Associated Press was reporting 2 dead, 110 or more injured.
The passenger train, subsidized by the U.S. government, crashed into a freight train on the same track (which was not the main track, which Amtrak was supposed to be using). Amtrak says the freight train company was responsible for the switches, and that a switch in the wrong position diverted their train onto the occupied track.
More human error.
We have the tech to build cars that are almost to the point of being autonomous, but we can't seem to get tech to RRs which have NO OPTION but to travel on 'predetermined location' track and have them stay out of each other's way.
The embedded pix for non-RR buffs show a very common track layout (been in existence forever); keeping trains coming in opposite directions from colliding has to be letter perfect re command and control & stop/go signals. AND it works (for the most part). Ditto re derailments occurring at these locations-doesn't seem possible that they wouldn't, but they don't.
By the way, there ain't no humans at these crossings using their eyeballs to correct "errors" [in the old days there were many that had manned towers at the sites-gone the way of the dinosaur--manually operated levers inside some that controlled switches to change tracks--some had only one operator--the 3rd shift must have been just a wonderful work experience]
I'm not in a position to accurately report on train speed coming into these types of crossings.
As a job the train driver could be one of the most critical for safety, and boring at the same time. SBS actually showed a special on the Ghan railway
recently. basically they showed it all day and followed the train on its trip from Adelaide to Darwin, a trip of some 3000Km. Every now and then
they'd show what was happening in the driver's cabin. Basically, all he had to do was sit there and sound the horn at appropriate intervals.
With the advent of GPS tracking and Automation, you'd think that rail travel would have to be as safe as flying. Given the fact that the route is "predicatable" the only real variable is animals and idiots driving vehicles into the path of said train.
This image is certainly not the largest, or most complex pix of the end of the line track terminus. Typically this amount of end of line maze of
tracks is found at RR commuting sites which see large numbers of inbound and outbound trains daily for several hours in the morning and afternoon
These end of the line operations cover many acres.
For the most part they operate perfectly with human and mechanical inputs. And of course, the humans involved in the track control CANNOT SEE ANY OF THIS.
And yes the track speed is far less than mainline operations, but they are not going at a snail pace either.
The pix is a train station in the UK, but it's typical of end of the line large urban center track layouts across the globe.
FYI: Addition to my previous post: there is no such thing as a standard, one size fits all, RR dispatch center. But this pix shows the reality of a
typical 'command and control' operation.
This pix however doesn't do justice to visually portraying the volume of inbound/outbound trains at a major urban passenger terminus.
Automation and GPS Navigation should make this all safer.
Train Dispatcher 2 Freeware Version
Train Dispatchers are the air traffic controllers of the railroads. They control the movement of trains over large track territories. This game simulates the gargantuan routing tasks a real-life dispatcher faces daily. The problem is that trains must share a limited number of tracks. In some cases, a single track must be shared by trains going in opposite directions. It is the job of the dispatcher to control the movement of trains over this limited resource, which can create one bottleneck after another.
Me Here: the embedded image shows what you have to work with; I haven't played this in over 20+ years (a previous ver).
NOT so easy to get it right simulation and remembering the "rules" of traffic control.
This URL lists several similar programs:
Google Play has similar games with "Train Dispatcher" as the applicable search words
I have heard on broadcast news that the two people who died were the ones in control of the train. They literally had seconds from the time they knew
of the wrong-track problem to the time of the head-to-head collision.
A news article said that the indicators of the switch positions was "down for maintenance." You would think that in such a case there would be someone checking the position in advance, and then locking the verified position in some way.
A news broadcast said this was the third Amtrak accident in two months. The biggest disaster was discussed in one of our threads. The second one, on January 31, carried Republican Congressmen to a legislative retreat, among other passengers. The train hit a truck, whose driver was trying to cross at a closed crossing.
None of these can be inspiring confidence in the safety of passenger travel on trains which are subsidized by the U.S. government.
Train on train collisions should be "easy" to mitigate, External influences, no so. If the train is on a particular section of track, software should preclude any other train occupying the same section, UNLESS, there is a good reason, AND a human is aware of the fact and can MANUALLY override such safety protocols AND ONLY permitting both trains that share a section to travel at a safe speed UNTIL, either the trains move to separate sections, or they join up and become ONE train. The logic diagram on this should be fairly simple.
This post is in the nature of an addendum to my previous post re RRs and how mainentence in the real world gets done/not done.
I am NOT suggesting that this image is typical, but I am saying that there are unique issues to RRing that never seem to be considered.
This pix was taken in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy back in 2012. A very large geographical area was impacted.
The very large number of workers depicts a reality that management did NOT know, and could have no way of knowing, how many downed trees there were on the line, NOR how large the trees that were down were, i. e., for whatever reason there is no crane on this train; so all tree removal had to be done via chain saw and manually lifted out of the way--ONE BY ONE of the stop & go variety.
The issue of dark territory and safety is really similar. Track maintenance facilities, and the equipment to do repairs can be at great distances from trouble spots. Plus there is the issue of spare [replacement] parts--repairs are not always done by work trains, but by trucks that have been adapted to ride the rails--how many replacement parts are there at hand, how many have to be ordered, how many parts are even made any longer, etc., etc., etc.,.
There is a great deal of down time for work crews simply to arrive, travel time wise, on the scene from their home base. And if the parts they have on hand are insufficient for the repair... Even the replace the entire unit method if something is wrong, i. e., carry a new unit, can be problematic...it may turn out that the problem was not what was initially diagnosed.
RRs can't simply call up, as an example, a local electrician to fix an electrical problem; the local electrician wouldn't necessarily have any idea/experience how to even diagnosis the problem.
Which is why I suggested "External influences" Trains cannot mitigate against idiots parking on the track or animals that have no idea what is about to send them on a journey to the afterlife or trees, etc. Maintenance etc is always going to be an issue, however, on major routes, this should not be a factor at all. On those it should be a priority.
Seems to be a lot of people standing around with their hands in their pockets.
I can, to a point, understand the "standing around" bit. Back in the day when Light pipes (optic fibre) were fairly new we had a mechanical cable
locator chew one up about 80km out of town. So we had a technician (me) who was to test the repair as it was made, An excavator operator who was to
dig in the repaired line, A team of linesmen who were responsible for locating the problem (in this case, pretty obvious) and excavating by hand, if
necessary (usually the last few feet) another couple of people who were responsible for making the joint (also specially trained for the job). All up
the job took a couple of days and, most of the time was spent just standing around waiting for something to happen. All up we all had to just just
stand around and wait for most of that time whilst the appropriate person did his bit.
In the aforementioned piccie, I'd suggest that many of those who were standing around were there because of other issues that their expertise may be needed on.
Seems rather odd... "One train in one section at any time" is a golden rule, here, except when a recovery's being done. If there's a train in
section, the signals all go to danger and it takes a lot of overriding stuff, to get another train in that section. Speed is limited to 5mph, or less,
Someone at Amtrak needs a kick up the chuffer.
I just realised that was London Bridge! That's a local station for us! Actually they have spent months and months changing all that and tidying up the rails and rebuilding the station! The sign is in the top right corner
When I was in tree lopping we used cranes for particularly difficult trees. Tree loppers were the only ones permitted to "ride the hook" as it was
safer than free climbing. The stupid thing about it was that all our arborists had to do "the course" and the instructors knew NOTHING about what,
and how, we did the job. Some of their "instruction" was downright dangerous.
We did have one funny incident. (we were all good mates and got on well) The arborist was on the hook being lifted up to a tree when the crane operator decided that he needed a wash, so, swung over the swimming pool and gently lowered him down. The poor bloke was trying to climb the wire (impossible task) before he got a dunking.
AmTrack had a terrible reputation in the 80s when I lived near DC.
Over here, the traffic is dictated by so-called "Class".
A class one train has highest priority and six has the lowest.
Class one trains are emergency units, Kinda. The lowest are freight trains.
I learnt a mnemonic, to remember them.
Be Sure That Everyone Meets Ned.
Breakdown (Going to attend).
Traction unit (Could be almost any loco).
Motorail and normal passenger stuff.
There's a seventh class, which is unpiped (The only brakes are on the loco and the rear break van), loose-coupled freight trains, but I haven't known one of those to run since the early seventies. Most freight stuff moves at night.
If a train is in the way, as it were, it gets moved off the main line, until higher classes get past. But, paths are worked out well in advance, so that happens only very rarely.
Scary trains, i.e. those carrying nuclear flasks, hydrocyanic acid and the like are moved with great secrecy, for obvious reasons. Apart from the bobbies (signallers), almost nobody knows they're on the move and the bobby will only learn about it when it's fairly close by. EVERYTHING gets out of the way, for those!
Nobody lies. because it wouldn't achieve anything. No disagreements. To every railway employee, those classes are obvious and non-negotiable.
They've been set in stone for many, many years. Plus, if the bobby says "You don't go there", you don't. In most cases, you can't, even if you
want to. In thirty years on the rails, I've never known it to happen.
If your unit's an express passenger, it's class four. It simply can't be anything else. You know that, the bobbies all know that and so do most of the line staff. So, there aren't disagreements, because it's all so darned obvious, to everyone. That kinda thing's drummed into all line staff, right from day one.
We have catch points, too, so that a vehicle can be deliberately derailed, if there's a problem.
Here, a train driver always learnt the jobs of other railwaymen, as well as their own. Because of that, when a bobby tells you something, you usually get the "Why", even if he doesn't tell you, as you know his job, almost as well as he does. (This may not be the case, now that the railways have been "Make as much money as we can and screw the safety cr@p" privatised).
Do any of your RRs operate on the "Just-in-time manufacturing/inventory" systems?
There is a video somewhere of a entire train inbound from the west coast to, I think it was, a Toyota assembly plant in the Midwest (with parts).
Part of the vid is what I presume is a fairly high level Toyota management type talking on multiple occasions, as the trip progresses (over multiple days), to his/her counterpart at the dispatch center of the RR re the expected, previously scheduled, arrival time at the plant. Apparently this 'just in time' concept means that the manufacturing process is timed out upon a scheduled arrival of a container ship, the expected off-load time from the ship to the train, and the train's departure and arrival. It, I suppose, could mean as the last part is used up on the assembly line, the restock process has refilled the parts bin from the train that just arrived.
Union Pacific has these "hot-z trains" [as part of normal operations] which are priority intermodal trains (originating on the west coast I presume). While UP is a huge RR, it doesn't have its own tracks everywhere; so the who/how establishes that one train has a priority over another is unknown; BUT my previous paragraph re the Toyota plant must involve a great deal of lost money if the train does not arrive as scheduled.
Derailments/floods/equipment breakdowns would, superficially, seem to make such a system unworkable re the predictability accuracy of arrival time at destinations.
J-I-T manufacturing has been around for a long time. The idea is, as you have surmised, a product arrives as it is needed. The idea is such that manufacturers have little money tied up in inventory and do not require huge warehouses for storage. WIKI explains it.
Not something I'm familiar with, Jack. But, then, I drove passenger stuff, so I didn't need to know much about freight. Enough to drive one, if required, of course. But, I never was.
By the way, if you want to see an odd track layout...
When Just In Time doesn't work out.
We regret to inform you that due to factors beyond our control there will be a delay in our delivery of your 3 aircraft.
We are pleased to announce the creation of a new management team that will take personal responsibility for the priority delivery of your future orders with us.
As always, it has been one of the pleasures of this company to have you as one of our customers, and we are looking forward to the continuation of our service to you.
Montana Rail Link Customer Fulfillment Dept
Occurred 2014-total loss (no injuries)-FYI: the transport of these 737 carcasses from the Boeing Wichita, Kansas plant to its Redmond, Washington plant has been occurring for years. Typically there are 3-4 carcasses per train. I've never seen a pix of what's inside one of these carcasses, i. e., how far along in the manufacturing process the inside has been fitted out, i. e. #2, whether the inside is simply a hollow shell, or completely fitted out.
And most definitely yes, I would have given anything to be the fly on the wall when some employee at Montana Rail Link made the first call to Boeing's HQ.