Monday, November 12, 2018

Train Wrecks and some Safety Rules

I don't normally discuss train wrecks other than tank car safety implications. More specifically, BNSF and UP wrecks caused by saturated embankments. But I read about three wrecks in one evening. That exceeds my rule of writing about a topic if I see it mentioned a couple of times within a couple of days. And an important part of the history of railroading is the improvement of safety.

The Janney (knuckle) coupler and air brakes are examples of equipment the railroads were required to convert to in the 19th century because they improved safety. Using roller bearings instead of friction bearings is an example of a rule that went into affect during the 20th Century to improve safety. (Roller bearings also reduced a lot of labor requirements. And, unlike coupler and air brake changes, not all cars had to change at the same time to be compatible. So the railroads converted most of their cars without a rule. But it is now a rule, and now museums have trouble getting cars they purchased transported to their museum because they are old and have friction bearings.) The replacement of hand signals with radios is a 1970s improvement.

Since at least 2014, the railroads have been replacing their relay-and-copper-wire-based signalling with computer-and-fiber-optics-based signalling to implement Positive Train Control (PTC). Unfortunately, newer is not always better. The crossing gates over Main Street in Downers Grove have had many false closings after the new equipment was cut over. (During the 40 years I lived in town with the old signalling equipment, I never saw a false closing.) They turned on PTC for BNSF commuter trains this year. To do that, they had to change the schedules because it takes longer to change the direction of the locomotive after arrives at the end of the line. The increased turnaround is cause by needing to reboot the PTC equipment. The new schedule caused a lot of overcrowding of some trains. Recently, I saw a headline in the Chicago Tribune about the trains having a 45-min delay because of signalling problems. And today [11-3-2018], WGN had a report blaming PTC for ongoing train delays and further delays of much needed engine and car replacements. (source)

Sometimes improved safety is not an invention but another safety rule. For example, outlawing the poling of cars and outlawing a flying switch.   But these two rules no longer have much impact on a crew's productivity because carload rail service to industrial plants has practically disappeared compared to what it was a century ago.

Another safety rule that some railroads have written is that the trains must be completely stopped before someone can get on or off of it. That rule is currently controversial. When doing switching work it was quite common to get off and on a train that was moving at a walking speed. In fact, I've seen a 1940s NYC safety training video about the correct way to get on a slowly moving train. This rule is currently controversial because it does reduce the productivity of a crew.

1969:  IC Rear-End Collision, 3 Fatalities

Dave Ladislas Sr. posted the question: "Anybody recall the bad IC train accident over the Cal-Sag,on the bridge just N. of Riverdale in like late 1969 involving a coal train and an auto-rack train? I think the crew on the coal train was killed,a few autos ended up in the river,and still there,supposedly."

Jon Roma I was but a child when it took place on September 26, 1969, but I have read the accident report. The crew of a northbound train, Extra 5055 North, fell asleep due to the effects of fatigue and alcohol, passed stop signals, and rear-ended a standing train, Extra 1214 North.

The rear brakeman of Extra 1214 North, and the engineer and head brakeman of Extra 5055 North were killed.

David DaruszkaDavid and 3 others manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Chicago Railroad Historians. Daryl Guthrie. The NTSB report places the blame on the crew.

David Daruszka commented on Dave's posting
Jon Roma Notice that the caboose body is completely sheared off the frame, and the engine is pretty much crumpled. The accident report estimates that the collision speed was close to 60 mph.

Don Horn commented on Dave's posting
Here is a photo from my files.
Dennis DeBrulerYou and 3 others manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Chicago Railroad Historians. I didn't realize the navigation channel was widened so late in the 20th Century. This photo allows one to see the fixed-trunnion bascule spans.

Larry Grzywinski posted four images with the comment: "These are photos of the IC wreck in Riverdale in 1969. I do have more but I think these are sufficient."
Richard Blough Remember going out there. Such a mess, I could not tell just what happened. First time I ever saw Hulcher in action.
Larry Grzywinski At that time I don’t think it was Hulcher, I believe it was Vance. Bernie Vance was in the rerailing business starting some time in the 60’s. He built the ex-Army wrecker into an awesome heavy lift vehicle. He one the one that started using pipe laying Cats for rerailing and designed the huge over the road cranes. He later sold his business and equipment to Hulcher.Attached is a photo of the wrecker rerailing a locomotive at Colehour yard.
Larry Grzywinski posted again.
David Daruszka
Larry Grzywinski David Daruszka The preceding train that was run into was actually a local that had just shoving out of an automobile transport terminal that was located north of 130th Street. That terminal has not been located there in quite a few years.




I was surprised when I read the conductor's testimony. Obviously, he told what should have happened, not what did happen. The report indicates he should have prevented this accident by not letting the engineer get on the train in the first place because he must have been obviously drunk. I wonder if a conductor in the caboose can hear the horn blowing for crossings. Or does the horn facing forward, the train being long, and the caboose being noisy not allow the conductor to hear the horn? As the report indicates, he had at least a second chance of preventing the accident when he saw the train was not properly slowing down for the metro area because there is an air-brake valve in the caboose.

I've been reading the stories that a couple of engineers have been posting on Facebook. One thing I have learned is that drinking on the job was remarkably common back in the 1960s. In fact, it was a good thing they had a crew size of 5 people because some guys were known to go to sleep on the job because they drank too much. I know that Major League Baseball learned that just writing the rule "don't use drugs" doesn't do the job. They had to also do random testing for drug usage. The railroads don't care about Performance Enhancing Drugs. But they must care about drugs that impair performance. I don't know what the current practice is concerning random testing for alcohol, cocaine, opiates, etc.

The hours-of-service rules have changed. Now a crew can work only 12 hours and must be given 8 hours off before they can work again. I could never have been an engineer because I have enough insomnia issues that I could not get enough rest in 8 hours.

The replacement of the caboose by an End-of-Train Device (ETD) removes the risk of a crew at the end of the train being hit by a following train.

Researching the history of the "dead-man switch" and how to defeat them goes on the todo list.

This is the type of accident that PTC should prevent.

Update: Todd A. Warrick posted two photos with the comment:
Do you remember.....
In 1969, an Illinois Central coal train was speeding down the mainline outside of Riverdale, Illinois. Ahead of this coal train was a string of autoracks being pulled by a switcher. Before the crash though, I believe that the coal train became a runaway and slammed into the rear of the autoracks, throwing twelve of them aside before the lead loco came to rest under the thirteenth one. Around 100 coal cars jackknifed into a space of about one city block, a bridge was collapsed in the wreck, the lead unit which was a U-Boat was totally destroyed, the other two locos which were geeps were returned to service. The crew members on the coal train died and were later found under all of the coal that was piled up where the crash initally began.
Randy James The crew was drunk and passed out was the cause of the crash.
Randy Olson CORRECT , when that crew arrived in CHAMPAIGN , they were told that they "would be there a while" , so they went out and "celebrated". Upon returning to the motel to finally get their rest , they learned that they would be called back to work shortly.. They probably should have declined the call but didn't. I believe that both the GILMAN & KANKAKEE Operators noticed that they appeared to be asleep...


Oct 2018:  UP Rear-End Collision, 2 Fatalities

PTC would not have prevented this accident.
RRD19FR001-preliminary-report (source)
This poor crew... helpless at best it sounds.
To summarize the report, there were at least two problems. One was that the air hose was getting pinched or kinked when the slack was bunched. Two, the ETD did not respond to the emergency stop control. I hope I catch the final report to learn the root causes of these problems. I wonder if the 28cfm train line leakage is typical or excessive.

Nov 2018:  BNSF train on UP tracks hits truck and all three engines derail, 0 fatalities

PTC would not have prevented this accident.
Rope Bairrington shared four photos,
Michael Smith MP 126 on the Glidden sub near Flatonia, Texas.



A closeup of the second photo indicates that the hillside may be what kept the locomotives from rolling on over.
2, cropped x2

Some comments indicate the truck was an oilfield frac pump. A Google result indicates that they can cost over a million dollars. It looks like its frame is rather long and low. Maybe the crossing is on a "hill" and the trailer got hung up on the tracks.


There were quite a few comments on the share as to why the ties now look bad. Some say they look bad because heavy locomotive wheels rolled over them. Others say they look like they were bad before the collision, and they could be the reason the locomotives came off the tracks. Looking at the photos, the trailer was drug a long distance and torn apart in the process. Perhaps a big piece fell under the front of the lead locomotive and that forced the wheels off the track.

Nov 2018:  deliberate derailment of a runaway 286-car iron-ore train

PTC would not have prevented this accident.
TheWest (source)
Seven News from TheWest
"BHP [an iron-ore mining company in Australia] has attributed last week’s runaway train derailment in the Pilbara to a combination brake system failure and incorrect operating procedure." This train had two braking systems: air and electric. The air provides power to push the brake pads against the wheels. It seems their electric system doesn't control air pressure but uses electricity to provide the power to push the pads. The air system is an emergency backup system. The driver got off to inspect a car. The first mistake is that the driver did not engage the emergency air brake before leaving the locomotive. This was a violation of the relevant operating procedure. Secondly, the electric braking system that initially stopped the train automatically released after an hour while the driver was still outside. [TheWest] This is just a preliminary report. Why would someone program a brake system to autonomously release itself after an hour? If I surmise correctly that the electric system uses electrical power to apply the brakes, then maybe it would overheat after an hour of continuous application. In which case not setting the air brake is an even bigger no-no.

Runaway Paraffin Wax Tank Car

PTC would not have prevented this accident.

Did someone not bother to set a hand brake? A car need not be on a hill to start rolling. The industry has worked very hard to remove friction from rolling bearings. I have read about wind blowing cars uphill on hump yard tracks!
(new window) from mcall from posting
Fortunately, the car activated crossing signals. I've read that some systems need about six cars to have enough axles to activate the signals.  The article says "Norfolk Southern employees were able to slow the car and board it at a slow speed, when they used a hand brake to stop it." I wonder how they slowed it. If they had coupled to it with a locomotive, then they could have just stopped it with the locomotive. The car traveled about 11 miles.

Heat kinks, especially after the ballast has been disturbed by track resurfacing (tamping)

Unless PTC includes some really fancy rail break and kink detection sensors, it would not prevent these types of accidents.

This is from a closed group, I hope everyone can access the "posted" link in the caption. There is a lot of "real world" information in the comments.

In the case of William's story, the track was bent by a coal train passing over it. Someone speculated that the coal cars started rocking back and forth causing lateral forces that moved the track. The more common cause for bent track is "heat kinks" in the summertime. The heat causes the track to expand so much that the ties can't handle the compression forces in the rail. It is ironic that just after resurfacing a track, it is more dangerous in the summertime.

William O'Neal Stringer posted
Michael Backmann commented an a post
Now here is a real heat kink.

Rail Pulls

(I have a set of notes on fixing rail pulls.)

Not only should PTC be able to detect broken rail, some old signalling systems could turn signals red if a rail broke.

The opposite of a rail kink in the summertime is a rail pull (break) in the winter time. The cold causes the rail to contract until the tensile strength of the rail is exceeded. The weather has turned cold and I'm seeing reports of more than one derailment due to a "track problem."

Six grain cars tipped over in Owosso, MI, blocking the first North Pole Express run of the season that was running behind it. They had to find a lot of school buses to haul the passengers back to the station. A crossing was closed for a couple of days. [25news]

A big one this November was CSX in Byromville, GA. I noticed in one of the photos that the bridge still has ACL panted on it. So this was a former Atlantic Coast Line route. If you are a CEO installed by a hedge fund manager, would you choose to use your revenue to buy back shares or to do track maintenance?

There were no injuries, but several [30] cars were dumped off or near an overpass. The number of cars derailed impacts the cleanup time, but not the impact on the people in the town other than traffic hassles. However, some [4] of those cars were carrying odorless propane. This caused most of the town to be evacuated and a long detour around the potential hazard. Who pays the motel and restaurant bills for the people that are forced to leave their homes? (A shared post indicated the evacuation was lifted the same day it was called, 11/18/2018. A comment indicated that none of the tank cars leaked propane.) A report [13WMAZ (source)] said it derailed near Main Street. But looking at satellite images, it derailed on the main road through town, not Main Street. It was fortunate that no one driving on the highway got hurt, or worse. The derailment was mid-train, so the train crew was safe.

Sandy Swb posted eight photos of the derailment in Byromville, GA.
Alex Marks bridge collapsed


5, cropped

6, cropped
When I looked at this photo, I thought the propane tanks were near the end of the cut that left the tracks. That means they would have been slowed down because of emergency braking caused by the broken airline and the shock absorbing action of the boxcars and hoppers in front of them. So they "gently" rolled off to the left side of the photo. I'm seeing conflicting reports concerning the damage to the bridge. They range from its OK to it needs to be replaced.
Photo posted by Kimberly Godfrey Keene, cropped
Screenshot at beginning
Fortunately, I came across this video from a Dooly County Sheriff squad car dashcam. It looks like the propane tanks were at the beginning of the cut! So they not only left the track at full speed, those other cars probably shoved into them.

The Chicago Tribune had a report in their section of little reports from around the world. I still get the paper delivered because this little newsprint blurb had more information than any news report I found on the web. I've transcribed the report.
No injuries reported after rail cars fall from Georgia overpass
BYROMVILLE, Ga. --- Rail cars tumbled from an overpass onto a Georgia highway on Saturday, causing an evacuation and traffic headaches in a small town but resulting in no injuries.
CSX Railroad said 30 cars derailed. That included some that fell from the overpass onto Highway 90 at Byromville, 55 miles south of Macon.
Resident Stephanie Chapman said she was on a deer stand more than a mile from town when it happened.
"You could hear the rail cars hitting each other --- boom-boom-boom-boom-boom," Chapman said.
It happened around 7 a.m. Saturday in the town with a population of about 500.
CSX said four of the cars held petroleum liquefied gas. No leaks were reported.
FOX6 has a video in their article (source). Some additional "information" I got from this article is:
"Crews are working to re-rail the cars without damage and remove the derailed railcars with damage from the area as quickly and safely as possible," the CSX statement said.
The thing that frustrates me about web "news" is that it isn't much more than the platitudes sent out by the PR department. Now if CSX said we are going to wait until Monday before we start the cleanup because we don't want to pay overtime, that would have been news.

Not all broken rails cause accidents. A story posted by William O'Neal Stringer in a EJ&E group:
One fine day I brought the coal train into Joliet from West Chicago and left it on the run-through track so I could run around it with the engines and take it to Romeoville. Everything was fine as I started out but when I got up near the bridges over the small river and the BNSF my engine physically dropped quite a bit going over a certain spot on the left side. I could also hear a sound like a wheel going over a bad rail joint. I was only going 10 mph and uphill so I made so I made an easy stop before the second 3 axle truck on the engine ran over that spot. I went outside and started looking and there it was, the rail was broken all the way through and there was no cross tie under it. The rail is pretty forgiving but I wasn't willing to take the entire 110 plus 100-ton hoppers over it. Might not derail but it sure could. I called the dispatcher and reported my find and told him I thought we could gently run back over that spot with the engine and shove the train back into the yard. We had a utility man helping us so he protected the move from the rear end. My conductor was out on the ground at that spot and watched closely as we tippy-toed back over it. In years past that kind of responsibility was rewarded by the J with a Chevron and a savings bond for saving them thousands of dollars and tieing up the railroad over Bridge 198 but they had already quit doing that years before to save money I guess. That broken rail was under my engineer's seat when I brought the train in and I didn't feel it then so it must have happened after my engine passed over that spot which is entirely possible. Sometimes things just don't feel right.Just another day on the J.
Rail repair used to use fire along the rail to heat it up so that it would expand and close the gap. Now they have hydraulic grippers than can pull the rail back together.

It is one thing to have a train runaway because of insufficient braking, it is another to have it runaway in notch 8 (full throttle). The engineer thought he had switched from power to Dynamic Brakes. The brake shoes were completely gone by the time CSX got it stopped.
Lee Griffin

So I'm not perceiving the frequency of wreck reports incorrectly, CSX is having more wrecks.  "The vast majority of CSX’s train accidents, as holds true for the industry as a whole, occurred at low speed in yards and did not involve injuries or significant damage, the FRA data show."  So there are a lot of accidents that the public never hears about.   (source)

Engineer Misjudging Distance

Ken Jamin posted
That'll do when you get 'em stopped. Jeff Varney was the opr on duty when it happened. See his comment below for an explanation of how it happened.
Jeffrey Varney Ken, It happened just west of Atkinson Road. Crew made a cut and came down to setout at Rondout. After they made setout, went back to train and misjudged distance to rear of train. Head car on train was the covered hopper-loaded with grain. Hit so hard that center sill on hopper broke. Drawbar was shoved into sill and front truck was knocked back between front and center bay. Hopper car split open and grain spilled out. No 2 main was clear but had close clearance due to hopper car bulging out. Car came down on gondola and weight of car wedged it into gondola. Patrol came down later in the day after grain was cleaned up and front truck of hopper was removed from track. Patrol brought these 2 cars to Rondout at walking speed and were able to get both into south yard and backed up on wye behind tower. The covered hopper was emptied out and cut up on the spot. Gondola had a couple of bent grab irons and was forwarded for repairs. Gondola was filled with scrap. I was amazed how much damage done to the covered hopper and how little to the gondola!

Amtrak Train goes too fast through a curve in DuPont, WA

(PTC should have prevented this accident.)

On Dec. 18, 2017, the inaugural run of an Amtrak train derailed and spilled cars on I-5 because it was going 78 mph (126 kph) into a curve that has 30 mph (48 kph) speed limit. Three people were killed and dozens were injured. The NTSB report has been released. [Short Article, Longer Article]

TheNewsTribune and KATU2


Investigators also blamed the transit agency Sound Transit for not sufficiently mitigating the danger of the sharp bend, Amtrak for not better training the engineer, Washington State Department of Transportation for not ensuring the route was safe before green-lighting a passenger train and the Federal Railroad Administration for using rail cars beneath regulatory standards.
The engineer was set up to fail," said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. "So, we have to allow for that mistake and put in place redundancy, so that when somebody does commit a human error, that mistake is trapped before it becomes consequential." [Short Article]
I-5 did not reopen for two days, affecting about 60,000 drivers who use that stretch of freeway daily. Traffic on alternative routes backed up 16 miles in some areas.

The engineer appeared to apply the brakes but did not put the brakes in emergency mode.
He told federal officials he was aware of the sharp curve — he’d operated the locomotive three times on that track and observed the route another 7-10 times — but lost track of where the train was on the route.
The engineer did not see an advance-warning sign two miles before the 30 mph zone or a second speed limit warning less than a mile later, investigators said during Tuesday’s NTSB hearing .
“This sign was particularly important to him because it was one mile before the curve and the location where he had intended to begin braking to slow down for the curve,” said Michael Hiller, lead investigator on the accident.
About a half mile and 27 seconds before the curve, the train was going 82 mph. An alarm sounded in the locomotive’s cab and lights on two screens of the control panel began flashing.
However, Amtrak had not trained the engineer on that system, and he did not immediately know what the alarm meant. By the time he figured it out, it was too late.
“This failure to detect those signs suggests that he was not adequately prepared on the physical characteristics of the new territory,” said crash investigator Stephen Jenner.
Both the engineer and conductor were paying attention to the route and were not distracted. Fatigue, drugs and alcohol did not play a role in the derailment, according to the NTSB.
In fact, the engineer paid for his own hotel in Seattle the night before the inaugural run to ensure he was well rested.
The NTSB criticized both Sound Transit and Amtrak for not having up-to-date operating documents at the time of the derailment.
Those documents could have included ways to handle the accident curve and forced the engineer and conductor to communicate in that zone, possibly stopping the train if one of them did not see a sign.
Amtrak officials allegedly told investigators their plan was to create a “crew focus zone” to pay attention to the dangerous curve in January 2018, one month after starting service on the route.
[Long Article]

Safety board takes aim at Talgo train set in Cascades crash investigation

CP Train "Out of Control"

(PTC would not have prevented this accident.)

The crewmen (engineer, conductor, and conductor trainee) were killed in this accident. The TSB spokesperson would not call it a "runaway." When asked by a reporter why he would not use the word "runaway," he just repeated his definition of "out of control" --- the crew could not maintain track speed. Both the news conference and the preliminary report indicate that they had not talked to the surviving crew. I would have thought the investigators would have asked the local police to get each crew member in a separate room and take statements as soon as they could reach the crew after the accident. This article has some photos of the carnage. Fortunately, it was a grain train (121 cars), so no hazardous materials were released. I've read the comments of some other postings. It was rather painful reading because so many of the comments were either "prayers," "why didn't they jump," or "stupid crew because of a speculated 'fact' about the wreck." (Some "stupid crew" comments would then trigger a long argument. Judging by some other comments, some members of the group are trolls.)

From the rare useful comments I learned that when the train was stopped for a crew change, it was in emergency. The train was stopped on a 2.2% grade. It was a DPU train configured 1x1x1. The area is so mountainous that there was no access road, the crews had to be transported by a hy-rail truck. (This explains why jumping was not a viable option. You are either jumping into the side of a mountain, over a cliff, off a bridge, or into the wall of a tunnel.) The train set for 2 hours before it started rolling away. The new crew had not done anything before the train started to roll away. 75 of the cars had their retainers set at HP. (Finally, someone had the guts to ask what a retainer does. And someone responded with a nice comment explaining that the retainer set to HP means a brake release will keep 20psi applied against the brake shoe. That is, a release won't fully release. This is needed for long downhill grades.)

Some questions that are on my mind. Why was the train in emergency? Too much ice on the brake shoes or one of the old grain cars had an equipment failure that "dumped air?" Why was there a two hour delay? Which crew sat in the train during the two hour delay? Why was there no attempt to get the train out of emergency and back to an operational state at the beginning of what became a two hour delay? Cold weather does cause air leaks, but according to some comments, a train should be able to hold its air for at least two hours even in cold weather. So how many cars were in poor repair such that enough air leaked in two hours to let the train roll? Can the lead locomotive control the dynamic brakes of the middle and end DPU locomotives?

One thing I did learn from the comments is that Canadian regulations explicitly allow a "dead" crew (one that has exceeded its 12 hours of service) to do activities that help secure the safety of the train such as set retainers and handbrakes. But someone that worked for the FRA says the FRA does not allow a dead crew to do anything including setting retainers or handbrakes. But the dead crew must stay with the train until a replacement arrives. So the crew is required to set there while waiting for a replacement crew and watch the train roll away??? If I were to put together a list of "dumb regulations," this would be near the top because it is an "unsafety" rule.

The train was having speed control issues even before it stopped. (source)

The regulatory pendulum (at least Canada's) has swung. Not only can they set the handbrakes, they now must set the handbrakes.  The train was heavy enough that 100 of the 121 cars had to be tied down to hold it with handbrakes. That would be a lot of work in the cold weather. It was parked at a siding, so there should be room to walk along the cars even though it was in the mountains.  (source)
I'm not even looking at these variants. I'm just recording them for completeness.
CBC (source)
680NEWS (source) This one does have a good discussion about the pliability of the rubber grommets used to connect the air between the cars during cold weather.

Joseph Bobbitt posted the question: "Can you tired a train down if u are dead on hours of service? I've heard mixed answers...." The FRA expects the dispatcher to park the train in a safe place with enough time for the crew to secure the train before their 12 hours are up. When a dispatcher screws up, it seems the FRA rules have changed over the years and there are two different rules in the regulations that give contradictory answers.
Brian Adamczyk If my ride is sitting there. I'm tieing that train down. I want to go home. Not sit there wasting more of my life on that [nasty] engine.[The FRA needs to do what is necessary to make it legal to secure the train and go home. If it already is legal, the FRA needs to do a better job of education. It is obvious from the comments that it is currently not clear because many think the FRA has outlawed doing the reasonable thing.]

Transport Canada orders use of handbrakes for trains on steep slopes (Anis Haydari/CBC)
[Evidently the oil train runaway a few years ago that torched Lac-Megantic didn't teach the regulators about the importance of handbrakes. Especially when it is bitter cold and the rubber gaskets in the airline leak air.]
John W. Coke posted two photos with the comment:
Distributed Air Brake Cars. These cars are used in flat terrain to facilitate longer trains without using additional locos as Distributed Power. The cars resolve a winter problem of very cold weather, and shrinking gaskets. A shipping container with a compressor, air tanks, and even the flashing lights required of an EOT built in.

Investigation R19C0015 This report says it sat in emergency for 3 hours instead of 2 hours. It was stopped on a 2.2% grade and the temperature was -28C (-18.4F). They have issued two advisories:
Rail Safety Advisory 617-04/19: Prevention of uncontrolled train movements for trains stopped in emergency on grades of less than 1.8
Rail Safety Advisory 617-05/19: Air brake system inspection and maintenance on grain hopper cars used in CP unit train operation

The first report says what I thought when I first read about this accident: apply enough hand brakes to hold the train before recharging. It is poorly worded. I would hope it means that you should apply the hand breaks as soon as the train comes to a stop. I just scanned the rest. I hope the regulations explicitly say the crew can apply hand brakes even if they are beyond their hours of service.

The second report states the train was in emergency because a heavy application, 20psi, and full dynamic braking still allowed the train to reach the speed of 23mph in a 15mph region. They tested the air brakes on the 13 loaded grain cars that were still left on the tracks and determined that the brakes could not hold a loaded grain train on a 2.2% grade in cold temperatures. Were the air brakes not properly maintained or is Canadian Pacific running trains that are too long to handled when cold temperatures cause leaks in the brake cylinders as well as the train's air line? Or both.

Facebook broke getting a link for a share of a link.
Kicking Horse Pass, home the CP’s iconic Spiral Tunnels and known to local railroaders as “The Big Hill,” has been the site of numerous derailments and runaways in the past century. In fact, just a month before the fatal derailment near February, a train derailed inside the Upper Spiral Tunnel.
Since I learned a lot more from the comments than I did from the shared Trains article, I'm going to  copy all of the comments on the share to the "IF YOU WORK(ED) ON THE RAILROAD (railfans welcome)" Group.

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  • R Dean Scarrow Starting on the railway as a Carmen, Often when doing a #1 brake test we would set the brakes on train or run of cars, and then wait five minutes and then walk the train to insure that brakes would stay applied on the cars. Quit often there would be cars with the brakes releasing or already released. To me, the change in the rules that allowed train crews perform #1 brake test where carmen are not available has been concern to a number of people in the industry. Not to say that these crew members are lacking in there duties, but the fact that the railroads have been fast tracking the crews, as to the training that they received in the field and classes. Quite often companies try to find ways to be more profitable. Thus reducing manpower in departments necessary to secure a safe operations. If a train crew were to put power on a train, and perform a brake test with out wait for a short period of time before walking it, could be an issue as these brake pistons that have a slow leak will go undetected. In this case of the train running away, the above could be part of the issue. The lack of proper procedures of the brake test of the air brake could have possibly contributed to the train brake partially releasing. A leakage test of the actual brake piston\ cylinder would be an ideal way to help to detect air leaking out of the brake cylinder.
    • Steve Thomsen R Dean Scarrow 20lb set. Walk or drive ( depending on yard or in train) they must be seen to have set.
      No sets? Write the car # down, finish your walk or drive.
      Come back to the problem car(s) call for a release & recharge.

      Set 'em up again & watch the cylinders.
      If upon reset they stay set for 3 minutes or longer, according to FRA they are good to go.
    • R Dean Scarrow Steve Thompson I agree. But is 3 minutes long enough? A train could be sitting for an hour or more.
    • Thomas K. Barber R Dean Scarrow as a Conductor I thought Carmen had better training and knew what to look for on ITT. Picking up in route, I did best I could
    • Steve Thomsen R Dean Scarrow it's the minimum prescribed by federal regulation.
    • R Dean Scarrow Thomas K. Barber I understand fully, can't blame no running crew out there. You can only apply what you have been taught and within the rules that apply. Management never wanted running crews to spend extended period of time making a lift. All about keeping the freight moving. Have spent many days in motels between terminals because of work load.
    • Cody Haynes I've had Carmen write 2lbs leakage on an air slip, and when we can't get our flow under 90, I'm out walking the train and finding bad orders. Doesn't happen every time, but it does happen. Told a car Forman that if they would quit signing the air slip in the shack and actually run the train it would help.
    • Thomas K. Barber Cody Haynes I got air slip and couldn't get air in marker. Walked train and one main reservor was completely smashed,had a slab dropped on it. I gave that car nocker hell
    • Brent Mac Every craft has a lazy employee or two!
    Write a reply...

  • Andrew Stephen I’m sure PSR had nothing to do with this.....🙄
    Write a reply...

  • Drew Thompson Truck mounted pistons in snow n ice water is a terrible idea
  • Mark R Cunningham Gonna call bullshit on a couple things here. First off at least here in the US there is a very detailed procedure for conducting a class 1 air brake test. Train crews are well trained in the procedure and its drilled into your head from day 1. Second. Verifying the brake pipe pressure at the rear, making a 20lb brake pipe reduction then walking the train and inspecting per procedure should be sufficient. Waiting at the rear for 5 minutes before walking the set sounds like an excuse to sit and eat a sandwich to me. Also. Why didn't the first crew tie the train down after it dumped instead of just leaving it to bleed off for hours. I worked Mountain grade on the scenic sub for years. After not being able to control the train and having to plug it i doubt I would have continued further without ascertaining what the problem was. This is a tragic accident that killed some of our brothers. We are all human and I dont know all the circumstances here. My thoughts are wilth the families and I hope some knowledge can ve gained from this so it doesnt happen again.
    • Miles Taylor It's AAR in Canada too!
    • Jay Harris I am gonna say something from my experience. As a carknocker, we do class one inspections, find cars with short pistons, long pistons, no set ect. Call as a bad order. Manager, MTO all the way down to Foreman start jumping up in down in a hissey fit. SOMEHOW the train leaves as is. FRA is called, stop said train, finds same thing as carman, Managment says"was working when I rechecked". As long as air not cutout, no fine no acceptions noted. Carman now getting furloughed and watching his work being done by trainmen. 
      Trainmen know if they find anything, they fixing to have to work their entire 12 hrs setting cars out and getting train down road. SO if trainman turns head, they may get a good trip and a early quit.
      THAT's how class one inspections are done now.!
    • R Dean Scarrow Mark R Cunningham I agree this is tragic. And I mean no negativity towards the incident? or the operating crews as you may think. Just putting input to the concern. By doing a reduction in the brake pipe, and then just walking the train does not insure that the pressure is being maintained on the brake piston/ cylinder. If there is a slow leak in the pipes connected to the piston or the piston itself will not be detected by a simple set the brake up and walking the train, as it could take several minutes for the leak to release the brake. All I am saying is these brakes may stay applied for 30 minutes and then release due to a slow leak. And I don't think anyone would stand outside in -30 temps to eat a sandwich. As I have worked in both positions as a carmen and conductor. And also as a engineer. I am fully aware of how the operation and mechanical rules are applied. So you can think it is bullshit all you want. Nobody is perfect. What the crews did or didn't do at this point can not change this out come. But if the air brakes are inspected to assure there is no leakage at the brake cylinder itself. This in return may prevent the brake bleeding off, preventing an unintentional release of the brakes. Train line leakage test does not reflect the pressure on the brake piston. Only the train line, and a slow leak at a brake cylinder may not be sufficient to be detected through the train line.
    • Mark R Cunningham R Dean Scarrow Yeah so basically the odds of detecting leakage in a mere five minutes is what? Statstically I would say thats slightly above zero. But okay, we should probably only allow Carmen to do air tests. Thats gonna work out great.
    • R Dean Scarrow Mark R Cunningham At one time a carmen was the only person that could do a #1 ABTest, A crew member with minimal training as to the operation of the brake system has always been a concern to me.
    • R Dean Scarrow Mark R Cunningham And I think 5 minutes you have a better chance then none.
    • Mark R Cunningham R Dean Scarrow Hey Im good with that. I hate doing air tests
    • Miles Taylor Mark R Cunningham I didn't mind AB tests... in the shop. One, outside on a full pack in horrible weather, that's tough.
    • Bud Smith I agree with Jay Harris, if it was an outbound train, a lot of heads were turned sideways as to not pull cars off the train. If they pretended to not see it, it happened somewhere else.
    Write a reply...

  • Joseph Raymond Reed MARK you are one hundred percent correct== I worked 28 years as a freight conductor on PRR and PC on Pittsburgh Division took hundred's of trains down east slope Cresson too Altoona as a conductor and brakeman and every time train went into emergency on east slope or any where on a grade enough hand brakes where applied to hold train in place until cause of emergency was corrected and air restored 100 percent and then hand brakes where taken off==again you are 100 percent correct on how its supposed to be done,
  • Mark R Cunningham Tying 30 brakes on a stack train in ass deep snow on the side of a Mountain when its 0300 and snowing sideways sucks balls. But thats what you do. Especially on a 2.2% grade.
Update Jan 2020:
"I was ordered to stop investigating," Tataryn told CBC's The Fifth Estate, saying his superiors prevented him from obtaining key witness accounts. "I would say it was some type of coverup." []
William Brown shared
There is a reason Train Crews need to set Retainers, set hand brakes, do a Brake and Leakage Test on Grades. This story highlights what happens when you don't. Three lives lost.

Another update. I didn't read this one because I'm sure it is depressing. I include it for completeness. Families of CP Rail workers killed in B.C. mountain crash demand infestigation be reopened | CBC News
Ted Gregory shared
Update 2 of 2 on the massive 2/4/19 train derailment between the Spiral Tunnels, where 3 CP employees lost their lives.
Jeff Lewis Is it common practice to jump on a train that starts to roll away out of control? That's what the conductor and the trainee did.

Between the time I saved a Facebook post and the next day when I went to read it, it has been removed! Did CP force CBC to get rid of it? The "..." menu selection pull-down does not have the option of going to the Facebook posting like a save normally has. And the posted link now goes to a bit bucket.

A call for witnesses to step forward

"The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has demoted Don Crawford, its lead investigator into the B.C. crash, after deciding his comments to CBC News about the case were 'completely inappropriate.' Crawford had said, 'There is enough to suspect there's negligence here, and it needs to be investigated by the proper authority.' (Facebook)" [CBC Feb 4, 2020, source]

Brakes on CP train were cleared by faulty test before fatal derailment, say inspectors If I understand correctly, it is not because the test procedure was performed incorrectly, it was because the procedure itself is bad! Specifically, it doesn't effectively test brake performance in cold weather. Guess what. Canada is cold. There had been situations reported by crews that trains that had passed the brake test had problems. Rest assured, the problem is being studied. "In the study, the ATBE identified 695 cars from 44 grain trains with defective brakes, while the No. 1 test found only five. In a random sampling of 14 cars flagged by the ATBE, a subsequent assessment found all of them to have defective brakes that required repairs, states the TSB. The study results have been sent to CP Rail and Transport Canada, said TSB spokesman Alexandre Fournier....Postmedia is still awaiting responses to its questions from Transport Canada and the Teamsters Canada Railway Conference." Once again, just putting the words on a viewgraph or a press release about "safety is a priority" doesn't make it true.

Broken Brake Hose Support in Tama County, Iowa

 PTC would not have prevented this accident.

There have been a lot of derailments lately that I have not bothered to note because the cause was not known. And after a while, they begin to look alike. But I did read a cause for this one.
Video via KCRG shared by Walter Rowe on June 24, 2019 in IF YOU WORK(ED) ON THE RAILROAD (railfans welcome)
No one was hurt.
Wayne Wood A hose support broke which caused the hoses to uncouple witch put the train in an emergency application which broke a knuckle which went under a wheel and caused the derailment.
[It was west of Belle Plaine, IA, so it was on UP's former C&NW mainline.]

May 2020 Techachapi Loop (Satellite)

Of the several posts I saw, this one had the most meaningful comments. (One post had about 250 comments, many of them about the locomotive taking a nap.)
Tehachapi Live Train Cams posted eight photos with the comment: "Thank you Brett for these amazing closeups of yesterday’s CIiff derailment!"
Great information from Brett who visited the Cliff derail site today (Wednesday May 13). Thanks Brett!
“So not too much action at derail site. Talked to a guy working and he said all the containers were empty when train string lined. Train was stopped in siding and when it took off it was over powered by engineer.
He said possibly this Friday they might use side boom cranes to try and move locomotive. Said crane was gonna be super expensive and difficult to setup.
They had picked up a few pieces since the other day.”
[To summarize some comments, this was the last of the four locomotives pulling the train. The three leading locos remained upright, so no one was hurt. It may have had a DPU that wasn't keeping up.]
Jeffrey Walsma How long is the loop shut down for?
Ben Harban Jeffrey Walsma Thankfully it's not, They stringlined in the siding, so the main is still open.
Chad Hutton Mike Meserve those trains are light, even loaded. 6000 tons compared to a loaded coal train at 17,000 tons.
Scott Allen Sparks Second layover in this exact spot in the last 2 years.

Almir Gontijo All fresh break, you can tell by the color of the metal.
Brian Humphrey there design is to withstand primarily push-pull loads, not rotational!




[Note that the center wheelsets don't have traction motors. This would be a BNSF C4 unit designed for intermodal service, which needs to put the horsepower into speed, not tractive effort.]





  1. Yes drinking was common from the beginning of railroads and was common everywhere...and in many industries 'back in the day.' From driving truck to railroads to almost anywhere...not anymore. Federal rules mandate random testing of railroaders for all known impairing drugs. I have been 'tested' a few times in my career and KNOWING that testing is possible and what my career paid...smoking pot or drinking before work was a strong deterrent....kinda puts a kink in the money flow. Easy enough to stop. Oh and the railroads DO CARE about performance enhancing drugs...whatever those are.
    On the IC wreck, in a lot of terminals the rear end crew never sees they head end crew as they may actually go on duty in two different places. And no, you didn't often hear the horns of your train when you are a mile behind the engines. Various rules, such as communicating signal indications, upcoming slow orders etc between the head end and rear end crew helped negate ...shall we say...failure to communicate problems.
    If you want to read a hair raising wreck story find the one on the IC in Louisiana. Chem train from Baton Rouge. Crew had a female clerk riding along who they let run the locos. Derailed in a town and made a major fire that destroyed it.

  2. Reading the ICC report it was stated that the crew DID go to work at the same on duty point. They SHOULD have know something was amiss and probably did know but the times being what they were...let it go. Sad to say...but many rules are written in blood...this is an example. Today you MUST report impaired crew members...yet do they give you any training to recognize the problem? NOPE. Operation Red Block is a means to report a crew member and also as a means of 'marking off' if you are called to work and have had too much to drink. Impaired by federal rule is at .02. Driving is .08 used to be .10. I can say that today, in my opinion, drinking and work really DO NOT happen anymore. In 25 years after the new federal rules came into effect I have NOT seen crews or crew members drinking or smoking on the job or before work.

  3. The ICG Louisiana wreck It will ask you to register and then submit a password. You will receive an email allowing access to the DOT database. Go to the railroad collection, go to 1982, go to ICG. September 28, 1982, Livingston, Louisiana. Fascinating read as to the whole mindset back then.
    There is also DAYS worth of reading about plane crashes, pipeline fires, etc. etc. Should keep one busy for some time to come. Have fun.