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Thread: Amtrak derailment in Washington State near Seattle...

  1. #26
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
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    I mean, whether the level crossings are safe for traffic or not seems academic, if on the first day the whole train comes flying off a bridge onto the freeway.

    - - - Updated - - -

    I say this as someone firmly pro-train.
    Alex

  2. #27
    Heckuva good sport frimble3's Avatar
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    I have a suspicion that this is going to be a case of 'high-speed train on low-speed tracks'. Vancouver occasionally talks about how nice it would be to have a high-speed rail-link with Seattle, then it's pointed out that the tracks are built to older, 'regular' train standards, and would probably have to be rebuilt all the way from here to there. It's not just that the tracks are old, but that they weren't built for high speeds, especially on curves, connections, crossings, etc.
    Currently, the freight trains and the daily passenger trains run okay, but they'd have to spend money to get up to code for high-speed use.
    And, I assume that if the Amtrak train was on an inaugural run, there would be some pressure on the engineer to make good time.

  3. #28
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
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    Looking at the site where this happened in Google Earth, that's a really tight curve on an otherwise fairly straight stretch of track. Almost certainly this was operator error, like that Spanish high speed crash from a few years ago. The driver was probably distracted by something and didn't brake in time.
    Alex

  4. #29
    Stand in the Place Where You Live KTC's Avatar
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    I took the Maglev in Shanghai. I flew at 431km/h. I took a picture to prove it. I'm very much pro train and pro high-speed train. But did they not do this on pre-existing infrastructure? I know this is nothing like the Maglev, but still. Maybe I just don't understand enough. It would make sense to me that higher speed would need a different track/train security than the normal kind? ALSO...the Maglev is STRAIGHT. No bending curves.
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  5. #30
    Travelling around the sun cbenoi1's Avatar
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    Heard on CNN: the train was going 80 in a 30 zone. The automatic system that would slow down the train was installed but not enabled.

    -cb

  6. #31
    Stand in the Place Where You Live KTC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbenoi1 View Post
    Heard on CNN: the train was going 80 in a 30 zone. The automatic system that would slow down the train was installed but not enabled.

    -cb
    I heard this as well. Tragic on so many levels.
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  7. #32
    All about that action, boss. ElaineA's Avatar
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    How can the engineer NOT have knowledge of this slow zone? Like, I drive a daily route. I know where it's 50 mph, where I have to slow to 40, and then 25. How was there not information dispersed to the engineer that "At point X, you must begin slowing the train to get through this curve" in BIG RED LETTERS? IDK, maybe there was, and maybe he just monumentally f***ed up.

    @McCardey, I think the reason I'm bothered by the news reports relying on the Lakewood mayor is it's a conflation. He truly wasn't concerned about this piece of track, but they're making it sound like he was. It's okay to use his foresight about general trouble, but everyone, from CNN to our local paper, is failing to point out that he *wasn't* talking about this area. At all. For the sake of clarity, I'd like to see the reporting be accurate. Say he saw trouble coming, not here, but elsewhere, and then indicate that his biggest worry was, indeed, train speed-related.


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  8. #33
    Travelling around the sun cbenoi1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElaineA View Post
    How can the engineer NOT have knowledge of this slow zone? How can the engineer NOT have knowledge of this slow zone?
    It was the inaugural ride. On a line that hasn't see much passenger trafic in a long time. Then again, what was at the engineer's disposal for situational awareness? A GPS? Antiquated maps? That the line had automatic slowing systems that were installed but not yet operational indicates this line and/or the locomotive was not operating at 100%. Like a jet flying the Lisbonne to Los Angeles route and the GPS goes Pfffzzzt over the pole. Perfectly legal to fly, but navigating using dead reckoning and a map means much larger position errors.

    This sounds more like the guys was confused about his position and the backup systems that would alert him of his mistake were not yet in place.

    -cb

  9. #34
    down the rabbit hole of research... CWatts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbenoi1 View Post
    It was the inaugural ride. On a line that hasn't see much passenger trafic in a long time. Then again, what was at the engineer's disposal for situational awareness? A GPS? Antiquated maps? That the line had automatic slowing systems that were installed but not yet operational indicates this line and/or the locomotive was not operating at 100%. Like a jet flying the Lisbonne to Los Angeles route and the GPS goes Pfffzzzt over the pole. Perfectly legal to fly, but navigating using dead reckoning and a map means much larger position errors.

    This sounds more like the guys was confused about his position and the backup systems that would alert him of his mistake were not yet in place.

    -cb
    We've become used to every computer game being full of bugs and needing a patch right on release because they have to ship in Q4 for the Christmas market. But, a game, or most pieces of software, don't KILL PEOPLE when they are not quite ready for prime time. It sounds to me like the trains, the rails and the staff were not ready for this first run, yet upper management decided to push through anyway.

  10. #35
    Travelling around the sun cbenoi1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CWatts View Post
    It sounds to me like the trains, the rails and the staff were not ready for this first run, yet upper management decided to push through anyway.
    Something like that. I'm sure it will come out as the setup being within its legal limits for operation.

    -cb

  11. #36
    practical experience, FTW MaeZe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KTC View Post
    I took the Maglev in Shanghai. I flew at 431km/h. I took a picture to prove it. I'm very much pro train and pro high-speed train. But did they not do this on pre-existing infrastructure? I know this is nothing like the Maglev, but still. Maybe I just don't understand enough. It would make sense to me that higher speed would need a different track/train security than the normal kind? ALSO...the Maglev is STRAIGHT. No bending curves.
    It's a misnomer to call this a high speed train. It's no such thing. It's just a fast regular train.

  12. #37
    All about that action, boss. ElaineA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbenoi1 View Post
    It was the inaugural ride.
    But it had been test-run. Someone knew the dangers there. Certainly Sound Transit, our local commuter agency who also operates on these tracks knew. If, indeed, speed was the primary cause of this accident, someone failed on a monumental level. I wonder how much immunity Amtrak has, being a quasi-government operation.


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  13. #38
    Travelling around the sun cbenoi1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElaineA View Post
    If, indeed, speed was the primary cause of this accident, someone failed on a monumental level.
    Accidents of this nature often have many points of failure. It's sooooo easy to point the finger at the engineer. Or Amtrak's CEO. The truth is often much more complex than that.

    -cb

  14. #39
    practical experience, FTW MaeZe's Avatar
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    The death toll seems to be consistently reported as three, not six, so that's good news.

  15. #40
    practical experience, FTW MaeZe's Avatar
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    Well it's official: Congress Delayed Key Safeguard That May Have Prevented Washington Train Derailment
    After a 2008 crash in California, a new law required trains across the country to install the technology by the end of 2015, the Hill reported.

    But as the deadline approached, Congress extended it until the end of 2018, after receiving complaints from freight and commuter railroad companies about the difficulty of converting to the new system. The extension was part of a five-year highway bill compromise between the House and Senate that President Barack Obama signed into law.
    But they accomplished tax cuts for corporations like the ones here that lobbied to stall implementing the controls.

  16. #41
    Heckuva good sport frimble3's Avatar
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    So, happy day for the current Administration, they can twist it into 'It's All Obama's Fault!'

  17. #42
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbenoi1 View Post
    Accidents of this nature often have many points of failure. It's sooooo easy to point the finger at the engineer. Or Amtrak's CEO. The truth is often much more complex than that.

    -cb
    I think this a good point. I assume that there are supposed to be multiple redundancies and fail safes in place that allow for humans to override malfunctioning computer systems and for computer systems to call attention to human error. I also assume there are supposed to be different groups within the organization who work to spot omissions and oversights.

    It's possible that funding cuts aimed at reducing "wasteful" redundancies played a role, but it's too soon to say.
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  18. #43
    practical experience, FTW Twick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roxxsmom View Post
    I think this a good point. I assume that there are supposed to be multiple redundancies and fail safes in place that allow for humans to override malfunctioning computer systems and for computer systems to call attention to human error. I also assume there are supposed to be different groups within the organization who work to spot omissions and oversights.

    It's possible that funding cuts aimed at reducing "wasteful" redundancies played a role, but it's too soon to say.
    It's a failure in human logical thinking.

    1. Establish working system to reduce harm from X.
    2. System works so well harm drops to negligible levels.
    3. Some bright soul says "X never happens. Why are we wasting money preventing something that won't happen?"
    4. System is removed/reduced.
    5. X starts up again.

  19. #44
    Travelling around the sun cbenoi1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roxxsmom View Post
    It's possible that funding cuts aimed at reducing "wasteful" redundancies played a role, but it's too soon to say.
    I don't think so. Transport is crucial to the economy. It's a matter of consumer confidence. If people lose confidence in the system, travel drops and there is a slew of business segments that rely on it and would will go belly up as a result. That's why there is the FAA and the NTSB, so that accidents don't happen again.

    That the engineer was not worried about the upcoming curve but the one after that tells me two things:

    1) he knew where the dangers were on the line, and
    2) he was not processing the correct information on approach to the accident location, which means he was a) not given the correct information (i.e. failed localization equipment, antiquated maps), or b) he misinterpreted said information (i.e. got confused about his exact position).

    I don't rule out plain stupidity - like watching porn on the job - but this is rather infrequent in this business.

    -cb

  20. #45
    Just Another Lazy Perfectionist Brightdreamer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twick View Post
    It's a failure in human logical thinking.

    1. Establish working system to reduce harm from X.
    2. System works so well harm drops to negligible levels.
    3. Some bright soul says "X never happens. Why are we wasting money preventing something that won't happen?"
    4. System is removed/reduced.
    5. X starts up again.
    The old "tomorrow, we will build nests" pattern. (Ages ago, I read a little folk tale on the tag of one of those Folkmanis(?) sloth puppets; the sloths got wet in a rainstorm and decided to build nests the next day to keep themselves dry. But it was sunny the next day, and the day after, so the nests never got built. Until the next rainstorm. "Tomorrow," the sloths said,"we will build nests.")

    Although, given the recent regime's pattern, the next step in your list isn't looping back to Step 1, but rather:
    6. Determine that it's not profitable to acknowledge or address X.
    7. Lobby all the harder to prevent regulations or restorations of anti-X systems.
    8. When X inevitably happens again, bury the story and/or point fingers elsewhere while crying "Fake News!" or "What about...?"
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  21. #46
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    It has been reported that there was a 2nd person (undergoing training) in the cab so don't rule out the possibility the engineer was distracted

  22. #47
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    This piece struck me as useful:

    Amtrak Derailment: Debunking Some FUD

    This train was using a new track routing and was the first train with revenue passengers using the new route. This was not the first train to travel on those tracks; prior to today’s new passenger routing there had been months of test trains run over those tracks.
    And some other good points.

  23. #48
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brightdreamer View Post
    The old "tomorrow, we will build nests" pattern. (Ages ago, I read a little folk tale on the tag of one of those Folkmanis(?) sloth puppets; the sloths got wet in a rainstorm and decided to build nests the next day to keep themselves dry. But it was sunny the next day, and the day after, so the nests never got built. Until the next rainstorm. "Tomorrow," the sloths said,"we will build nests.")
    Heh, this reminds me of a relative of mine whose roof leaked for years in the rain, and the dining room ceiling finally "fell" one night because the plaster had become so weakened.

    He couldn't go up and fix the roof (or get someone to come fix it) when it was actually raining (and therefore leaking), so they just put buckets down, but when it was dry, the roof didn't leak.

    I guess time will tell with this train derailment.

    I am curious about why they were calling this route "high speed" rail, though. It clearly isn't and was meant to travel at the normal range of speeds that Amtrak trains do. Maybe it's an express route and the media got confused? The problem is, mislabeling something invites all kinds of misinterpretation and speculation.

    One question I have that I haven't seen addressed in the articles I read: did the engineer of the train survive? If so, surely that person could provide information about what happened prior to the crash.
    Last edited by Roxxsmom; 12-22-2017 at 01:06 AM.
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