Discussion relating to the operations of MTA MetroNorth Railroad including west of Hudson operations and discussion of CtDOT sponsored rail operations such as Shore Line East and the Springfield to New Haven Hartford Line

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, nomis, FL9AC, Jeff Smith

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  by F-line to Dudley via Park
 
dnelson wrote:Two immediate questions come to mind: if this train was led by a typical locomotive or some sort of passenger-less spacer instead of MU cars with passengers sitting beginning directly behind the cab, would any passengers have died? If this train wasn't powered via third rail which ignited the fire, would any passengers have died? I'm not actively criticizing third rail powered MUs, but this is a horrifying number of deaths for what appears to be an otherwise typical grade crossing accident.
The third rail pierced right through the carbody underside like a Ginsu knife through a tomato can and set off an explosion. I don't think there's anything a locomotive-hauled train could've done that wouldn't have resulted in equally firey mess and put lives at risk in the crew cabin and with the standees at the vestibule door in the first Shoreliner. A P32 goes up like a Roman candle all the same in that perfect storm of bad luck...and there you have to worry about a breach of the fuel tanks too from the live Ginsu third rail. And if Car #2 is the one that gets sliced by a 700 V DC firestarter instead of the front car it's moot anyway. People are gonna die in a trailing Shoreliner if they draw the random-chance bad luck instead.



There's always reinforced cab cars. . .

Image

Doesn't even have to be as dramatic a 'faux-nose' as that Metrolink example, which was surely the purchasing result of the continuing fallout from the Chatsworth wreck. Amtrak's new Superliner-derived corridor cars under order have slightly more rounded ends with better protection while still allowing pass-through from car to car. It's an appeal to the FRA's old-school buff strength hysteria that a hulking mass protruding far ahead of the cab provides X units of extra safety for every X unit of 'nose' length. You can make a push-pull cab and double-ended EMU married pair with tougher end protection without it needing to be a veritable locomotive nose on every end. It doesn't take a knee-jerk overreaction to get that. If tougher ends become a puchase priority going forward for all commuter railroads, you'll see it work into the designs of every push-pull cab and EMU evolutionarily with modular rounded 'caps' on the ends. Nobody's asked for it so far except for the skittish California operators, so no manufacturers have bothered to serve up such a carbody as a regular offering. Now they'll all start asking for it like Amtrak has with the new Superliner generations. You'll see MLV's, MLV EMU's like NJT's Arrow replacements, M9/10/11's, Bombardier BiLevels, Metra-style gallery cars all come with the reinforced caps on every end car's body pressed at the factory instead of one single carbody prefabbed for every purpose. That's not onerous or a cost-bloater at the scale that comes with it being a standard purchase for every RR. It's only a burdensome expensive when it's one super-custom order for one paranoid railroad. And I suspect that'll no longer be the case when the reverberations from this accident leave their mark.
Last edited by F-line to Dudley via Park on Wed Feb 04, 2015 9:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
  by JoshKarpoff
 
dnelson wrote:Two immediate questions come to mind: if this train was led by a typical locomotive or some sort of passenger-less spacer instead of MU cars with passengers sitting beginning directly behind the cab, would any passengers have died? If this train wasn't powered via third rail which ignited the fire, would any passengers have died? I'm not actively criticizing third rail powered MUs, but this is a horrifying number of deaths for what appears to be an otherwise typical grade crossing accident.
Let's not add to the speculation. A locomotive hauled train might have derailed, causing more injuries, or that third rail could have pierced the belly tank under the locomotive, setting fire to several hundred gallons of diesel fuel. No one can know exactly. What we do know is that this MU coach hit a stalled Jeep and that somehow in the process of the collision the Jeep caught fire, the third rail broke loose, pierced the car and then the first car caught fire. We also know that the engineer survived, which tells us that the cab end isn't as flimsy as it may appear at first glance (FRA buff strength!).

My understanding from my fellow Westchester firefighters who were on scene is that the second car did eventually also have some fire inside, that spread from the superheated gases (black smoke is unburnt flamables) and flames from the first car. Modern plastics are notorious for auto-exposing easily. Underwriters Laboratories, NIST and the US Fire Administration have done a lot of research lately on how modern plastic furnishings in homes spread fire very quickly, I can only assume that the plastics in an M7 car might be prone to some of the same issues.
  by Jeff Smith
 
Just a quick reminder when linking articles to provide a "brief, fair-use quote." Generally, that's up to three or four paragraphs (depending on the length of the article) referencing the point you may be making.

I've been reading the WSJ article, as well as the NYT articles, and these passages seem pertinent:

WSJ
Metro-North Train Crashes Into SUV in Valhalla, N

The Metro-North operator driving the train appeared to suffer burns and smoke inhalation and was being treated at Westchester Medical Center, a union official said.

The crossing gates appeared to be working properly, said the union official, Tony Bottalico, general chairman of a union representing Metro-North conductors and engineers.

The train’s operator, who Mr. Bottalico declined to name but described as young, helped passengers escape.

“He did the best he could dragging people off the train,” Mr. Bottalico said. “This kid saved a lot of lives.”
CBS LOCAL
7 Dead When Metro-North Train Hits Car In Valhalla, Catches Fire

...Officials said the electrified third rail on the tracks became dislodged after impact and pierced the floor of the front train car.
“The third rail stops at the grade crossing, and so that’s where the contact with the automobile was made, and it entered through the automobile and up through the floor of the car,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority President Thomas Prendergast explained.
...
“Apparently, this is not definitive, but the word is that the car tried to blow through the red light at the tracks and get around the gate and was hit,” Astorino continued.
...
  by Jeff Smith
 
SERVICE UPDATE FROM MTA INFO

Full text quoted from government agency:
Metro-North Railroad Announces Service Plan for the Upper Harlem Line

Metro-North Harlem Line train service on Wednesday, February 4 will remain suspended between Pleasantville and North White Plains until further notice due to the train/car collision near Valhalla. There will be limited bus/train service for Upper Harlem Line customers beginning with morning rush hour service on Wednesday and until further notice.

See the Train/Bus Schedule.

Please Note:
-Customers are strongly encouraged to work from home if possible or should seek alternate service
-Harlem Line tickets will be cross honored on the Hudson and New Haven Lines
-Free parking will be available at Cortlandt Station on the Hudson Line
-Westchester County parking available on a first-come, first-served basis:
Up to 300 spaces at the County Center near White Plains Station
Up to 50 spaces at the North White Plains Station
-Customers should expect crowded conditions and delays
-Listen for announcements at your station

Southbound Service
There will be shuttle train service between Wassaic and Southeast with shuttle bus connections to Beacon Station on the Hudson Line for train service to Grand Central. Wassaic Branch Customers are strongly encouraged to take this service.

From Southeast (for local southbound train service) there will be limited train service to Goldens Bridge with shuttle bus connections directly to North White Plains Station for train service to Grand Central..

From Goldens Bridge there will be limited train service to Pleasantville with shuttle bus connections to North White Plains Station.

There will not be service at Hawthorne and Valhalla Stations. Customers should go to an alternate station.

Train service will operate from North White Plains and all points south.

Northbound Service
There will be train service to North White Plains Station with bus service to Pleasantville; train service will continue northbound to Southeast with connections to Wassaic.

The train cars cannot be removed until the on-scene investigation is complete, and they will need to be removed before service can be restored. Regular service through this area is not expected to resume until a full investigation is complete, the infrastructure is fully assessed, and repairs are made.

As more information becomes available we will notify you as soon as possible. Please continue to visit this website for updates and listen for announcements at your station.
  by Jeff Smith
 
SITE ADMIN

I know we can all surmise what happened. A reminder is in order to refrain from hyperbole' and attacks. I understand where the sentiment is coming from, particularly from employees.
  by Tommy Meehan
 
This is what Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said eyewitnesses told police investigators (link)
Astorino confirmed an account reported earlier by an eyewitness idling behind the Jeep. The railroad crossing gate had dropped down onto the rear of the Jeep. The female driver got out to check what happened. The motorist behind her backed up and tried to wave her back, too. But the driver got back in the car, and pulled forward unknowingly into the direct path of the train.

"It was completely charred and burned,'' Astorino said of the interior of the first car. "It must have been an absolutely horrific scene." Screaming passengers had to jump out through emergency windows. "The flames and smoke were so heavy, everybody had to jump off'' the first car, he said. "Everything is melted inside." The train's engineer and conductor tried to help passengers before escaping themselves.
  by JimBoylan
 
TAN Chatsworth, Calif. reaction
The Metrolink train at Chatsworth in 2008 had a Diesel locomotive leading. After the crash, it was found telescoped inside the 1st passenger car that it had been pulling.
There have been fires after Diesel train accidents that were not at grade crossings, or in 3rd rail territory.
  by Ridgefielder
 
Gilbert B Norman wrote:Of course, I will add to the wise chorus of no speculation at least until the NTSB releases a preliminary report which I would expect during the first week of April.

Now if this is where the incident occurred, it simply was an accident waiting to happen. Despite its name, the Taconic State Parkway is "uh, not exactly", a highway built to Interstate standards. Of course, try telling that to the drivers along it; even though with its wooded "rustic" medians present many a hiding place for cops. With its many accesses such as the instant at Commerce Street, it gives me the "spooks" whenever I have occasion to drive it (I am from the Northeast; Greenwich CT to be precise).

Now here is an X-ing at Michiana Shores, IN (Amtrak MP 224) that also gives me the "spooks" for the same reason. Mr. Dunville is also familiar with same and perhaps he will choose to comment regarding such.
Yes, Mr. Norman, that's the crossing. Now picture it last night, in the dark, with the plowed-up snow from two consecutive 10"-inch Nor'easters... It should probably have been closed when the built the Taconic Parkway way back in the 1930's; at the very least, the traffic light controlling access onto the Taconic should be on the west side of the tracks.
  by n2cbo
 
FL9AC wrote: If not for the motorist who decided to stop on live tracks
We don't know that she just "decided" to just stop on the live tracks. There could have been many other reasons that put her vehicle there. One might have been that her tires lost traction on ice when she tried to stop, or that her brakes failed, etc... For now, let's let the investigators find out the facts, then we can comment once we know all of them.
  by Tommy Meehan
 
Reportedly there was a serious accident on the adjacent Taconic State Parkway and traffic was backing up. See below. I'm not sure which direction the motorist was heading but there is very little room to maneuver.

Image

ETA - I posted this information a few messages ago but it has already seemed to have gotten lost. Rob Astorino the Westchester County Executive was at the scene and spoke with Westchester County police investigators who gave this account of what preceded the collision:
Astorino confirmed an account reported earlier by an eyewitness idling behind the Jeep. The railroad crossing gate had dropped down onto the rear of the Jeep. The female driver got out to check what happened. The motorist behind her backed up and tried to wave her back, too. But the driver got back in the car, and pulled forward unknowingly into the direct path of the train.
So we do have some idea as to what happened with the driver who precipitated the collision. Why was she stopped on the tracks? That is supposedly explained by the nearby vehicle accident causing congestion and traffic to back up and, in at least one case, stop ON the tracks.
  by s4ny
 
The grade crossings between Valhalla and Hawthorne are very poorly designed. You have an old style Taconic Parkway parallel to and very close to
Metro North tracks that carry at least 100 trains each weekday. When Drivers turn off the Parkway to get on southbound Commerce St they are within
60 feet of the crossing gates. Maybe 5 or 6 cars can squeeze in that space.

The Jeep driver made a foolish decision. The lights start flashing before the gates come down. She tried to make it and the gate
came down on her car. I don't know if she could have backed up of if there was even room for her to back up at that point.

A tragic accident that unfortunately was waiting to happen.
  by Tommy Meehan
 
The motorist stopped behind the car involved described the seconds before the accident to Fox News:
“It looks like where she stopped she did not want to go on the tracks, but the proximity of the gate to her car, you know, it was dark — maybe she didn’t know she was in front of the gate,” Rick Hope, who said he was in a car directly behind the woman and backed up to give her room to do the same, told a local Fox affiliate WNYW. Link to New York Times article
One investigator told the media it appeared the woman got out of her car as the train approached and frantically tried to wave it to a stop. Apparently she died when she was hit by the train.
  by Tommy Meehan
 
s4ny wrote:I don't know if she could have backed up of if there was even room for her to back up at that point.
It sounds like the motorist definitely could have backed her vehicle up.
The railroad crossing gate had dropped down onto the rear of the Jeep. The female driver got out to check what happened. The motorist behind her backed up and tried to wave her back, too. But the driver got back in the car, and pulled forward unknowingly into the direct path of the train.
  by ACeInTheHole
 
Sounds like she was in a panic, and wasnt thinking clearly.
Last edited by Jeff Smith on Wed Feb 04, 2015 12:11 pm, edited 1 time in total. Reason: Removed nesting quotes
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