• No Thump No Dump

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by shortlinerailroader
Saw this in the comments section of Youtube and started thinking: Do I shoot the train only after I strike a vehicle at a crossing, or before? Had an old head tell me one time "don't be crossing-shy--stay on the horn, if you hit, then dump it".

Was running down the main once, had it in 8, accelerating, doing maybe 30. Running long end forward when a dumpster truck stopped and fowled crossing. I shot the train, got it stopped a few cars before crossing, truck had already turned.

If it is inevitable, is it better to strike a vehicle with slack bunched or stretched? No matter what is posted here, instinct will still probably tell me to shoot it IF/when I see a vehicle that flat will not move. Just does not seem right to hit a car in notch 8.

  by Jtgshu
I was told the same thing, and while it makes sense, as a situation could become much worse by dumping it (derailing comes to mind) I would be more concerned with the download after the fact and what it showed, and any possible liability from not dumping it before. Especially now with all the cameras on the head end, on certain RRs.

I mean, its not realistic to dump the train as soon as you see someone fouling the guage in your line of sight. Trains would never get anywhere! But I would think that a collision was inevitable, Id dump it before impact.

On my RR, a train stuck and killed a teenager. Now, years later, the engineer is being sued for wrongful death, and one of the cornerstones of their case is the fact that if he "put the brakes on sooner, he would have stopped short of her and she would have survived" (in a nutshell).

Its a shame that this is how you have to think of things, but in the end, its your ass on the line, and the lawsuit would have your name on it. And who knows how the company is gonna react. Luckily, in the case referenced above, the company is backing him, but as well all know, that might not always be the case.

  by route_rock
I have heard the dont dump till you thump,but a few hoggers here have said to if it looks like the merde is going to hit the fan then make at least a minimum and go from there. Of course your the engineer and you have to follow rules but you will get your own method to deal with it.

I agree cant be crossing shy so I guess you build up an instinct to it.

  by shortlinerailroader
Now, years later, the engineer is being sued
What of the statute of limitations? That is unfortunate.

I agree with you both in terms of dumping it in relation to possibly derailing the train. Sometimes we have empty flats and loaded LPG cars in the same train and on the couple of close calls I have had at track speed I did grab a minimum at first, mindful of the makeup of my train. That train I shot was all loads (abt. 20 cars) with a loco on the rear.

  by conrail_engineer
Fingers crossed...I have never hit a vehicle (squarely) on a crossing. Winged one pickup truck; driver was being INCREDIBLY stupid in front of about thirty witnesses; he got out of the ditch he got spun into, and beat feet outta there.

BUT...I have had about eight or nine close calls. One of them had the markings of disaster...a tractor/trailer, pulling steel girders, got on the crossing and the gates went down on his rig. Well, the brainiac didn't want to BREAK those gates, so he sat there for about ten seconds, weighing his options.

And me, I watched for ten seconds, trying to control my bowels. I was running a 110-car coal drag, and it was NOT gonna stop.

Which didn't mean I was gonna just make the Stations of The Cross and Last Rites. I put the thing in Full Service, and got ready for an "emergency detrain evolution"...when said brainiac decided that broken gates weren't going to be the worst thing that could happen.

Upshot of it is, I broke the train in half. If I had NOT put the air on...who knows? I don't THINK the little bit I slowed down in 30 seconds gave him time to clear...but I wasn't taking stopwatch readings. Probably I'd have been alright, especially if I'd just made plans to jump if the trucker stayed stupid and frozen.

Other times...when I was a new hogger, I had put air on, hard...and had to stop and release. Wasted time and when we did NOT hit, what I did had nothing to do with it. Now, like your old-timer...I tend to just charge up, horn and lights...

...but there's that legal problem. I can see it happening...I never hit a vehicle, but I killed two drunken trespassers.

Round the bend, and there they were. Man and a woman, both hammered, fighting on the tracks. No WAY I could stop....but I wanted it IN THE BLACK BOX that I was doing SOMETHING.

They were on the left side of the cab. Conductor and I were both watching them to see if they rolled clear...when it was obvious they weren't going to, I reached over the control stand and swung the Automatic Brake handle into Emergency.

Or so I thought. As it happened, it only went into Supression...the air never dumped, and I didn't notice it until we were almost stopped. (Conductor, an old head, wasn't going to use his Big Red Handle for something as silly as two drunken idiots.)

I sweated it for a MONTH, to find out if I was going up on charges for NOT dumping the air. As it happened, we were a light train and stopped thirty cars past the kill...but common sense and fact has little place in modern victim-based law.

There's no good answer. But I think the BEST answer is the one the old-head gave...just charge up, and do your duty. You ain't gonna stop, so don't try.

  by BlackDog
Go with your conscience. But if you do dump it, reach up to your head end device and dump it from the rear as well.

  by route_rock
Interesting option dog. Have to write that one down as well. When making back up moves out of our yard in Clinton Iowa the engineer would plug it from the head end box if we were coming close to whacking any of the numerous idiots trying to cross the tracks. Little tricks can help in big ways.

  by BlackDog
Dumping it from the EOT does a couple of things for you.

1: It looks better in court, it shows that you did everything in your power.

2: It helps remove your own self doubt. If the lights were on bright, the bell was ringing, the whistle was blowing, you weren't speeding, you shot the air from BOTH ends, then there was absolutely nothing else you could have done to prevent the tragedy from happening. It will help ease the burden of self guilt. At least it did for me.

  by 10more years
I had always heard that you don't shoot the brakes until after impact, but experience has taught me that usually you don't "see" a vehicle until its too late, or there's no doubt there's going to be a collision (a vehicle hung up on the tracks). You have to be able to "live" with your decision.
Usually, there's only an instant to make a decision. And I go with instinct and reaction.
Some railroads have operating or train handling rules that tell you to put train in emergency from rear whenever you have emergency situation , or even cut off from train. That's just one more thing to have to think about in a stressful situation, but a good idea.

I don't bluff with folks who play "chicken"! If I think there's "play" involved or someone is being cute, or playing "chicken", I stay in throttle.
I had a guy commit suicide recently, and I was in emergency before I hit him, not that it did any good.

Another thing, if you're involved in a crossing accident and a download is pulled, if you're speeding any time before the incident, its liable to be held against you in court.

BlackDog wrote:Dumping it from the EOT does a couple of things for you.
It does one other thing, as well. It ensures you have complied with the AB&TH manual, that states when you place the train into emergency, on a train with a 2 way eot that is armed, you MUST activate the toggle, until you see the air has shot from the rear. It becomes an event that is recorded on event recorders starting this year, on new locos, and on retrofitted locos with new event recorders installed. See FRA Title 49, Railroad Locomotive Safety Standards, Part 229.135, section three, in it's entirety. The amount of events that they are preparing to record seems to exceed even those of a commercial airliner. :(

  by route_rock
Yeah GA they are drilling that into us at piglet school.Plug the rear end as well when making an emergency aplication from the head end.
Didnt know they were doing that to the new motors.Thanks for the heads up.
  by Engineer Spike
I hit a person laying in the track 2.5 years ago. It was midnight, and my conductor saw something in the tracks. At first he though it was a black garbage bag. Then he saw that it was a person. I just glanced when he said what is that. I was slowing down for a slow speed signal. I had 1st. service on, and had just gone for 10#. After we determined that it was a person, I dumped it, and also shot the head end box. I never heard anything about the situation. Things may not be the same for me. The laws aren't the same in Canada.

On a side note about 2 way communication, newer engines are required to automatically dump the rear end, even without manually using the head end box. This is a reason to clear out old marker numbers. If you have a trailing unit with a old marker still armed to it, brakeman opens angle cock too fast, unit dumps. The train highballing down the main has the marker which is still armed to the trailing unit. That train may dump too. I have seen it happen with NS C40-9CWs.


  by NV290
BlackDog wrote: If the lights were on bright, the bell was ringing, the whistle was blowing, you weren't speeding, you shot the air from BOTH ends, then there was absolutely nothing else you could have done to prevent the tragedy from happening. It will help ease the burden of self guilt. At least it did for me.
Excellent advice. All we can do is hope we never get in these situations, but inevitably, we will. And when we do, thaks to todays ridiculous legal system, you better be damn sure you did everything right. EVERYTHING. Because the one little thing you did not do by the book could be your worst nightmare. Even recorders don't lie and now many loco's have cameras with outside audio to back up the even recorder. The cameras can save you or ruin you, depending on the situation. And to note about dumping the EOT, most railroads now (all of CSX Modern power does) are setup to automatically dump the rear end anytime the brake valve is placed into emergency. So there is no real need to scramble for that switch.

First off, as to whether to dump your train before impact (with a person or vehicle) is subjective. There is no set in stone rule, it's basically use your best judgement. I would take into account my train weight, length and how it's built, What am i carrying, the grade and the weather first. Then what it is i am about to hit. Hitting people, passenger cars and small trucks with a modern loco would most certainly not cause you or your conductor any physical harm. But the stakes go up when what you about to hit is truck carrying something like logs, hazardous materials, heavy equipment and very high mass loads like rolls of paper in a trailer or container. And that is the mystery with enclosed trailers, you never know what, if anything they are carrying. It could be empty, it could be full of potato chips, or it could be full of something large and heavy enough to crash through the cab windows and/or walls and kill you. So you need to take into account a bunch of things....

1. IF i dump it right now, can i stop? And at what risk to the train?
2. What am i about to hit? If it's something that could kill or seriously injure me, i am dumping it as soon as it's clear that the object wil not be out of the way by the time i get there. I would much rather hit a load of logs or gravel at 20mph then 50. and 3, is there a camera on my loco?.

Before there were camera's, it was you and your conductors words against everyone. And on those 3am tresspasser hits with no witnesses but the crew, whether the tresspasser was standing in the gauge the whole time or stepped in at the last minute would be whatever the crew said. And that could mean the difference between a criminal negligance trial and you walking away scott free. On the subject of the selfish idiots who choose a train to end there life, i have no pitty for them at all and quite frankly, feel no remorse for someone who chooses to involve others to end their own life. And it's obvious in this lawsuit happy day and age that whether you did everything right or everything wrong, the family is going to sue. Because nobody seems to be able to accept responsibility for their own actions. It always has to be someone else fault and that someone else should have to pay for it, BS.
Anyhow, back to camera's....

If you have a camera on your loco, your story can only be one thing, the truth. Because cameras dont lie. Any thought of saying "The guy jumped out of nowhere!" or "I did'nt see him till the last minute!" go right out the window. So the advice of many old timers that i too have heard of "bump and dump" are not a great idea. Because a lawyer for a victims family will have a field day with the camera footage. Deciding to dump or not to dump your train equates to playing russian roulette with someones life. And any accident investigator with half a brain can pretty easily figure out the point of impact. So waiting to hit someone and then planning on saying you dumped it much earlier, even without a camera may not be a smart idea. Because no you have added lying to your already deepining hole.

I have had a few close calls, but thankfully in 10 years, have struck nobody. But i have had idiots standing in the gauge and had to dump it, because the person was not getting out of the way. In most cases with people on the tracks, you blow the horn and they move. Maybe not instantly, but they do. And most of the kids playing "chicken" are obviously doing just that and are not too brave. But if someone is not budging or is lying down and making no attempt to move and worst of all, has their eyes closed so it's obvious they are not planning on moving, i dump it, no matter what.

With vehicles on a crossing, it's much harder to tell, especially at night. Way too many variables. If i see headlights and taillights and movement as though someone is trying to get there car off the tracks, ill blow like crazy and start slowing down for sure. But if the car is clearly unoccupied and therefore there is no chance it will get out of the way, OR, there are people in the car who are not getting out, you better dump it. I assure you, if you dont and you derail after you hit it, your going to be hung by your company.

I have never heard of an engineer who was disciplined for a train derailing after he or she dumped it to avoid striking a person or vehicle. EVER. Show me one instance? Don't be afraid to dump it. It's not as though you have to pay to re-rail cars or buy new knuckles. But you can be sure that you are taking a very real risk in having to pay some idiots family a ton of money if you dont. With cameras in almost all our loco's and more on the way, i am not afraid to dump it.

Just recently an NJ Transit Engineer is now having to go to court for supposedly "not doing everything he could" to stop his train. Ill look for the link and post it here.
  by RussNelson
NV290 wrote:"not doing everything he could" to stop his train.
Railroad engineers are highly trained professionals who deserve to have their judgement respected. It's simply a law of physics that trains cannot be stopped or started quickly. Trying to stop short of something fouling the track which is likely to move risks a derailment which could cause loss of life and property damage far in excess of the risk of hitting it. Our court system is off in the weeds if it expects to be able to second-guess an engineer's judgement.
  by WSH
I haven't seen the whole movie but I saw about the first 20 minutes of something called "Rails and Ties" on HBO the other day and it dealt with this exact scenario. A suicidal woman parked her car on the tracks and the engineer (Kevin Bacon) did not dump because he was concerned about a derailment and said she was too close and it wouldn't have done any good anyway. Another crew member in the cab expierenced severe emotional problems soon after because he felt she might have been saved if more action was taken. I guess I'll have to catch the whole movie sometime.