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.