Sad news from Canada

Number 90 posted:

Mountain grade railroading is always dicey.  On most trips it's uneventful, but, when one little thing goes wrong, you can have coupler failures and derailments going upgrade, or a runaway going downgrade.  Going downgrade, you're always about one minute away from having a runaway, if speed unexpectedly begins to increase.  Weird things can happen.  This train obviously got away from the crew, and, from the look of the terrain, there may not have been a good place to jump off.  May God grant them eternal rest.

Well stated. I was involved in the investigation of 2 different runaways, both heavy tonnage unit trains (loaded coal) both in the month of February (2010 and 2013), both in heavy grade territory, 1.5 to 2.57 grades (one on Sand Patch, one on 17 Mile Grade) .....One derailed 108 out of their 130 loads, the other 73 of their 77 loads. In both instances, February weather in the Alleghenies was a key factor. Interesting to note that in both these instances above, the loaded cars rolled out and derailed while traversing curves, while the locomotive consist stayed on the rail as the locomotives have a lower center of gravity. No crew injuries/fatalities involved in either of these incidents.

As Number 90 stated in an earlier post, a detailed report of both crew's activity before, during and after the emergency brake application and crew change would be most informative. Mechanical post accident inspection findings are also going to be critical to discovery of the primary cause.

I watched an NS trainman  set handbrakes on a loaded coal train in good weather, on the level and it took at least a minute per car so it takes awhile. The one that wrecked had 113 cars in bitter cold temps so it would have been a chore. But that should be part of the drill. I would think management would send help out to a train like that but we all know how that goes.

wb47 posted:

Assuming a 70 car train, about how long would it take to set the hand brakes on all of the cars?

Assuming a minute a car and every car  ,  1 hour and 10 minutes.  The crew would then have to recover the air, let the train-line charge, make  enough of a brake application  to hold the train, go back and release the hand brake, and eventually get authority to continue on.    

Total time.... I'm only guessing   , somewhere between 2 1/2 and 3 hours.  I don't think you'd need a brake on every car so with out knowing any special instructions that may apply  the time may be less.

I guess what's bothering me, why did the train move as soon as the  outgoing crew were aboard the engine,, Did they try to recover the air ?? without the hand brakes?    We'll eventually find out.

Number 90 posted: 

The focus, though, is on why the first crew did not secure the train with hand brakes (every car on the train if it was loaded on a 2% grade).  They are Canadian.  Surely they have heard of the Lac Megantic disaster, and surely their rules require securing the train with hand brakes under the conditions present when they stopped with an emergency application.  That is the root cause:  Failure to properly secure the train after experiencing an emergency brake application on a heavy descending grade.  The report indicates that the first crew likely had time to do this, while the second crew may not have been present long enough to do it.  The reason for the emergency brake application is important, but regardless, the root cause is what I highlighted in bold.

Sadly many times we overlook something or are distracted and the result is far worse than we imagined

wb47 posted:

Assuming a 70 car train, about how long would it take to set the hand brakes on all of the cars?

Excellent question. Just being out in -30 air temp weather for a few minutes is brutal, do they have equipment on the train for the employees to complete this task?

 
Gregg posted:
wb47 posted:

Assuming a 70 car train, about how long would it take to set the hand brakes on all of the cars?

Assuming a minute a car and every car  ,  1 hour and 10 minutes.  The crew would then have to recover the air, let the train-line charge, make  enough of a brake application  to hold the train, go back and release the hand brake, and eventually get authority to continue on.   

The rule book for THAT territory states "all handbrakes", i.e. EVERY CAR. 

Total time.... I'm only guessing   , somewhere between 2 1/2 and 3 hours.  I don't think you'd need a brake on every car so with out knowing any special instructions that may apply  the time may be less.

I guess what's bothering me, why did the train move as soon as the  outgoing crew were aboard the engine,, Did they try to recover the air ?? without the hand brakes?    We'll eventually find out.

 

jim pastorius posted:

I watched an NS trainman  set handbrakes on a loaded coal train in good weather, on the level and it took at least a minute per car so it takes awhile. The one that wrecked had 113 cars in bitter cold temps so it would have been a chore. But that should be part of the drill. I would think management would send help out to a train like that but we all know how that goes.

Jim,

A very sad tragedy for the individuals and their families. Hopefully as information becomes more available we won't find issues learned from previous derailments not being implemented. Access to the brake wheels with snow, ice, wind, frostbite, etc. You hope management would have contingency plans for situations like this.

The following "emergency fix" will not work in today's digital/electronic tattle-tale railroad environment, further, today's "state of the art" computer controlled engines may forbid it. This emergency contingency absolutely goes against everything any CMO would teach on the proper handling and care of his precious engines, and the FRA agent would have an absolute cat's fit over it, but, I'm retired and thus the statute of limitations has been reached (   ), so if one of you DOES make like a playground school girl and tattle... they can't do anything about it now. 

The above DISCLAIMER said... here's an experience I had a loooong time ago:

I had a short (30-40 loaded sand cars?) train and a pair of GP38's.

As I was topping a rise at track speed leading to a long decent (1% or better) I had an IDE as soon as I made my first set. (Caused by a "dynamiter" car.) After getting stopped, I still had a lot of grade left to safely descend (I was in 10 MPH territory now), AND there was an Absolute signal at the bottom of the grade that WOULD be against me, for the line I was on crossed over a busy BNSF line in order to access our yard. We had to get BNSF Dispatcher authority in order to cross the diamond, so I KNEW the signal would be against me. Basically, I had zero margin for error if I tried to recover, finish the descent, and HOPE I would have sufficient air in the pipe to get stopped PRECISELY where I needed to get stopped.

Not an option.

I also KNEW the engine brakes would be insufficient to hold the train should I try to recover my air "as is". Oh, and it was raining.

So, there we sat as I pondered my situation. Of course, the Conductor whined and moaned about what he SHOULD do. (Tie a bunch of hand brakes before I could start the recovery process.)

Well, I ended up doing what old head's taught me when in a bad way like this, and provided it could be done safely, albeit against the rules. Here's what I did:

I set the engine brakes, recovered, and once the PCS reset, I placed the motors in reverse, and leaned into the loads with just enough amps to hold the train in place... and I charged my air line until I had sufficient air to proceed. We continued on our way and I had ample air to make a controlled descent with a precise stop at the Absolute signal, and proceeded calling for the Dispatcher to get a signal.

Oh, I wholeheartedly agree: That was a despicable move, intolerable by those smarter and more professional than I displayed at the time. It was a move that is NOT approved or condoned by ANY rule or operational book, etc. BUT, it was a technique I'd learned from SEVERAL old heads from "way back when". AND by doing so it helped get us to the yard within our hours that night.

Go ahead. Chastise me. I've got big shoulders, I can take it.

Railroading was a different world "back then".

Andre "retired so you can't touch me" Ming

Sounds like you came up with your own Dynamic braking.....

Caused by a "dynamiter" car   Also know as a kicker, Sometimes but not always would cause a  emergency brake  application of the whole train .  and also hard to find.

OK I've never  worked a job with dynamic braking and never with out a caboose but what happens to the dynamic brakes in an emergency brake application. Do they cut out?  Engine drops it's reverse  load?  and of course the engines brakes apply.

Here is a question about a detail I have not yet seen addressed. In the Calgary Herald article linked above, their "source" says this:

Retainers — devices meant to ensure the train’s brakes don’t lose pressure — would have been activated by the original crew and should have held, said the source.

Whatever are these? Something to keep the brakes from releasing while the train line is being pumped back up? Or what?

And while I'm here, let me say that I much appreciate the contributions from real railroaders here. It's a blessing to have access to so much expertise.

nickaix posted:

Here is a question about a detail I have not yet seen addressed. In the Calgary Herald article linked above, their "source" says this:

Retainers — devices meant to ensure the train’s brakes don’t lose pressure — would have been activated by the original crew and should have held, said the source.

Whatever are these? Something to keep the brakes from releasing while the train line is being pumped back up? Or what?

You are pretty much correct. Retaining valves (Retainers) are devices which allow the ability to control the air in an individual railcar's brake cylinder.  It may allow the air in the cylinder, which is applying the brakes shoes to the wheel, to exhaust from the brake cylinder completely (normal position) or be manually set to hold a predetermined amount of air (10 -20 p.s.i. depending on setting) in each cylinder after the Automatic Brake Valve handle in the controlling locomotive has been moved to the release position. When their use is desired, they must be manually set and released on each piece of equipment. This allows for a variable percentage of cars to "retain" their air brake application. Used mostly in heavy grade territory to assist in controlling speed downgrade or hold cars in place  while air brakes are being recharged. With the advances and refinement of dynamic braking, their use has waned.

And while I'm here, let me say that I much appreciate the contributions from real railroaders here. It's a blessing to have access to so much expertise.

 

I read a story a few years ago that the Boston & Maine had a derailment in the Hoosac Tunnel in western Massachusetts when they were in the process of changing from steam engines to diesel electric engines. The diesel pulling the train through the tunnel had dynamic braking but the engineer did not know how to use it and he lost quite a few freight cars within the tunnel. It was a rather difficult job to pull the derailed cars out of the tunnel and not scrape the walls in the process.

Art

B&MRRHS

LCCA

LOTS

Number 90 posted:

  but, if the train had been fully secured with hand brakes it would remained stationary, even if the brake cylinders on the cars leaked down.  That is a given.  Period.

Tom,
Yes, one would think that and normally that would be true. However, such is not the case. If, I repeat, if snow had built up between the the brake shoes and the wheels a train will not be able to stay stopped on a grade, even with the train in "emergency" and 100% handbrakes set!

I know this because I was involved in a situation where this happened!

As you correctly said: "There's not enough information in the preliminary report to determine why the emergency brake application occurred"

Now here is a scary thought. Imagine for a moment what would have happened if that had of been a unit crude oil tank train instead of a grain train. Envision most of 100 tank cars mangled and split open with huge fires raging and crude oil washing downhill into the Kootenay river, free to flow downstream for hundreds of kilometers. 

Sound far-fetched? Revisit the Lac Megantic oil train disaster of 2013 where an oil train slowly lost brake pressure in the early AM hours and rolled unattended downgrade into town, where it derailed and piled up. 47 killed and most of downtown destroyed in the inferno.

And so tell me again how pipelines are hazardous and not environmentally friendly, because I think I may have missed the point somehow, though I guess our government believes it. Oh for sure the newer double-wall tank cars are safer and all that nice sounding stuff. But we are kidding ourselves if we think for a moment that they will make rail transportation of flammable goods perfectly safe, because they won't. Just IMO.

Rod

We are never too old to learn something stupid....

Back to today.  My guess is that the STB is going to make some very restrictive rules about how this section of railroad will be operated.  Speed limits?  Car and/or weight limits?  One study which might come out is to see the ratio of wrecks per train mile before and after Hunter Harrison.

The TEXAS SPECIAL:  The REAL RED streak of the golden prairies!

Lastly, this is for the Number 90, HW, and the other people in this group who ran trains.  In your honest opinion, are the people who are now running trains have that "innate" knowledge of railroading?  A railroad version of Scully.  Is the training good enough?  Did the railroad industry loose a training base by having fewer switch jobs and locals.  What about a Top Gun program where some of the best in the field teach, if they have the later skill.

Not to knock the newer railroaders, bit it might be good to hear from them.  In a way of course their employs would not know.

The TEXAS SPECIAL:  The REAL RED streak of the golden prairies!

Dominic Mazoch posted:

Lastly, this is for the Number 90, HW, and the other people in this group who ran trains.  In your honest opinion, are the people who are now running trains have that "innate" knowledge of railroading?  A railroad version of Scully.  Is the training good enough?  Did the railroad industry loose a training base by having fewer switch jobs and locals.  What about a Top Gun program where some of the best in the field teach, if they have the later skill.

Not to knock the newer railroaders, bit it might be good to hear from them.  In a way of course their employs would not know.

The training in my company has been sped up (shortened/they call optimized) in order to keep with up big profits. When I was a training coordinator my director said "I don't care about safety, if I cannot run a trains in the fourth quarter."  I was retaliated against for turning him in. The Hunter Harrison model is destroying our railroads for big profits.

Rob Leese posted:

I was never in this situation of changing crews between terminals, so it raises a question in my mind (and it may be an eye-roller) .  Before proceeding, should the fresh crew build air---make the prescribed reduction---cut out the air and do a leakage test before proceeding?  If I was taking over a train about which I knew nothing, then take it down Kicking Horse Pass, I would want some information first.

I just read the update in Railway Age.  Rather than delete my irrelevant post, I would just say the relief crew never had a chance unless their first move was to set all the handbrakes and build air. 

Horrific stuff no matter what the cause. Its easy to be a driver in a car sitting at a crossing and think, "that must be a nice job, sit in the cab and watch the scenery go by".

Nothing could be further from the truth.

These train wreck threads have given me much more respect for the real railroaders on this forum and everywhere else.

Setting the handbrakes on a mile long train is a task in itself ,and it sounds difficult enough getting these trains safely through the mountains when there are no "issues". I can't imagine starting my day on a runaway train.

God bless those who lost their lives and their families.

" No matter how far we travel, the memories will follow in the baggage car."

Dominic Mazoch posted:

Lastly, this is for the Number 90, HW, and the other people in this group who ran trains.  In your honest opinion, are the people who are now running trains have that "innate" knowledge of railroading?   NO!

A railroad version of Scully.  Is the training good enough?   NO!

Did the railroad industry loose a training base by having fewer switch jobs and locals.   Not really. The trouble started long before!

What about a Top Gun program where some of the best in the field teach, if they have the later skill.   Ha!  The RR's have no idea what that is! Even with the tools that they developed, they fumbled the ball from the get-go! With "Safety is of first importance in the discharge of duty" is the motto of the day, the RR's turned their back on proper training! It is sinful in the way that the RR's would not let the knowledgeable engineers instruct their trainee's correctly!

 

 

wb47 posted:

Assuming a 70 car train, about how long would it take to set the hand brakes on all of the cars?

If the terrain along the right of way was flat and clear of obstructions, at least three minutes per car.  It would take longer if the crew member applying the hand brakes had to contend with:

  • deep snow
  • bad footing from ice, or uneven terrain
  • accumulated ice on the equipment
  • ice within the hand brake mechanism of individual cars
  • the physical condition of the employee
  • any of the cars having stopped inside of a tunnel with a locomotive also in the tunnel

If another employee with a vehicle could have assisted by driving alongside the train with the crew member who was to apply the hand brakes, it would have been faster than walking the entire length of the train.  But, apparently, nobody even began this, and that "why" is puzzling.  

At some point the air brakes were going to have to be released and the brake system recharged fully.  It was absolutely unavoidable.  So the train was going to have to remain stationary with hand brakes holding it on the grade, while the required recharge was accomplished.  Then, a service brake application would need to have been made, and then the hand brakes would have been released,  The crew member would need to return to the head end, and only then would the train be able to proceed safely.  

It is not unknown for a crew waiting to be relieved to avoid any further undesirable tasks, letting the relief crew do the work.  I'm not saying that was the case here, but there really does need to be an explanation of why nobody on the first crew at least began to apply hand brakes.  There could be more to this, and we should not rush to judgment. 

When the second crew arrived and found that the train was in emergency (and we still do not know why)  and not secured with hand brakes, they realized the obvious fact that they were the "goats".  They were going to have to tie the train down themselves, before recharging it.  So, then, here are more as-yet unanswered questions:  How much time did they have to begin applying hand brakes, after boarding the train before it began moving on its own?  Were they hoping to get some help from others?  Was there a parallel service road in good enough condition that a crew member could have been driven from car to car to speed up the process, and, if so, were they waiting for the vehicle to arrive?

We know that the train moved on its own after sitting on a heavy descending grade for a period of time, likely from air brake leakage, but we cannot assume anything about what happened prior to the emergency brake application.  Was the first crew having air brake trouble prior to the emergency application?  Was there a buildup of ice on the brake shoes that caused the speed to build up while it was eliminated by friction from the initial application as the train started down the grade, and, if so, did that result in the first crew making a very heavy brake application in trying to get the speed back down to where it could be controllable?  Did they use emergency braking to stop short of a location where a stop was required and, if so, why?  Had they mishandled the air brakes?  Or, was the emergency brake application not initiated by the crew?  And, a very important factor, had the brake system been depleted by a prior release and reapplication, or by an over-reduction, prior to the occurrence of the emergency brake application?  All of those are possibilities.  

Something does not add up, so we will have to wait for the investigators to report more findings.

Tom

 

Superintendent, High Plains Division (O Gauge) 

The Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Co.

Lone Star Hi-Railers

Santa Fe, All the Way

I read that the first crew had complained they were having problems controlling train speed prior to stopping. So who knows what went on. The data recorders might tell the tale.  CP management doesn't look too good in all this.  And they talk about crewless trains running the rails !!!

Earlier posts had mentioned the possibility of reversing the engines and applying power to hold the train while recharging.  That's an old trick that sometimes worked and other times did not.  I have used it, but that was before there were sophisticated event recorders on locomotives.

However, you cannot do it with AC locomotives.  If the train moved forward at all, then the AC locomotives would unload.  Not sure if there were AC locomotives in use in this instance.

Tom

 

Superintendent, High Plains Division (O Gauge) 

The Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Co.

Lone Star Hi-Railers

Santa Fe, All the Way

As RICKO said in an earlier post, "that must be a nice job, sit in the cab and watch the scenery go by", this accident happening in the Alberta - British Columbia boundary area, without a doubt, one of the must beautiful locations in the world, makes this seem all that much more out of place and improbable.

Number 90 posted:
wb47 posted:

Assuming a 70 car train, about how long would it take to set the hand brakes on all of the cars?

If the terrain along the right of way was flat and clear of obstructions, at least three minutes per car.  It would take longer if the crew member applying the hand brakes had to contend with:

  • deep snow
  • bad footing from ice, or uneven terrain
  • accumulated ice on the equipment
  • ice within the hand brake mechanism of individual cars
  • the physical condition of the employee
  • any of the cars having stopped inside of a tunnel with a locomotive also in the tunnel

If another employee with a vehicle could have assisted by driving alongside the train with the crew member who was to apply the hand brakes, it would have been faster than walking the entire length of the train.  But, apparently, nobody even began this, and that "why" is puzzling.  

Something does not add up, so we will have to wait for the investigators to report more findings.

This was a 112 car train.  At a rate of 3 minutes per car in good conditions it would take 336 minutes or just over 5 hours to set the hand brakes for the entire train unless the crew had some help.  Add another 5 hours to release the hand brakes following the air brake tests, this train would be sitting for 10 plus hours before it could start down the hill.  It is interesting to learn how slowly everything moves in real railroading.  NH Joe

Big Jim posted

What about a Top Gun program where some of the best in the field teach, if they have the later skill.   Ha!  The RR's have no idea what that is! Even with the tools that they developed, they fumbled the ball from the get-go! With "Safety is of first importance in the discharge of duty" is the motto of the day, the RR's turned their back on proper training! It is sinful in the way that the RR's would not let the knowledgeable engineers instruct their trainee's correctly!

 

 

Jim; without getting into specifics; one shortcoming I see with the way things are done now is the tendency for some officer’s to use every infraction - however minor, as an excuse to terminate rather than coach.  Tom (Number 90) has noted different times over the years in his posts how he always tried to turn minor issues into a “coaching opportunity” rather than a “gotcha”.  (I’ll add this is one of the reasons I have come to have so much respect for the opinions he articulates on this forum.)

I am also aware that there are times during the on the job training period where a CT is told by a more experienced conductor or engineer to do something differently than what is laid out in the book of rules and this goes to your point about railroads not allowing knowledgeable people to instruct their trainees properly.

The problem is the “gotcha” mentality displayed by many officers, serves as an impediment to a trainee actually being able absorb the guidance provided by the old heads.  I don’t see where having men and women constantly in fear of being the target of some arbitrary disciplinary action does anything to improve the safety culture within the operating environment.  In fact; I believe it has the exact opposite affect.

Curt

I think 3 minutes is a little on the long side, I'm now 75 and still could tie on a hand brake is about a minute or so .   Crews don't have to climb to the top of the car anymore.    Engine hand brakes may take a little longer.

However how would like to show up for work in really COLD WEATHER  and the first thing you have to do is tie on a hundred hand brakes. After the train line is charged ,  a brake application   applied,   release the 100 hand brakes  you just tied on.. .  

I don't know what the answer is..... More engines for braking power?, retainers.?  I wonder how many engines it would take to hold this train  with either the independent or dynamic   with the train  brakes released.

 I believe CN & CP  do not use the metric system for mileage or speed.  There was some reference to  excessive speed  at 32  kilometres  per hour, That is  only  about 18 miles per hour.

From the Lac Megantic fiasco if the train is stopped on the level or slight grade all the hand brakes don't have to be applied only on steep grades.  Why did the train stop at the top of a 2% grade?   Emergency ?? I read the train sat there for 2 hrs before the relief showed up. Today the operating Ratio is more important than common sense safety

Gregg posted:

I think 3 minutes is a little on the long side, I'm now 75 and still could tie on a hand brake is about a minute or so .   Crews don't have to climb to the top of the car anymore.    Engine hand brakes may take a little longer.

However how would like to show up for work in really COLD WEATHER  and the first thing you have to do is tie on a hundred hand brakes. After the train line is charged ,  a brake application   applied,   release the 100 hand brakes  you just tied on.. .  

I don't know what the answer is..... More engines for braking power?, retainers.?  I wonder how many engines it would take to hold this train  with either the independent or dynamic   with the train  brakes released.

 I believe CN & CP  do not use the metric system for mileage or speed.  There was some reference to  excessive speed  at 32  kilometres  per hour, That is  only  about 18 miles per hour.

The train had 112 loaded grain cars and 3 engines.   Another post said it is CP policy to set the hand brakes on all the cars when a train is stopped on the hill for any length of time.  At 1 minute per car plus the engines to set the hand brakes, it would take 115 minutes or 1 hour 55 minutes.

This accident happened at 1 am in the morning and an earlier post said the temperature was -36 C which converts to -33 F.  That is cold even if there is no snow and the wind isn't blowing.  Working continually for 2 hours plus under these conditions would be very difficult.  It seems as if the new crew was faced with an almost impossible task to set all the hand brakes, do the required brake tests, and then release the hand brakes to get the train going.

Another post said the train was going at 47 mph when it derailed and that the speed limit for freight trains is 20 mph on this section of track.

NH Joe

I have some questions for the forum railroaders.  Is it a usual practice for a crew that is going out of service between terminals to leave the train before the relief crew arrives?  If so, do trains usually sit for several hours before the relief crew arrives?  I have never understood why a railroad would leave a train unattended with the engines running.  This happened with the Quebec accident.  

How does the off-going crew communicate the train's status to the relief crew - by radio, log left in the cab, leave information about the train with the dispatcher, etc.?  I think the relief crew would want to know about any mechanical or electrical problems with the train, whether or not the hand brakes have been set and on how many cars, fuel status, are there any quirks with running the train, train weight, number of cars in the train, etc.?

NH Joe

All speculation of course, but imagine if the new crew had arrived say 15 minutes later. By then the train may have already started to move on its own and all they would have been able to do is watch. 3 lives would have been spared which is good. Possibly though the train would have gained a higher speed earlier (due to no dynamic braking) and mostly derailed in the upper spiral tunnel. This would likely have posed a much more difficult extraction and cleanup operation than CP now has, with the wrecked cars out in the open and right beside the Trans Canada highway. Just theorizing.

Lac Megantic was a chain of several contributing events as I recall. The previous crew had left the train running and a faulty turbo caught fire. Someone called 911 and the fire department arrived, shut off the engine, put out the fire and left. Without the engine running the air pressure slowly bled off and the train started moving downgrade.

Rod

We are never too old to learn something stupid....

New Haven Joe posted:

I have some questions for the forum railroaders.  Is it a usual practice for a crew that is going out of service between terminals to leave the train before the relief crew arrives?

Yes, when properly secured.

 If so, do trains usually sit for several hours before the relief crew arrives?

It can indeed happen, maybe even more than "several hours" for a coal or grain train, since their commodity is not considered perishable.

 I have never understood why a railroad would leave a train unattended with the engines running.  This happened with the Quebec accident.

Not all that uncommon, but then once the train is PROPERLY tied down, many times the units are shut down if long sit times are anticipated. 

How does the off-going crew communicate the train's status to the relief crew - by radio, log left in the cab, leave information about the train with the dispatcher, etc.?

That may well be the sixty four thousand dollar question in this mess!

 I think the relief crew would want to know about any mechanical or electrical problems with the train, whether or not the hand brakes have been set and on how many cars, fuel status, are there any quirks with running the train, train weight, number of cars in the train, etc.?

One would certainly think so!

NH Joe

 

This is an excerpt from CBC News.  I wasn't able to get the link to work.

"Transport Canada has ordered new safety measures following Monday's fatal Canadian Pacific derailment near Field, B.C.

Trains must now apply handbrakes during emergency stops on all grades over 1.8 per cent, according to an order issued Friday afternoon from Transport Minister Marc Garneau.

The train went off the track at Mile 130.6 of the Laggan Subdivision, between the Upper and the Lower Spiral Tunnel, at about 1 a.m.

The temperature was around –20 C. 

The Transportation Safety Board said the train gained speed well in excess of the 32 km/h maximum for the tight curves on the route.  The TSB is the lead federal agency responsible for investigating rail accidents. 

The Spiral Tunnels, built in 1909 to reduce track grade, are still one of the steepest sections of track in North America with a grade of 2.2 per cent.

Dockrell, Paradis and Waldenberger-Bulmer were all members of TCRC. They had just boarded the train, which was parked with its emergency brakes activated for two hours above the steep descent to the spiral tunnels. They were preparing to take over when it started moving on its own.

"It was not anything the crew did. The train started to move on its own," TSB senior investigator James Carmichael said earlier this week. "We're going to try to determine why the brakes didn't stay in place.""

NH Joe

Gregg posted:

I think 3 minutes is a little on the long side, I'm now 75 and still could tie on a hand brake is about a minute or so .   Crews don't have to climb to the top of the car anymore.    Engine hand brakes may take a little longer.

I think I over-estimated the time for each car, Gregg, you're right.  I was thinking about a man in Arctic clothing that impaired movement somewhat.  Probably, if there were no intervening bridges and the footing was good, and the brake wheels could have been reached from the ground, it would have taken between an hour and an hour and a half.

Tom

 

Superintendent, High Plains Division (O Gauge) 

The Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Co.

Lone Star Hi-Railers

Santa Fe, All the Way

Dynamic braking after the runaway began was mentioned.  Here's a little more uncertainty to those of us speculating from the warmth of our homes and not directly involved in the investigation.

When an emergency air brake application occurs, the pneumatic control switch (PC Switch) opens a circuit and interrupts the ability of the locomotive to produce power.  Virtually all large locomotives are equipped with the PC Switch feature.

Here's where the uncertainty enters:  It is entirely up to the individual railroad's Mechanical Department whether or not the opening of the PC Switch will also interrupt dynamic braking if the emergency air brake application occurs while the locomotive is in dynamic braking rather than pulling.  There are two trains of thought.

The reason for the open PC Switch to interrupt dynamic braking is to avoid slid flat wheels if the Engineer does not quickly bail off (using the independent brake handle) any buildup of locomotive air braking that would -- when combined with dynamic braking -- exceed the ability of the wheels to maintain traction.  Then the locomotives have no braking at all, when being pushed by a train.  To further complicate things, some railroads also equip their locomotives with dynamic brake interlock, which prevents any locomotive brake buildup from train brake applications, including emergency braking.  Again, some have it, and some don't.

The reason for not having the PC Switch interrupt dynamic braking is that dynamic braking is much more powerful than locomotive air brakes, and is more useful in stopping a heavy train.  If the couplers are compressed by dynamic braking throughout the train, and an emergency brake application occurs, you do not want slack to run out while the train is stopping, as other problems can result.

So, you can see that there are two valid ways to do it, and railroads are divided as to their choices.

So, we do not know whether dynamic braking was available to the second crew.  If the PC Switch had to be re-set in order to get dynamic braking working, then the only way to do it is to move the automatic brake valve to Release*, and that would also release whatever brake cylinder pressure remained on the cars.  That would have been a suicidal decision, but sometimes it's difficult to clearly think out the best decision, and this would have been a bell that could not be un-rung.

*  Older, non-electronic, 26-C automatic brake valves could re-set the PC Switch by being placed in the Suppression or Handle-Off positions on some railroads' locomotives, but, on others Release was required.  This whole thing about whether dynamic braking was available to the second crew comes down to this:

Maybe they had available dynamic braking, and maybe they did not.  But, either way, without adequate air braking, they were not going to make it to the bottom of the grade without a derailment or collision.

Tom

 

Superintendent, High Plains Division (O Gauge) 

The Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Co.

Lone Star Hi-Railers

Santa Fe, All the Way

Tom,
A recovery from an emergency induced "PC" on 26L brake equipment can be reset simply by moving the brake handle from "Emergency" back past the "Handle Off" detent (provided that the throttle handle was moved to "Idle). I am going to guess that the units involved didn't have this type of brake valve.
One thing that I taught my trainees was that if the train did go into emergency, never move the brake handle to the "Emergency" position until the train came to a complete stop. This was done so as not to lose the use of the Power/DB as the case may warrant.

Whether it takes 1 minute or 3 minutes to tie on a brake  doesn't really matter. No one tied any on.  Your last  reply re Dynamic  braking and DPU units) is exactly what I was trying to get at and understand. Thank you.   ( Deadly and scary railroading)

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