere on the LIRR. Go to any passing siding and watch a train approach the crossing in the siding. The gates do not come down until the train reaches the island circuit. Happens at PW every night when NYA switches Coastal, and at yard locations where the yard is located in proximity to a grade crossing.

Plain and simple, the freight crew broke several rules here, which is what caused the accident.
  by DogBert
That's not how this gate used to work though. I've seen plenty of trains going through this crossing over without stopping, with the protection activated long before the train arrived. I have photos of trains, freight and LIRR equipment moves - going through that crossing at speed. When did this change, and why? It flies in the face of what any citizen would expect - especially those who live not far from it and use it often.

I 100% agree with this bit from the article:
With the line exclusively used for freight rail and all trains limited to 15 mph, the switches were relocated to within 10 to 20 feet of the crossing, he noted. Freight train operators were also instructed to slow down when coming to a crossing, then send a crew member out to check that the crossing gates were activated before proceeding.

This change, Arcuri said, makes drivers and pedestrians at the 88th Street crossing especially “nervous,” as they can see the train very close to the crossing well before the gates are activated.

The bottom line is drivers are taught from crossing protection activates before a train shows up. A train shouldn't already be at the crossing before the signals go off. It makes zero logical sense to a non-railroader. It's a very drastic change with no public notification that I know of.

I'm glad I'm not the only one concerned about this very strange change in how protection changed on the lower montauk crossings. They should have left the crossing gates as they were. There was nothing wrong with it. Instead of doing what every average citizen and driver would expect, they made the system significantly less safe. Sure, the train was going too fast - but that doesn't change the fact that this new system of crossing protection is batshit insane and not anythine your average citzen would ever expect. It also completely eliminates any protection against runaway incidents like the one on the bushwick branch not all that long ago. Are our memories really this short?

Whoever made that decision to reconfigure when the gates go down should be fired.
  by SwingMan
You are overreacting way too much, DogBert. It is not only common to almost every shortline railroad across the country, but it is also very common to the LIRR and NYAR. It is only a problem when there is a rules violation, such as the case was in this incident. It is for the BENEFIT of both the railroad and motorists, and when followed PROPERLY inhibits a much safer and more efficient railroad operations.
  by Tommy Meehan
I agree. The Erie Railroad had special instructions in employee timetables alerting crews to stop at various locations on low speed industrial track to ensure that crossing gates were down and it was safe to enter the crossing. That was over fifty years ago, it's not a new practice. Let's not forget there are still many crossings in the U.S. that are without gates or even lights, just the familiar sign with crossbucks.

How many moves a day cross the Maspeth Avenue crossing? Does anyone know?
  by DogBert
The problem is it was NEVER common on the lower montauk for through trains. LIRR zipped through with equipment moves at track speed, probably a good 20-30mph), and that was up until what, 3 or 4 years ago? More recently(maybe a year, two tops) I happened across an NYAR freight moving at speed down these tracks, not stopping at any crossings.

The concern I'm giving voice to is one a lot of other people living by the tracks in queens share. They took a perfectly functional system (triggering signals before a train shows up) and made it less safe, for no reason. I can assure you, the public doesn't care if they 'downgraded' the route and now consider it 'industrial' vs 'secondary'. Grandma on the corner over there doesn't know the difference and doesn't care. She doesn't want to be walking through the crossing and having a huge train creeping up a few feet from her frail body before the gates/flashers go off.

If they left the system as is - with crossing gates doing down in advance of the trains arrival, the train could still stop at each crossing and provide an extra ounce of safety.

With the new configuration, you loose the advance warning and instead startle people who see a train coming and gates not going down - going against everything we're all taught from childhood, in drivers ed, and past personal experience.

This new configuration also completely eliminates any crossing protection against runaway incidents - not like we've never had those around here before, either via crew mistakes or vandals releasing breaks. Crossing protection was added to the bushwick route specifically in the aftermath of a runaway incident.

This 'stop & proceed' being common practice elsewhere does not change the fact that it was never common practice at most of the crossings on this route. I don't think it's going to be accepted, and I hope it's highlighted as a factor in whatever official report comes out - because if the system had not changed, and the gates activated like they used to, this accident wouldn't have happened - regardless of if the train then stopped and proceeded or was a runaway or being controlled by someone who forgot the rules.

Stand on a corner near most of these crossings and ask people what they expect to happen when a train is coming - they'll say the gates go down. Expectations no longer align with reality, which is a problem when you're dealing in public safety.

Tommy to answer your question: I'd say it's switched a few days per week, and now there's the train to/from WM on the old secondary track (which i assume might also switch wheelspur, or that will be a separate train - either way WM is to be a daily run). When they are switching, they go over the crossing often, over the span of a few hours. When they're going to LIC, it's just a straight shot down the old secondary. Basically it's used often and is not a once a week or once a month operation.
  by SwingMan
DogBert, I will just have to respectfully state that your paranoia and fear is highly unjustified.

What you have to understand is this - incidents like the one on the 8th should never happen plain and simple. That being said with the right precautions and adaptations, it will not happen again. Whether it be adding more power, more crew training, or even split trains, they know more thanks to this incident.

The way this crossing protection is set-up for safety is quite simple. Traffic can flow normally right up until the train at restricted speed comes upon the crossing in which case drivers can take action to the train. People can adapt, but you seem to make it out like a certain minority of people cannot. Just go down to L.I. City and watch trains approach the Borden Avenue crossing PREPARED TO STOP while crossing activation is activated.

This has been done for over 50 years. Now because one freight train being operated improperly, you are writing a system completely? To reenact a similarly faulty grade crossing system? That is not a solution to your paranoia, and it would create more hazards than this system has unwrapped? Because there is a certain group of people who will understand that trains are going 10mph with the gates lowered for upwards of 2 minutes and will go around them. Tell me that is a better option than this? Or having the crossing protection time out because a train has to crawl up to the crossing?

I have the up most respect for your opinion, DogBert, but quite frankly you sound no better then the next uneducated person on this subject.
  by ccutler
I enjoy reading everyone's perspectives here. I'm guessing that the detection system would have problems either way, but blasting through the crossing above speed restrictions, without even noticing whether the crossing protection was operating, will be the most problematic aspect of the accident.

I remember reading that branch lines often had the crossing detection deactivated because rusty rails would have undermined the detection system, so that crossings would be manually operated by the crews at the crossings. Was that the original rationale for turning off the detection for this line?
  by Head-end View
DogBert, to expand on SwingMan's comments, if you left the "old" timing in place for the grade crossing signals, traffic would back-up for blocks while waiting several minutes for a slow-moving train (10-20mph) to arrive. And some would start to drive around the gates, thinking they were malfunctioning. And that would cause more collisions.

The "new" system works in a freight yard/switching environment such as this. But obviously the train crews must follow their railroad's rules, which appears not to have happened in this incident. And I'm sure the railroad is going to pay the price.
  by Tommy Meehan
I understand what DogBert is saying having had the experience out West in Washington state. It was a grade crossing on (what was then) a BN industrial track at one end of a freight yard where the gates did not come down until the movement was within feet of the roadway. There was usually a yard engine or road train near the crossing too. The first time I crossed I was shaken up when I saw a yard engine was approaching the grade crossing as I drove over it. The engine was probably three or four carlengths away and moving virtually at walking speed but that first time it was unnerving.

What I came to realize was, there was no danger. None of the crews actually crossed the road until they pulled up and the gates came down. Then they'd give several blasts on the air horns and usually start ringing the bell too. They let you know, "Watch it, this time I'm crossing!" Also, in speaking to friends in the area I was surprised how many people understood it was a busy facility and the crossing protection was designed to minimize delays to vehicle traffic. The people I knew in the area trusted the rail crews and so long as the gates were up they crossed. Everyone assured me it was perfectly safe, there had never been an accident anyone could recall.

But as several people have noted, the rail crews have to do their part, too. And as I'm sure the facts bear out, 99.9% of the time they do.