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Western Railroad Discussion > Question about Conductor Duties


Date: 09/15/08 07:02
Question about Conductor Duties
Author: 3rail

Having ridden the Metrolink many times while living in California, I always noticed that the conductor is a very busy person, doing paperwork, tending to passengers, verifying tickets, etc. I don't remember one verifying signals called to them by the engineer. In the case of the Chatsworth accident, the train had just left the station so I would assume the conductor was preparing to check tickets.
With all their duties, how are they suppose to verify signals called to them by the engineer? Seems to me they'd have to be very vigilant to see a signal pass by the window at even a slow speed, never mind at 79 MPH.



Date: 09/15/08 07:13
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: trainmaster3

The point of the communication of signals from the engineer to the conductor, and then the conductor repeating or verifying the transmission back to the engineer, is to serve as a double check, make sure the conductor is informed and involved in that aspect of the trains operations, as well as providing him/her with pertinent info involving delays in track speed/or stopping. It may also provide recorded data for investigators, assuming that the recording system picks up these back and forth communications between the C&E as an additional backup to the systems that record electronic data of the operation of the train(event recorders, etc.). These communications would not require the conductor to see the displayed signal, only to relay or be relayed to, the information regarding their aspects displayed and to ensure that the engineer complies with them.



Date: 09/15/08 07:32
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: P5r24

Best thing here is to hire a ticket collector/passerger attendent crew member to stay back in the cars and allow the conductor stay in the front end (engine or cab car) with the Engineer so they can run the train together.

The cost for a 3rd crew member (both $ wise and loss of life) would far less than the current set-up.

P5r24



Date: 09/15/08 08:08
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: webmaster

Metrolink conductors are indeed very busy. Besides checking tickets they spend a great deal of time on the intercom. They are almost constantly talking. When they approach a station they announce that, when they get to a station they announce that, when they are closing the doors they announce that, when they get moving they announce the next station stop. They also make comments about buying next months pass, keeping your feet off the seats, etc. After each stop they log passengers counts for the stop, and departure times. Keep in mind this is a commuter railroad and the stations are a few minutes apart. I do not see how any human could do all this and adequately supervise the train's movement.

Another problem at Metrolink is they do not have many employees. All the crews are employed by a contractor. When Amtrak had the contract, one engineer told me that if you complained about an issue you risked being transferred back to Amtrak at Metrolink's request. The commuter train gig was a good paying assignment due to the Monday thru Friday operation, long good paying hours and some did not want to lose it.

Metrolink goes after its critics as we learned about last May when they tried to get a domain back for a site that was critical of their operation: http://www.laweekly.com/2008-05-22/news/metrolink-tries-to-censor-bloggers While Metrolink management practices was not the direct cause of this accident, their style of management in my opinion contributed to the conditions that allowed this chain of events to take place.

Todd Clark
Canyon Country, CA
Trainorders.com



Date: 09/15/08 08:23
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: BNSFCajon

Most of the SPECULATION here about Metrolink C&E communication is in error. It can be so subtle that the casual observer would think they never talk to each other. Next time you ride Metrolink really look & listen.



Date: 09/15/08 08:27
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: P5r24

Thank you Todd,

and very well said.

P5r24



Date: 09/15/08 10:10
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: BNSFCajon

The conductor always hiballs the Metrolink trains, either w/ hand signal &/or by radio. Normal stops for Metrolink is 45 seconds & Amtrak 2 minutes. And unless authorized by the dispatcher they can't leave before their scheduled departure time.



Date: 09/15/08 10:14
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: jst3751

P5r24 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Best thing here is to hire a ticket
> collector/passerger attendent crew member to stay
> back in the cars and allow the conductor stay in
> the front end (engine or cab car) with the
> Engineer so they can run the train together.
>
> The cost for a 3rd crew member (both $ wise and
> loss of life) would far less than the current
> set-up.
>
> P5r24

Conductors on passenger trains, from the beggining, have always been in the passenger comparments, not in the engine cab, AFAIK.



Date: 09/15/08 10:57
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: trainmaster3

jdb Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> "Kitty Higgins, a board member for the National
> Transportation Safety Board, says the recordings
> show the engineer and conductor called out and
> confirmed light signals along the route, but the
> tapes are missing calls for the last two lights
> the train passed just before the fiery wreck.
>
> "She says the last communication was recorded as
> the train passed a flashing yellow light.
>
> "The audio record went silent as the train passed
> a solid yellow light and then a red signal, which
> indicated the approach of another engine."
>
> I am assuming that they are reading the tape from
> the Metrolink engine. Am I to read this that the
> tape is also missing the "Hiball" radio
> transmission? Does that mean that the recording
> wasn't working the last few minutes? Wouldn't the
> tape recorders from the UP engine also receive the
> radio transmissions if they were close enough?
>
> jb

The recorder in question is linked to the wayside radio towers used for Dispatcher to Train communications. That the conductors transmissions from his handheld radio may not always be received by these towers is not surprising, one would think that most locomotive radio transmissions would be(higher power transmit). But, I also seem to recall the area that the train was in as being described as a "dead zone" for radio communications. How official this is I'm not sure.



Date: 09/15/08 11:07
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: bobs

On Caltrain, the conductor buzzes the engineer when it is OK to leave the station stop. They push a button located at every door, two short buzzes. It is the conductor's job to make sure everyone got on or off and isn't holding a door open, that all doors actually closed, and then they buzz. They can also hiball via radio, but don't always. If Metrolink uses the same system, then there wouldn't be a recording of the conductor telling the engineer it was OK to leave the station.



Date: 09/15/08 11:58
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: sfericsf

When I learned there was only the engineer and ONE conductor on the train of ~250 passengers, I was a little shocked. I've always seen at least two on the Capitol Corridors (one is an AC) and I think I've always seen at least two on Caltrain. (I could be wrong about that.)

I agree with Todd. That's all too much for one person to handle. Especially when you've got passengers asking you questions and perhaps you're having to deal with medical problems with a passenger, fights over seats, etc., etc.



Date: 09/15/08 12:10
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: RD10747

Our experience on the San Berdoo line is that the Condr is
many times at his 'desk' in the lower level of the cab car.
We travel with luggage so we ride there. Practically all the time
when he is there, he is communicating with the Engr..Many many times during the 60 mi trip we hear the Engr call out a restricted
signal or some indication and the Skipper makes a complete
achknowledgment...



Date: 09/15/08 12:11
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: P5r24

jst3751 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> P5r24 Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Best thing here is to hire a ticket
> > collector/passerger attendent crew member to
> stay
> > back in the cars and allow the conductor stay
> in
> > the front end (engine or cab car) with the
> > Engineer so they can run the train together.
> >
> > The cost for a 3rd crew member (both $ wise and
> > loss of life) would far less than the current
> > set-up.
> >
> > P5r24
>
> Conductors on passenger trains, from the
> beggining, have always been in the passenger
> comparments, not in the engine cab, AFAIK.

Yes,

I realize that and good point for those who don't.

Since we don't have a Fireman in the cab with the Engineer anymore,
Lets get the boss up in the cab and let a third person by whatever title to tend to the passerger needs and issues.

It would be just like the jet planes you fly or we fly in.

P5r24



Date: 09/15/08 12:50
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: jst3751

P5r24 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Since we don't have a Fireman in the cab with the
> Engineer anymore,
> Lets get the boss up in the cab and let a third
> person by whatever title to tend to the passerger
> needs and issues.
>
> It would be just like the jet planes you fly or we
> fly in.
>
> P5r24


Actually what I would like to see is a 3rd person in the cab with the engineer, either a fireman or brakeman or something like that, leave the conductor in the passanger cars. Or even an assitant conductor. That way serveral things could be accomplished: That person will be another set of eyes, assit with copying of track warrants, and so forth.



Date: 09/15/08 13:51
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: camelot7unplugged

Working freight on the Seligman Sub and hearing Amtak radio communications many
times, what I know is they do not announce signals that are clear signals and I’m wondering
if this is the same on Metrolink? The conductor not receiving a signal announcement over
the radio on the last signal and assuming it was clear ?



Date: 09/15/08 18:31
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: stash

P5r24 Wrote:
-
> Since we don't have a Fireman in the cab with the
> Engineer anymore,
> Lets get the boss up in the cab and let a third
> person by whatever title to tend to the passerger
> needs and issues.


Won't happen. The trains lose money to begin with and adding employees would add to the losses making the service too costly to operate.



Date: 09/16/08 09:03
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: Crosstie-Walker

stash Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> P5r24 Wrote:
> -
> > Since we don't have a Fireman in the cab with
> the
> > Engineer anymore,
> > Lets get the boss up in the cab and let a third
> > person by whatever title to tend to the
> passerger
> > needs and issues.
>
>
> Won't happen. The trains lose money to begin with
> and adding employees would add to the losses
> making the service too costly to operate.

I'll bet that the cost of litigation that will result from this accident would far outweigh the cost of adding one more engine-rider to the Metrolink crews.



Date: 09/16/08 10:10
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: winchester

Crosstie-Walker Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> stash Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > P5r24 Wrote:
> > -
> > > Since we don't have a Fireman in the cab with
> > the
> > > Engineer anymore,
> > > Lets get the boss up in the cab and let a
> third
> > > person by whatever title to tend to the
> > passerger
> > > needs and issues.
> >
> >
> > Won't happen. The trains lose money to begin
> with
> > and adding employees would add to the losses
> > making the service too costly to operate.
>
> I'll bet that the cost of litigation that will
> result from this accident would far outweigh the
> cost of adding one more engine-rider to the
> Metrolink crews.


I get the feeling something like this would not have happened with two people in the cab.



Date: 09/17/08 15:19
Re: Question about Conductor Duties
Author: trainmaster3

winchester Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Crosstie-Walker Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > stash Wrote:
> >
> --------------------------------------------------
>
> > -----
> > > P5r24 Wrote:
> > > -
> > > > Since we don't have a Fireman in the cab
> with
> > > the
> > > > Engineer anymore,
> > > > Lets get the boss up in the cab and let a
> > third
> > > > person by whatever title to tend to the
> > > passerger
> > > > needs and issues.
> > >
> > >
> > > Won't happen. The trains lose money to begin
> > with
> > > and adding employees would add to the losses
> > > making the service too costly to operate.
> >
> > I'll bet that the cost of litigation that will
> > result from this accident would far outweigh
> the
> > cost of adding one more engine-rider to the
> > Metrolink crews.
>
>
> I get the feeling something like this would not
> have happened with two people in the cab.

That may be the case in this specific incident, but as has been noted in other posts where the same conclusions have been drawn, Freight railroads have experienced a number of collisions between trains in signalled territory with an Engineer, Conductor, and even a Brakeman in the locomotive cab. That's 3 people...



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