I don’t often feel the need to defend our industry’s regulator, the Federal Railroad Administration. Part of that is me. Like many who have stumbled into a career in this industry (and I literally stumbled my way into railroad employment, half-blinded and three-quarters frozen by a blizzard in Chicago), I’ve always had a problem with authority. Not that I begrudge anyone his or her authority, title, rate of pay—any of that stuff. I just don’t like other people telling me what to do, and I positively hate it when others think they need to tell me what to do.
I chuckle sometimes these days. Chuckling, in some circles is considered to be an indication of maturity, of wisdom. Those circles don’t include me, and they don’t mean me. Chuckling is that kind of half-wry, half-sad, half-surprised, half-jaded response—and that’s two many halves.
FINANCIAL EDGE, RAILWAY AGE SEPTEMBER 2019 ISSUE: On Aug. 14, the ESPN show ¿Highly Questionable? showed a video clip of a skateboarder sliding underneath a moving passenger locomotive, riding the rail on the skateboard and then sliding back out from underneath the train before the second wheelset (1). (The clip can be seen starting at about 16:30 into the video.) The hosts were suitably shocked and aghast over the audacity of the act of sliding underneath a locomotive and unsurprisingly thoughtless about the carelessness of the rider.
We’re celebrating a whole lot this year. We’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, recognizing the right of women to vote. I know a few of us are celebrating the 155th anniversary of Sherman’s March to the Sea, breaking the back of the Slaveholders’ Rebellion.
“According to the BNSF employment records for the 52-year old male striking train engineer, a pre-employment physical examination and health questionnaire dated June 28, 1994, identified no significant medical conditions.” Hold that thought.
In the wake of the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report on the 2017 Amtrak Cascades train 501 wreck on the Point Defiance bypass near DuPont, Wash., that killed three and injured 57, WSDOT (Washington State DOT) said it “will work with Amtrak to follow the NTSB recommendation to remove the [Cascades service] Talgo Series 6 trainsets from service as soon as possible.”
Failure to provide an effective mitigation method for a hazardous curve and inadequate training of a locomotive engineer is what led to the derailment of an Amtrak passenger train that hurtled off a railroad bridge and onto a busy highway in DuPont, Wash., on the morning of Dec. 18, 2017, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Timely accident investigations are critical to the future of safe transportation operations, for a number of reasons. First, they must begin expeditiously. As the clock runs, evidence can deteriorate or become corrupted. Witness memories of events fade, sometimes to the detriment of actual fact-finding. Second, the search for cause factors and efforts to remediate are delayed, leaving people and property at risk of more accidents and incidents caused by the same risk factors. Third, as time passes, other accidents and incidents demand investigation, putting a strain on investigatory resources.
Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono, writing about the most recent congressional hearing on Positive Train Control, as well as attempts by some Members of Congress to arm-twist the Federal Railroad Administration on granting exemptions, opined, “I’ve said it before many times, but it’s always worth repeating: Politics should not be involved in safety. Why engage in politics at this stage of the game? What is the agenda here? Who or what is behind this?”
A June derailment that spilled crude oil in Iowa involved older tank cars retrofitted to newer safety standards, federal investigators found.