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Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
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Railfan Entertainments
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Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« on: Sep 13th, 2008, 3:03pm »
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Video here....
 


« Last Edit: Sep 13th, 2008, 3:04pm by Railfan Entertainments » Logged



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Norm_Anderson
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
  SP-row.jpg - 19305 Bytes
« Reply #1 on: Sep 13th, 2008, 6:34pm »
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The right-of-way here is the former Southern Pacific "Coast Line", at the point where northbound/westbound trains leave the San Fernando Valley to cross through Santa Susana Pass into the Simi Valley.
 
Leaving Burbank Jct., (near the Burbank Airport), the line makes a long "beeline" to the northwest, past Van Nuys, to Chatsworth, where it makes a curve to the right to run due north, past the Chatsworth Metrolink Station.  It then makes a 90* turn to the left to run due west (passing through a 500' tunnel under Topanga Canyon Blvd.), then curves left again to run due south for a 1/4 mile or so, before curving right past Santa Susana Pass State Park and into the Pass itself.
 
There are two tracks at the Chatsworth Station (unsure if this section has been double-tracked, or if it's a long passing siding).  Just north (timetable west) of the Station, the two tracks become one.  From some of the other aerial footage I've seen, it appears he collision likely occurred on the first of the left-hand curves, between the Chatsworth Station and the short tunnel under Topanga Canyon Blvd, on the single-track portion.  It is also likely that neither engine crew saw the other until the very last moment.
 
This post is in no way an attempt to deduce cause (much less blame) for this horrible tragedy.  And this description of the setting is not intended to minimize or lessen the severity of what happened.  I am sitting here at my computer, a day later and 1,500 air miles away, and I am numb with shock.  My thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims.
 
 
Regards,
 
Norm
 
Note:  This crude sketch is a late addition to this post, and is in response to George's information below.  It is not to scale, but may serve as a kind of visual context.


http://Forums.Railfan.net/Images/Safety/SP-row.jpg
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« Last Edit: Sep 24th, 2008, 5:12pm by Norm_Anderson » Logged
Norm_Anderson
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #2 on: Sep 14th, 2008, 12:53am »
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Later this evening, reports are coming out of California that the cause may be that the Metrolink engineer failed to heed a stop signal.  According to what I read, the Metrolink train had a crew of two-- an engineer in the locomotive (trains operating away from Los Angeles are in "pull" mode, while trains operating toward Los Angeles are in "push" mode) and a Conductor back in the coaches.  If these reports are true, this illustrates the importance of having more than one person in the locomotive cab, and reinforces the truth that calling signals is more than a redundant formality.
 
It also shows that trains operating in "pull" mode are not necessarily immune to tragedy from collisions.
 
 
Regards,
 
Norm


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HwyHaulier
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #3 on: Sep 14th, 2008, 10:52am »
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Norm -
 
I was startled by the quick release from Metrolink. On Fox News yesterday, the announcemt well before the initial NTSB conference. The latter,  
of course, to announce they were on the case, and ignored the background chatter of the inane from the reporters...
 
http://www.metrolinktrains.com/emergency/
 
I suspect I know some of the observations that will be in the NTSB Accident Report. I'll withhold comment, as I don't like to make conjectural  
comments in the tragic incidents...
 
Noon (ET) SUN 14: Fox News couldn't resist repeating the "text messaging" red herring. In addition, on site reporter apparently lacks even barest  
familiarity with all of it. (They tried to warn us about this with film, Network, years back)...
 
Norm - All - To get a  better understanding of the line, what are present train counts, each direction for: UPRR, AMTK, Metrolink, Other?
 
...........................Vern.................


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Norm_Anderson
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #4 on: Sep 14th, 2008, 5:23pm »
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Hi, Vern,
 
I just did a quick search, and according to what I was able to find, there are apparently eight Metrolink trains each way through Santa Susana Pass (two more operate only from Los Angeles to Chatsworth).  This is a Monday-Friday service, with no service on weekends or holidays.  There are also five daily "Pacific Surfliners" in each direction, as well as the Coast Starlight.  That's fourteen trains each way on weekdays, and six each way on weekends.
 
I am not sure about UP's level of activity, though the "Coast Line" does not strike me as a first-choice for Los Angeles-Pacific Northwest service.  (via the Valley Line, or even via Salt Lake, would probably be better).  I hesitate to even venture a number, but knowing I have a less-than-50/50 chance of being right, I'll squint real hard and say maybe three or four trains a day each way (mostly at night, I'll wager), plus a local "turn" or two.
 
I am frankly surprised at the level of passenger traffic over that line (which I have ridden myself a time or two, many years ago).  It probably takes some careful dispatching to keep things running smoothly.  (Having said that, I need to reiterate that nobody, but NOBODY is suggesting Dispatcher error as a factor in this disaster!!  It apparently happened because the Dispatcher's instructions were NOT followed.)
 
 
Regards,
 
Norm


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HwyHaulier
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #5 on: Sep 15th, 2008, 8:14am »
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The lawyers heard from. Following, from the site, an excellent theory of the case...
 
See also: http://www.californiainjuryblog.com/train_accidents/
 
"... a significant amount of the responsibility belongs to Mayor Villaraigosa who assured his constituents in the early stages of the Metrolink expansion project  
of robust fail safes designed into the systems which would eliminate the possibility of exactly this kind of accident. Even though it seemed obvious that the  
risk of a collision was high when track was shared by trains traveling in opposing directions, Mayor Villaraigosa quelled concerns about this risk by describing  
a system of fail safes which included automated switching of trains on tracks, early warning feedback devices to detect danger of approaching trains on same  
tracks, and emergency alarms to the conductors of these trains as well as automated control of trains on collision course which would stop them if such an  
event were to occur. So, if these alleged safeguards are for real, how did this happen? ...

 
Exactly! Note the Honorable Mayor promised goals easily met with pre WWII technology! Then the site writer continues and offers this tacky motivation, (Some  
readers may find this tiresome, in that they may have heard all this before,)
 
"...If he were truly sincere in concern for public safety Mayor Villaraigosa would have assured these systems were tested and would work; I suspect his real  
concern was in convincing the public to support funding for the Metrolink, which was his pet project at that time, and a potential political feather in his cap if  
it proved successful..."

 
No! Say it ain't so! I'm shocked! Shocked! How can such an accusation possibly ever be made? Oh, well! Los Angeles knows how to do big legal trials...
 
(0850 HR) P.S. This scathing report surfaced, too: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-record15-2008sep15,0,5057697.story?track=rss
 
 
 
..........................Vern....................


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Norm_Anderson
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #6 on: Sep 15th, 2008, 9:30am »
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I am not a big fan of Mayor Villaraigosa, but I honestly can't see how they can pin this on him.  The Ventura County Line has been up and running since 1992 (which means planning and preparations were underway years before that), and our pal Tony didn't even win an election until 1994, and has only been mayor since 2005.
 
But I understand they need to try.
 
 
Regards,
 
Norm


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George_Harris
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #7 on: Sep 15th, 2008, 8:48pm »
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Since I have some relatively recent employee timetables for both Metrolink and Union Pacific, I though I would put in some information about the situation.  
 
First, I want to say, all this whoop de do about PTC, ATS, CS, ABC, DEF, XYZ and all the other stuff about how to make the railroad completely idiot proof does nothing for me.  It it merely a way to speed a lot of money for minimal benefit.  To express how much I think this way, wife and I rode Emeryville to Fresno and back over the weekend.  (Already planned - son's 30th birthday.)  That means much 79 mph running in a push-pull train on a single track line that has lots of freights in addition to 6 passenger trains in each direction.  The normal is a five car train pushed south, pulled north.  The line has CTC but none of these other lights, bells, and whistles, that press seems to regard running trains to be unsafe without.  
 
Line Description and some other information from employee timetables with a little from other sources:
 
This line is of course the ex Southern Pacific Coast Line.  Now the ownership is split between UP and Metrolink.  The accident location is on Metrolink owned track.
 
So far as Southern Pacific was concerned, San Francisco was the West Pole of the planet and therefore all their lines were designated as running east from that point.  UP was a not believer in the SP system.  
 
Union Pacific’s Santa Barbara subdivision is regarded as running north-south and is mostly single track, ABS with CTC from Santa Barbara south.  The maximum speed limit is 79P/60F, but there are numerous speed restrictions down to 40 mph.  Only 18 miles allows 79 mph, mostly in 2 and 3 mile long segments other than one 9 mile long section just north of Santa Barbara.  All is single track except for 3.1 miles at San Luis Obispo and 3.6 miles (365.0 to 368.6) at Santa Barbara.  There are 5 sidings between Santa Barbara and Las Posas.  Stations are located at:
 
248.7  San Luis Obispo
355.8  Elwood (begin CTC – not a station)
358.2  Goleta
367.4  Santa Barbara
?-?.?   Carpinteria
394.8  Ventura (mileage at north end siding)
399.6  Montalvo (mileage at north end of siding)
404.0  Oxnard (mileage at north end of siding)
412.5  Camarillo (mileage at north end of siding)
423.1  Las Posas – end Union Pacific ownership
 
Milepost Equation:  423.1 Union Pacific = 426.4 Metrolink
 
Metrolink ownership covers the rest of the line to Los Angeles Union Station.  
 
The Metrolink Ventura Subdivision is defined as running east-west, with the west end being CP Las Posas at milepost 426.4.  The east end is at CP Burbank Junction, milepost 462.8.  It is single track with four sidings between Las Posas and CP Raymer at milepost 453.1 and double track from there the rest of the way to CP Burbank Jct.  All turnouts at ends of sidings and the end of double track at CP Raymer are shown as allowing 45P/40F, which suggests that they are number 20 turnouts.  Allowed speed in sidings is 45P/40F.  Stations are at:
 
427.1  Moorpark
437.9  Simi valley
445.5  Chatsworth
449.3  Northridge
455.0  Van Nuys
460.6  Burbank-Bob Hope Airport
 
The remainder of the trip to LA is on the Valley Subdivision which is now mileposted out from Los Angeles Union Station.  
 
Zooming into the accident vicinity, Chatsworth is in the middle of a 11,300 foot siding that extends from  milepost 444.4, CP Topanga to milepost 446.8, CP De Soto.  (The mileposted length of siding will always be longer than the timetable length, as the timetable length is maximum clear length and the milepost length runs from point of switch to point of switch.)  The next siding west is a 7,625 foot siding extending from milepost 439.2, CP Santa Susana to milepost 440.8. CP Davis.  In the 3.6 miles between these sidings are three tunnels:
 
Tunnel No. 26, 7,369 feet long, mileposts 441.2 to 442.6,  
Tunnel No. 27, 924 feet long, mileposts 442.9 to 443.1,  
Tunnel No. 28, 537 feet long, mileposts 443.9 to 444.0.  
 
Speed Limits:
 
Freight train speed limits are 60 mph  between mileposts 429.8 and 437.7 and 40 mph for the remainder of the subdivision east of that point.  Between Simi Valley and Chatsworth, passenger train speed limits are:
 
60 mph – 437.7-438.0
70 mph – 438.0-440.0
60 mph – 440.0-440.9
50 mph – 440.9-442.6
40 mph – 442.6-444.5
70 mph – 444.5-453.1 (begin double track)
 
The 40 mph speed restriction includes the two easternmost tunnels and the curve between tunnel 28 and the turnout at CP Topanga.  I have no information on the degree of curve of this curve or its approximate radius, but given the speed limit and  that it turns roughly 90 degrees in the 0.4 miles between the end of tunnel 28 and the turnout at Topanga, it is likely to be about a 3 degree to 4 degree curve. (1200 feet to 2000 feet radius) stated as being a 6 degree curve. (955.37 feet radius)
 
Unless the Metrolink engineer was speeding, the speed of both trains had to be 40 mph or less.  That some of the witness statements talk about 60 mph does not suggest that the train was really going that fast.  Passenger estimates of train speed are notorious for their inaccuracy in both directions.  


« Last Edit: Sep 17th, 2008, 7:34pm by George_Harris » Logged
George_Harris
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #8 on: Sep 15th, 2008, 9:43pm »
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And then there are statements like this one in
 
http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/T/TRAIN_COLLISION_SAFETY?SITE=CACHI&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
Quote:
Experts say a safety system that relies on track signals is open to tragic mistakes.
 
"The red light is the last straw," said University of Southern California engineering professor Najmedin Meshkati. "The light bulb could go out and you would not have a red signal."

The ignorance here is overwhelming.  If the guy knew anything about the various railroad rulebooks, he would know that they have a statement to the effect that a dark signal it to treated as if it were displaying ins most restrictive aspect.  So, if the light bulb goes out, it is stil a red signal.  
 
His ignorance may be exceeded by his arrogance if he has anointed himself as an expert in the subject.  I do note "engineering professor"  If he were in private practice or working for a design firm, he would not dare expound his ignorance is public like this.  That is the road to loss of license or employment or both.


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HwyHaulier
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #9 on: Sep 16th, 2008, 9:43am »
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George -
 
As for the esteemed Professor, and his fifteen minutes of fame: Isn't tenure a wonderful thing? Also, concur with your doubtful comment on  
passenger estimates of speed. The general appearance of the wreckage itself reports best estimates of speeds involved. (NTSB says they  
have recorders, anyway.)
 
Many Thanks for comprehensive commentary. You noted your view about the control systems, "... It it merely a way to speed a lot of money  
for minimal benefit..."
Might I inquire whether it is still cheaper than a great deal of new work for the civil engineers, with the removing tunnels,  
double tracking, other monumental changes, and related building of the Great Pyramids approaches?  
 
Wikipedia provides a number of useful articles. The last noted here, ATC has the familiar feel of older US practice. (And, I have a particular  
fondness for illustrated examples of B&O CPS! <G>) Compare, the much more recent PTC appears to rely on required communication with a  
far away Central Dispatch site.  
 
In other discussions (thoughout these Railfan Forums) numerous examples of problems with all control vested in one central site. Compare,  
ATC more resembles something of a localized Doomsday Machine. This was the train protection scheme, highly touted by PRR and B&O in  
the passenger service days. It worked then, and JNR took it and made it work more recently.  
 
PTC examples include US lines. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_Train_Control
 
ATP examples are largely EU practice. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_Train_Protection
 
Train Stop dating to early NY Subway uses. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Train_stop
 
ABS http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_Block_Signal
 
ATC, note used on Japanese Shinkansen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_Train_Control
 
...............Vern............


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SD50_Fan
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #10 on: Sep 16th, 2008, 10:14am »
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Seeing those pictures of the accident scene is moving.  From what I could see, the safety cab on the UP engine sustained considerably less damage that that of the Metrolink unit.  Does anyone know the fate of UP crew?

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Railfan Entertainments
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injur
 
« Reply #11 on: Sep 16th, 2008, 12:14pm »
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on Sep 16th, 2008, 10:14am, SD50_Fan wrote:       (Click here for original message)
Seeing those pictures of the accident scene is moving.  From what I could see, the safety cab on the UP engine sustained considerably less damage that that of the Metrolink unit.  Does anyone know the fate of UP crew?

I believe I heard that two servived. But that's just what I've heard.


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George_Harris
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #12 on: Sep 16th, 2008, 5:46pm »
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Vern:
 
Maybe it a symptom of getting old and crochety, but what I see in the clamor for PTS is that it is being seen as the end of the search for the magic bullet to solve all problems.  I quit believing in magic bullets and other fairy tales a long time ago.  
 
As to the older style ATS or ATC systems, why not?  If something can be developed that would be compatible with the systems that already exist on various parts of BNSF and UP, is should not be that much of a cost issue for the freight lines operating into LA.  But, let's avoid re-inventing the wheel with this stuff.  Some sort of PTS was supposed to be installed by now for part of the distance between Chicago and St. Louis, but it has not happened yet.  Don't really know the facts, but it seems that the systems being tried are not living up to expectations.  Many of the wonderful fit-it-all solutions are being proposed by people that do not understand the reliability requiremetns or ruggedness necessary in the railroad environment.
 
I am always afraid of people that have found the solution to problems that they do not understand and know little or nothing about.


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HwyHaulier
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #13 on: Sep 17th, 2008, 8:13am »
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George -  
 
on Sep 16th, 2008, 5:46pm, George_Harris wrote:       (Click here for original message)
...I am always afraid of people that have found the solution to problems that they do not understand and know little or nothing about...
  

Yep! I've noticed that. It's so hard to locate a good panacea these days...
 
ATC/ ATS: There is a pebble in the shoe with it, of course. The lines don't much like the idea of everything in the freight power poll must  
have suitable hardware and devices installed, too. But, but... A workaround is a small group of dedicated ferry or pilot power units, treated  
much like a helper domicile...
 
It is just that sort of bickering that put a stop to the fine ATC/ ATS on the old B&O Main in Maryland. CSX held a position, IIRC, wherein  
it insisted all power units that could possibly traverse the operating district would need to be fully compliant. It led directly to a standoff,  
of course.
 
PTC? I do want to believe! IMHO, I still don't like the reliance on vital and imperative constant communication with a far away Rome, Emerald  
City
or what have you Master Central Controller (?) (Sounds kind of all powerful! Great if one can get a signal into there! Else, PTC defaults  
to what?)
 
........................Vern...................


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ClydeDET
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #14 on: Sep 17th, 2008, 12:25pm »
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Boy, get cut off from news and views by a flipping hurricane and look what happens.
 
This is really tragic, will be interesting to see what the conclusion for cause is, though I have a feeling that somebody ran a signal. Now just why, well, that is another matter.


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Norm_Anderson
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #15 on: Sep 17th, 2008, 1:41pm »
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It's now being reported that the last two signals immediately before the collision site were not "called" as they should have been.  (I've wondered how signals can be called when the engineer is in the cab and the conductor is back in the train-- maybe they do it by radio, with the engineer reporting the signal aspect and the conductor acknowledging the transmission, without necessarily visually confirming the aspect??).  
 
George, I want to thank you for your splendid synopsis of this stretch of track from the ETT.  Very, very informative.  Thank you for the time and effort you put into the research and transcription.  Did the timetable list the ruling grade west from Chatsworth?
 
 
Regards,
 
Norm


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HwyHaulier
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #16 on: Sep 17th, 2008, 2:38pm »
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on Sep 17th, 2008, 1:41pm, Norm_Anderson wrote:       (Click here for original message)
It's now being reported that the last two signals immediately before the collision site were not "called" as they should have been.  (I've wondered how signals can be called when the engineer is in the cab and the conductor is back in the train-- maybe they do it by radio, with the engineer reporting the signal aspect and the conductor acknowledging the transmission, without necessarily visually confirming the aspect??)...  

Norm -
 
So far, I've read or heard the remark, too. The obvious is how does that work in practice? I'm having difficulty in figuring how the Conductor can tend  
to that, as well as everything else. It's easy to imagine how he could easily miss spotting a particular signal. Multi-tasking is more of an imagined  
concept, a bit of an affront to common sense, and dear to those who don't actually do the work...
 
Again, I'll await NTSB to get it all sorted out...
 
.....................Vern...............
 


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George_Harris
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #17 on: Sep 17th, 2008, 7:27pm »
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The NTSB had a press conference last night in LA somwhere.  Some information from it was reported on another railfan web site.  The NTSB information appears to have some other information and comment from the poster interspersed with it.  With a certain amount of re-odering and attempt to separate the commentary from the facts, here it is:
 
Train speeds at time of collision:  Freight train 25 mph, Metrolink train 42 mph.
Location of point of impact is MP 444.123.  
 
Points passed by Metrolink train:
Chatsworth Station is at MP 445.5  (Stop made there.)  
Devonshire St. grade crossing is at 445.20.  
Chatsworth St. grade crossing is at 444.70.  
CP Topanga is at 444.5, with a detector just west (geographically north) of there.
 
Beyond the point of collision:  East portal of Tunnel #28 is 444.00.
 
The grade is 1.0% uphill for #111 from Lassen St. (MP 445.70), but on the 6º curves the grade drops to 0.76%.
 
Distance from station stop to collision point is 1.37 miles,  
From CP Topanga switch to collision, it is 0.38 miles.  
From tunnel portal to collision, it is 0.12 miles.
 
Walt, it does answer your grade question, and my question about the degree of curve, which I will go back and correct in my previous post.  The grade of 0.76% through the curve is what you get when you compensate a 1.00% grade at the traditional rate of 0.04% per degree of curve for the additional rolling resistance due to the curve.  It should have at least 3 75 inches of superelevation as well.  It might have some more possibly up to around 4.75 inches.  
 
There has been more on the TV out here, again mostly wrong or silly.  Our wonderful California congresscritter Dianne Feinstein appeared on TV stating that she is shocked that freight trains and passenger trains share the same tracks.  Maybe she really is that stupid.  Would not surprise me.  There is a real stampede by all levels of government to "do sumthin".  The results will probably not be good.  Reminds me of one of Mark Twain's statements,  The Congress is out of session.  The republic is safe for another year.
 
George


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Hutch
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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #18 on: Sep 17th, 2008, 8:51pm »
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on Sep 16th, 2008, 10:14am, SD50_Fan wrote:       (Click here for original message)
Seeing those pictures of the accident scene is moving.  From what I could see, the safety cab on the UP engine sustained considerably less damage that that of the Metrolink unit.  Does anyone know the fate of UP crew?

 
Here is a link to a story about the fate of the UP crew:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-traincrash18-2008sep18,0,6806620.story


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Re: Metrolink Collided With UP Freight. 17 Killed, 135 Injured
 
« Reply #19 on: Sep 17th, 2008, 10:27pm »
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I have been generally inclined to approve of automatic train stop equipment for passenger equipment - but knowing that Diane Fineswine and Barbara Boxer are proposing it causes me to realize it is probably a VERY bad idea.

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