Claim says 'Cascades' trainset in fatal accident had electrical defect

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Bob

Forum Host
Staff member
#1
TACOMA, Wash. — A claim filed Thursday on behalf of a passenger injured in last year’s derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train near DuPont, Wash., says that the trainset involved had electrical problems that prevented it from braking properly.

The derailment in December 2017 killed three and injuring more than 60. [See "Amtrak Cascades’ train derails onto Washington highway,” Trains News Wire, Dec. 18, 2017.] It occurred on the first Cascades trip using a new route, the Point Defiance Bypass.

Full story:
http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wir...inset-in-fatal-accident-had-electrical-defect
 

Bob

Forum Host
Staff member
#2
The accident investigation has not yet been completed, and until then, we will not have a definitive cause. Keep that in mind.

Currently it certainly appears the main cause will be "loss of situational awareness" on the part of the engineer. Could there be mechanical factors like the electrical problem that contributed to the accident, or that prevented the train from slowing as quickly as it possibly could have? We'll see what the investigation has to say once it's completed.
 
#3
The accident investigation has not yet been completed, and until then, we will not have a definitive cause. Keep that in mind.

Currently it certainly appears the main cause will be "loss of situational awareness" on the part of the engineer. Could there be mechanical factors like the electrical problem that contributed to the accident, or that prevented the train from slowing as quickly as it possibly could have? We'll see what the investigation has to say once it's completed.
When discussing railroad accidents, keep in mind that the probable cause or causes are known long before the government agency releases its findings. Railroad officials conduct their own investigations, beginning with the initial report of the accident and beyond depending on the complexity of the cause. Railroad officials, (including Amtrak), do not share their findings with the media or government.

It is quite conceivable, that there may have been an electronic issue, that is still being examined. Operator failure is the most obvious probable cause. However, as with the Frankford Junction Amtrak accident several years ago, the Government Agency's report may be inconclusive.

Boris
 

Bob

Forum Host
Staff member
#4
Boris, generally speaking, I agree. However, there's a TV show about airplane accidents and the resulting investigations. Now, obviously they pick the interesting and challenging ones, but it's amazing how what appears to be an obvious answer can end up not being the case at all.

Of course, in this case the engineer's statement pretty much makes it a forgone conclusion as to what the major contributing factor will be.
 

TCJim

Handler and Palm Reader
#5
What will be of interest in the report, given the engineer's statement that he missed the first speed restriction sign and subsequently (possibly) mis-interpreting the second one (at the curve) as the first, is .... Why?

They've already 'checked off' the 'No Cell Phone in use', 'No Drugs or Alcohol' and 'Not Distracted by the qualifying conductor' boxes, as it were.

So what contributed to that loss of situational awareness?

It's amazing to listen to people who think that it's just like driving, and that speed signs are like the warning signs on a highway.
One does not just 'see how fast they can take this curve' like they were some sort of Formula 1 driver.

Everyone wants immediate answers, and it's important they exercise due diligence finding the reason, because it's important the 'fix' doesn't create its own problems.
 
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Bob

Forum Host
Staff member
#6
I’ll be interested to see if cab design plays a roll. It appears the huge pillars on each side would create significant blind spots. I’ve not been on board one to see if that was the case.
 
#7
I have this bad habit, of offering anecdotal situations that really don't make much sense, although I have experienced them in real life. Take the Acela equipment, for instance. Back in 2002 and for a time after, this equipment was undergoing acceptance testing not only on the Main Lines between DC and NYP, but also on the Harrisburg Line, which was then limited to a top speed of 90 MPH. The Harrisburg line had several sharp curves, similar in scope to the one at Frankford Jct where # 186 accelerated into a 50 MPH curve and wrecked. Those curves are in the vicinity of Merion, Rosemont, Radnor, Berwyn and the two curves near Gap, and range between to 65 MPH. The Acela, with working tilt mechanism, was tested at considerably higher than posted speed, testing various compoents and trying to push this equipment to its limits without wrecking it.

Isn't the Cascade trainset also equipped with tlt mechanism, to allow faster than normal operation on curves?

The control cabs, were conventional passenger service diesels, were they not? P42s really don't have a blind spot, as I recall. And, I have run them, with train at 110 MPH. The biggest problem with the P42 is of course, GE's patented slow acceleration. Never ran the EMD version, so I cannot comment there.

Loss of situational awareness is a very broad condition, which could include the engineer's loss of orientation, not being familiar with the territory or something more sinister. It could be brought on by a radio transmission, or some other distraction. Also, if the speed restriction is a permanent physical characteristic, an advance speed sign would in all likelihood, not be present. They are more common on a temporary restriction. Either way, an engineer is not supposed to blow a speed restriction.

Wonder, if the electronic issue was a failed tilt mechanism? Just thinking out loud from 3000 miles to the East.

Boris
 
#8
The Talgo trainsets are indeed (passive) tilting; I don't think any of the locomotives used with it are tilting. I assume the 'transitional' cars with fairings are at least partially tilting where axles are shared with an adjacent car. The reason for this is primarily passenger comfort, so far as I think I know. It was the lead locomotive (Siemens Charger) that promptly hopped off the sharp curve (it's 30 mph for a reason) and pulled the trainset with it until the forces pulled apart two of the cars (possibly an engineered breakpoint?). Does anyone know offhand what the degree of curvature was? 30 mph might be pushing the limits for non-tilting cars, especially double-deckers.

At 80 mph, it's hard to imagine a workable passenger train and locomotive design, no matter how low profile and even with active tilting, managing that curve. It might have passed safely at 50-60 mph, but severely tossed the passengers about.
 
#9
The Talgo trainsets are indeed (passive) tilting; ...

At 80 mph, it's hard to imagine a workable passenger train and locomotive design, no matter how low profile and even with active tilting, managing that curve. It might have passed safely at 50-60 mph, but severely tossed the passengers about.
Exactly! And a qualified Engineer is supposed to know where the 30MPH curves are at, and comply with the restriction, not taking it at 50MPH faster than maximum permitted speed. The cause is the locomotive operator operating his train at speeds in excess of the maximum authorized speed.

In the absence of any mitigating circumstance, there is no other cause possible. And we don't need to wait a year to establish this cause.

I wonder if the Siemens diesel has the same electronics as the Siemens Motor?
 

BNSFEng

Locomotive Engineer!!!
#10
Being an engineer that runs commuters to work and home M-F, there has been a time or two over the last 14 years, that I've had to slow down (before PTC) when I thought I was one place but realized I'm at another. My internal clock warned me to act NOW. At 79 - 80 MPH those miles fly by at 45 seconds. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that too much time had gone by for the next milepost that he was expecting. This engineer was relatively young with a little over four years qualified and having only run the new route, I believe he did it three times and rode a few more. He said he knew the curve was ahead. He just didn't respond properly (massive braking action) when he got lost and TOO much time had gone by. Whether the trailing P42's dynamics were working or not is a moot point since they usually run with just one engine and a old F40PH as a cab car so they didn't have to have the P42 on line at all.
 



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