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 Post subject: Re: Film crewman killed by train
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 11:09 am 

Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 4:02 pm
Posts: 973
Location: Back in NE Ohio
Ron Travis wrote:
I think it should start out by explaining why CSX lost the civil suit since this point seems to have confounded most people’s common sense. I see two points that raise a lot of unanswered questions:

1) Withholding an emergency application of brakes because it might derail the train.

2) Giving tacit approval to trespassers by seeing them and not removing them.

Item #1 is interesting because it seems to conflict with the purpose of braking, and it raises the question of how one makes the decision since any emergency application might cause a derailment.

Item #2 is interesting because a landowner is owed the right to be free of trespassers and it seems counterintuitive to expect a trespasser to be owed the duty of landowners to protect their safety while trespassing.


I'm not going to address point two, but since I used to operate heavy freight trains for said railroad, I will address point one. Because U. S. freight trains operate with a coupling system that has slack in it (even modern passenger trains do to some extent), a locomotive engineer has to plan ahead in train handling, especially braking. Probably half of engineer training centers around air brake theory and it's use in train handling. I think it's best summed up in the saying of one of my former Road Foremen, "Think five miles ahead and two miles behind", when it comes to what action you are going to take in operating your train. Five miles ahead, because the track profile (grades, curvature, etc.) affect what the slack action in your train will do as you cover that terrain, and if you are traveling fast enough with a heavy enough train it may take that long to optimally take whatever you determine to be the safest action in bringing your train to a stop. Two miles behind (which is apparently no longer far enough for a CSX freight these days), because how your train lies on the railroad you are currently on also plays a major role in the action you will take. For instance, if your terrain is primarily downhill, then you will need to bring the slack in and plan on using dynamic braking as the primary way to bring your train to a safe stop. If you are mostly ascending, then using gravity, throttle modulation, and a final air brake reduction would be your best bet to stop. The worst situation to find yourself in in the need of a quick stop is in transition between power and dynamic braking (and the need to wait 10 seconds before changing the throttle setting from one to the other) on an undulating profile, with slack "mixed up". An emergency application (either deliberate or "unintentional") in that circumstance is a recipe for scattering a train across the landscape. You will always get in more trouble with "buff" (compression) forces than "draft" (tension) forces. Not knowing the grade profile of where this accident happened, we can't say whether or not the crew took the proper action, and I doubt if most jurors could either.


Last edited by PaulWWoodring on Sun Aug 13, 2017 6:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Film crewman killed by train
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 12:49 pm 

Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 1:37 pm
Posts: 895
I believe you'll find the issue was not so much 'emergency' braking as it was any brake application at all right up until it was obvious there were people on the bridge.

And the issue with people near the tracks on Rayonier property being more that following trains should approach at some approximation of restricted speed or at least heightened oversight ... whether or not the people were "illegally trespassing" or not.

For some reason, perhaps overreliance on private-property arguments and legal denial of consent, CSX didn't seem to see the need to argue any need for care in dealing with potential trespassers. They certainly, and to me rather predictably, seem to have paid for that strategy.

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 Post subject: Re: Film crewman killed by train
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 1:15 pm 

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 2:22 pm
Posts: 1213
Overmod wrote:
I believe you'll find the issue was not so much 'emergency' braking as it was any brake application at all right up until it was obvious there were people on the bridge.

And the issue with people near the tracks on Rayonier property being more that following trains should approach at some approximation of restricted speed or at least heightened oversight ... whether or not the people were "illegally trespassing" or not.

For some reason, perhaps overreliance on private-property arguments and legal denial of consent, CSX didn't seem to see the need to argue any need for care in dealing with potential trespassers. They certainly, and to me rather predictably, seem to have paid for that strategy.


I agree with your point about the braking. CSX argued the risk of making a emergency application, but they never explained why a service application was not made.

As to the point related to trespass: The news reported two different and conflicting descriptions of where the film crew was as the second of the two trains (prior to the third train struck the bed) passed. One report stated that they were on Rayonier property within sight of the train crews, and the other report stated that they were clearly trespassing on CSX property, standing right next to the track at the entrance to the bridge.

I believe I recall that the report of them not being on CSX property as originating a few years ago right after the accident. Whereas the report of them standing right next to the track was from testimony in this recent civil trial. In that report from the trial, a CSX spokesman was being questioned to draw out the point clearly as to whether the film crew could be seen trespassing as the second train passed by them. And clearly the answer was yes. So I conclude that the other report of the film crew not being on CSX property when the second train passed was incorrect.


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 Post subject: Re: Film crewman killed by train
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 3:57 pm 

Joined: Fri Jul 07, 2017 2:37 pm
Posts: 31
As a retired locomotive engineer/rules man I hesitate to make comments regarding train handling unless I was the one in the cab, running the engine. I do agree with the previous poster who also is/was and engineer regarding his method to slow/stop a train depending on terrain, train make up, curves,etc..

However, with many idiot drivers and tresspassers around the tracks today it can be a very frustrating experience. Whenever I see a motorist trying to beat me to the crossing or not paying attention(distracted driving) I whistle, long and loud to get their attention (no matter the time of day/night or "quiet crossings"). I also weigh heavily my decision to "dynamite" the air to stop suddenly avoiding an incident or just keep operating at normal speed hoping the vehicle driver/pedestrian will get out of the way and I can avoid a possible major derailment. I don't mind telling you that engineers get mighty, cynical about folks on or about the tracks and getting in their way. I am sure we all would understand seeing many if not all folks running crossings and tresspassing on the property just to save a few minutes expecting us crews to be able to stop mammouth trains quickly. Most folks are just plain stupid when it comes to big, heavy equipment and the danger of being around it. You can probably understand why many roads no longer allow steam/passenger excursions on their property because it brings out the worst safety problems and their insurance companies shudder at the sight of it. The road I was with before I retired used to operate company excursions regularly and also invited a well known passenger operator on the property for seasonal excursions. Now they have cancelled their agreement with excursion operator (also finance reasons) and have backed off in-house ones mainly due to insurance, liability issues.

Which brings me to the subject of safety on private/public/museum excursion operations where safety and rules compliance MUST exceed all other actions. If one person gets injured/killed even in a slow speed operation it will affect us all. The FRA will not take kindly to operations which are lax in safety and rules compliance so we all need to make this a priority whether our main line is one 1 or 20 plus miles. Check your organization's safety, compliance and make sure it's up to date and followed. Okay I'll get off my soapbox now and return you to your regularly, scheduled posts.

Please be safe!

exprail


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 Post subject: Re: Film crewman killed by train
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 4:11 pm 

Joined: Fri Jul 07, 2017 2:37 pm
Posts: 31
Here's a recent video although in another country which makes my point clearly.

https://www.facebook.com/KiwiRailNewZea ... f=mentions

exprail


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 Post subject: Re: Film crewman killed by train
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 10:54 pm 

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 2:22 pm
Posts: 1213
I am well aware of the frustrating situations faced by engineers approaching grade crossings. You don’t want to dump the air just because someone fails to yield if there is a good chance they will be in the clear by the time you get there. And even if a close range encounter looks like a collision is certain, dumping the air won’t begin to slow the train before it strikes the vehicle.

But I have heard some people talk about never dumping the air for a crossing encounter until after impact, if there is an impact. This is said to be the safest course for the engineer because it reduces the risk of a derailment and saves time and questions involved with dumping the air when it was not actually necessary.

But there are times when the crossing is fouled in a way that is persisting over time. It is always possible that such a foul will clear in time to avoid being hit. So if the mindset of never dynamiting for a crossing foul until after impact is habitually applied universally; it can lead to a lot of trouble if there is an impact and it can be shown that the application of the brakes could have prevented the collision or even just mitigated it by slowing the train.

I think this incident at the CSX trestle with the film crew is in this realm of there being advanced warning of fouling that stands a good chance of not clearing in time. I do not know if the train could have actually stopped in time, but it could have slowed down considerably, and that would have allowed more time for the people to get out of the way. They were in a panic situation where every second counted. CSX’s own experts testified that just a service application would have stopped the train two seconds after it hit the bed. Incidentally, oddly enough, I believe the experts intended this testimony to justify not braking at all because the fatality would have occurred anyway because the train would have still hit the bed. They apparently completely overlooked the fact that two seconds prior to stopping, the train would have slowed to almost nothing. There would have been a lot more time to get the bed out of the way, and even if hit, it would not have turned to shrapnel and killed or injured anybody.

In any case, if a service application would have stopped the train only two seconds after passing the film crew, is it not likely that an emergency application would have stopped the train short of the trestle?


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 Post subject: Re: Film crewman killed by train
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 11:16 pm 

Joined: Fri Jul 07, 2017 2:37 pm
Posts: 31
It's easy to be a "monday morning quarter back" after the fact but tough to be in the seat weighing all your options in mini seconds when lives are at stake.

exprail


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 Post subject: Re: Film crewman killed by train
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 11:49 pm 

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 2:22 pm
Posts: 1213
I am not saying what the engineer should have done in this case. His speed at the point where he first saw the people on the bridge was reported, as was the number of seconds between that point and the point of impact with the bed. Apparently CSX’s own experts based their conclusions about stopping distance on those factors of speed and time.

However, I do not know how much time the engineer needed to assimilate what he was seeing on the trestle. I also do not know if the experts factored that into their calculations of stopping distance. The engineer did say that at first sight of the people, he thought they were large birds, so there must have been some time lost in recognizing the danger.

If I were to speculate on the trial, I would assume that the jury placed a lot more weight on the failure to apply any braking until after impact, and much less weight on the CXS failing to remove trespassers. I doubt the jury was convinced by the reasoning that the engineer was trying to protect the film crew from the danger of being struck by a derailment that would be caused by making an emergency application of the brakes.


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