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Amtrak train derails in philly, 8 dead and more than 200 injured


cteno4

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If an Amtrak quiet car is the same as quiet cars on Sydney trains, then it's a car where people aren't allowed to converse in loud voices, use mobile phones or play music so that other passengers can hear it. A VERY popular measure here!

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Yes, the quiet car is one where you can't converse or talk on cell phones, which is rampant on other Amtrak cars.  The Japanese would be horrified by it.

 

On the point of seat belts, the seats themselves are not securely fastened to the floor of the cars - reports are that the seats were thrown around as well, causing many injuries.  Can't imagine being strapped into a seat that detaches from the floor and tumbles around the car is any better than just sitting on it.

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I'm not sure the seats are any less securely fastened than airline ones are - I don't think either are intended to withstand that sort of stress.

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spacecadet

The seat belt debate going on right now is a total red herring. It's what people who don't want to bother funding rail infrastructure are talking about to try to deflect away from the fact that PTC would have prevented this and any other accident like it from happening in the first place. And the only reason we don't have PTC here is because congress has not given Amtrak enough funding for it. Seat belts are a band-aid on a problem that shouldn't exist in the first place. You don't see people talking about installing seat belts on shinkansen trains, because the shinkansen just don't have accidents like this. The safety systems are there to prevent them.

 

It would be absolutely impossible to enforce seat belt usage on a train. The best you could do is what airlines do at cruise, basically suggesting that you keep the seat belt on while seated. But there's so much getting up and walking around in a train, and the time between stops is so much shorter, that I doubt most people would bother. Plus, what do you do about commuter trains, where it's standing room only? You could only even put seat belts on all-reserved trains where they wouldn't do much good.

 

Anyway, I have a feeling most of the deaths in this accident came from that first car that was absolutely shredded. No seat restraint would have protected those people.

 

I'm not ready to blame the engineer here. He was driving a new engine type and the NTSB are going to look at the signaling and other systems. These engines are supposed to show the speed limit and give a visual and aural warning if you exceed it. It's not clear yet if those things worked, or if they were even designed properly to begin with; we should wait and see.

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I'm  not sure how seat belts would have helped at least with the fatalities (I assume these were all in the head out car). The catastrophic damage to the first car was not due to going off the tracks at speed - none of the other cars were so destroyed; their carshells held up. The area where the train went is flat and open, un-used parts of a freight yard. There was however an H-shaped steel gantry catenary support right at the spot where the train left the tracks. Judging from the photos I've seen the locomotive either clipped it or missed it entirely. The business car (first car) did not. Sadly it looks like that car may have gotten impaled on that structure.

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There was however an H-shaped steel gantry catenary support right at the spot where the train left the tracks. Judging from the photos I've seen the locomotive either clipped it or missed it entirely. The business car (first car) did not. Sadly it looks like that car may have gotten impaled on that structure.

Would a catenary support pole withstand the forces from a train rushing into it? In the Netherlands the poles usually get crushed instead of the train: https://youtu.be/tHaW5lwHM9Q

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Would a catenary support pole withstand the forces from a train rushing into it? In the Netherlands the poles usually get crushed instead of the train: https://youtu.be/tHaW5lwHM9Q

 

I guess it all depends on how you hit the pole. The locomotive could have hit the vertical, bent it down which was then speared by the first car. This could explain why that car was destroyed when the others survived quite well.

 

I've also heard that the ACSES equipment in place now was put in specifically for track operated 125 mph or higher. This explains why the westbound (towards Philly) tracks have overspeed protection while the eastbounds do not.  Amtrak is currently putting in ACSES equipment on the rest of their tracks to meet the PTC requirement they just didn't get to this section yet.

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One of the poles cut into the quiet car. One or more collided with the business car. The locomotive stayed upright so the damage must have come frome the poles and/or other trackside objects. The amcans are just too soft for these speeds.

 

The locomotive had speed restriction sensors but the line didn't have any emitters and they were going around the free running limit of the locomotive which is around 160-180 km/h.

 

There are several ways to build a ptc system. The classic is the track emitter based,used by etcs level 1, which is the european baseline. It uses static and signal controlled speed limit emitters placed on the tracks. This is the cheapest. There is the gps/gsm based communication based rolling block used by etcs level 3. And my favourite the EEVB, which uses frequency coded track circuits so speed can be set for each train route and weather type. Since it's a track circuit, trains remain visible for traffic control and it also detects rail continuity problems and flooded tracks. The speed limit can be set during installation and lowered by traffic controllers and signalling and allows a stop signal or speed restriction to be set anywhere/anytime on every block. By using micro blocks it can be used in pseudo rolling block mode. Also has a driver awareness subsystem that makes sure the driver is not sleeping. In hungary running without eevb or etcs means two people must be present in the cab or a 15 km/h speed limit is applied by the system. This is the reason why the majority of serious accidents happen because of equipment theft, sabotage or plain terrorism. (like when a guy parked a gasoline filled truck on the tracks facing the railjet from Vienna then walked away) Driver errors are reduced to a minimum, so they mostly happen when the ptc system is simply not there for some reason. (you can't drive two trains head on even if you tried, actually one driver tried it last year and the system stopped both trains a few hundred meters away facing each other, even after one driver manually overrode and passed a stop signal)

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marknewton

It's almost standard practice around the world by the media and railway and government officials to blame the engineer before any investigations take place.  A split second distraction at those speeds would be all it takes and having one man in the cab with no form of PTC or similar system at those speeds is where the fingers should be pointed.

 

Agreed. As one of my old loco inspectors used to say, "If the accident doesn't kill you, the board of inquiry will."

 

Cheers,

 

Mark.

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marknewton

Would a catenary support pole withstand the forces from a train rushing into it? In the Netherlands the poles usually get crushed instead of the train: https://youtu.be/tHaW5lwHM9Q

 

In this case I think the answer is yes. The site of the accident is former Pennsylvania RR track, where the OHW structures are very substantial. 

 

Even a mast that has been severed from the ground but remains suspended from the OHW can do serious damage to a carriage, as happened here in Sydney during the derailment at Granville in 1977.

 

Cheers,

 

Mark.

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marknewton

If an Amtrak quiet car is the same as quiet cars on Sydney trains, then it's a car where people aren't allowed to converse in loud voices, use mobile phones or play music so that other passengers can hear it. A VERY popular measure here!

 

Not so popular with train crew...

 

Mark.

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On the subject of seat belts on trains, I was on an E2 about a week after the Nagano Shinkansen opened in 1997 and remember seeing a couple of seats with seat belts.  I never did find out the reason for them.

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marknewton

Why not? I don't see how it would impact them.

Because the only thing that denotes a quiet carriage is some stickers on the door which are not very noticeable. So you will get people who genuinely don't realise they in the quiet car. Or you get people who are just selfish, thoughtless and inconsiderate bastards who think the request to keep the noise down doesn't apply to them. Because the quite cars are "self-regulating" it falls to other passengers to ask the noisy ones to keep quiet.

 

That's when things get interesting. They either go to the guard and ask them to deal with the problem, which usually causes a delay as the guard points out that they have no authority to do anything, and the passenger winds up having an argument with the guard. Or they ask the person making the noise to stop in such a manner as to start a fight, and again the train is delayed while the guard deals with the passengers who are punching on.

 

Another problem is that quiet cars are only designated as such on intercity trains, but we also use the same trains on suburban running where there is no requirement for quiet cars. But some people are incapable of understanding that an all-stations train to Hurstville is not an intercity service, and they're often also the ones who start fights with other passengers.

 

I was standing on the platform at Hurstville one day waiting for departure time when a very angry man came up to me and bellowed that I had to do something about a person who was speaking on a mobile phone in the "quiet carriage". I tried to explain to him that there were no quite carriages on a suburban train, but he just got angrier and louder. Unfortunately he had noticed the stickers on the doors and he wasn't going to be convinced otherwise. Then he noticed my iPod and speaker dock in the cab, and he just about had kittens. By now he was screaming at me and I had to stand back a bit to avoid the spit flying out of his mouth. I'd had enough of his crap so I went back into my can and closed the door on him. But before I did I said that if he was so concerned about noise he ought to stop screaming, as he was the loudest thing in Hurstville by a comfortable margin. I won't repeat his reply.

 

So quiet carriages are like a lot of things in this world, a great idea in theory...

 

Cheers,

 

Mark.

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> Because the only thing that denotes a quiet carriage is some stickers on the door which are not very noticeable.

 

Sounds like an implementation issue.

 

> Another problem is that quiet cars are only designated as such on intercity trains, but we also use the same trains on suburban running where there is no requirement for quiet cars. But some people are incapable of understanding . . .

 

I'm not surprised, if there is no communication of this.

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A new avenue of investigation: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150516_Train_derailment_investigation_widens__Did_a_projectile_hit_the_windshield_.html
 
picture of SEPTA train whose windshield was shattered by something, apparently just prior to the Amtrak accident: http://therightscoop.com/are-these-bullet-holes-in-the-windshield-of-the-amtrak-that-derailed/
 
In the past, some Amtrak locos had physical protection over the windshields: http://www.rrmuseumpa.org/about/roster/e60philalg.htm .   I don't know what period of time that was; later images of E60s don't have them, and I don't think I've ever seen an AEM-7 so equipped.  You only have to look at a few examples of SEPTA's Silverliner IVs to find examples of small but deep body damage.  These cars have been running in the area since the early/mid '70s.  It will be interesting to see if any further details on this are released in the coming days.

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picture of SEPTA train whose windshield was shattered by something, apparently just prior to the Amtrak accident: http://therightscoop.com/are-these-bullet-holes-in-the-windshield-of-the-amtrak-that-derailed/

 

 

> "This raises the question: If indeed these are bullet holes in the front of both trains, were they being being targeted by a terrorist group?"

 

I'm sorry, but whoever wrote that is an alarmist moron - kids throwing rocks is much more likely.

 

The windshield protection was often called "ghetto grills".

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I'm sorry, but whoever wrote that is an alarmist moron - kids throwing rocks is much more likely.

 

Yes definitely.  I knew what the guards were called, but I thought I'd skip it on the forum :).  Also, "ghetto bars" or "brick filter."  I particularly like the latter; dry railwayman humor, I guess.

 

I was doing some reading, apparently some equipment up your way still has them?  Here's what it looks like from inside: http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=2524151

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> "This raises the question: If indeed these are bullet holes in the front of both trains, were they being being targeted by a terrorist group?"

 

I'm sorry, but whoever wrote that is an alarmist moron - kids throwing rocks is much more likely.

 

The windshield protection was often called "ghetto grills".

 

Ballast being thrown up during the accident is even more likely.

 

They are not bullet holes.  But headlines like that sell advertising space.

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The small markings could be ballast, but there's one location with radiating fractures, and it seems there's documentation of two other trains being "stoned" at about the same time and place.

 

However, the glass is of such a strength that it seems unlikely any would have flown into the cab, and the post-crash photo appears to show the window still intact - if shattered.  I can easily see the impact startling the driver, but don't understand the train accelerating afterwards, unless it was some sort of uncontrolled nervous-muscular response.

 

 

 

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Every sprinter locomotive is equipped with a front looking dashcam and a data recorder. So whatever happened can be determined by the investigation.

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Every sprinter locomotive is equipped with a front looking dashcam and a data recorder. So whatever happened can be determined by the investigation.

 

Not entirely - unless there's also a rear looking dashcam at the front of the cab.

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Not entirely - unless there's also a rear looking dashcam at the front of the cab.

Actually multiple ones.,,,

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