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Western Railroad Discussion > Trains and Thunderstorms


Date: 05/31/23 20:33
Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: RailDawg

When you see you're heading into a true gully-washer of a thunderstorm with your train what actions do you take?

Have learned not to assume anything in railroading.  Am curious how things are handled when the storm is going full-blast. 

Chuck



Date: 05/31/23 21:57
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: callum_out

And you get like what happened just West of the Kingman station when you had a foot plus over the rails without a
gully in sight. I notice on both Mojave Subs that the weather forecasts are really taken to heart and warnings issued
before the tracks go under water.

Out 



Date: 05/31/23 22:50
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: MrMRL

Storm ahead? Signal Indication! Just muscle right on through it. (If you can get through copying all the Severe Weather Restriction warnings from the DS...)


I do believe one of the gnarliest lightning storms I was ever in (outside of tornadic) was as a sleepy passenger in the sightseer lounge of a Westbound Amtrak SW Chief in rural Kansas late overnight in July 2005... it was absolute strobe lights and waterfalls outside the curved windows as we rattled along the stick rails somewhere near Dodge City at 50-60 mph... I'll never forget that trip.


~ Mr. MRL



Date: 06/01/23 00:25
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: Texican65

Ya storms are great to watch from the cab…until you have to get out in it…or have to copy a flash flood warning and go restricted speed for 60 miles…or the roof starts leaking on your paperwork.



Date: 06/01/23 04:43
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: engineerinvirginia

Signal Indication until you either get where you are going or you encounter a situation where the rules say stop (as in water over the rail and so on) No sense making a mountain out of a molehill. To illustrate, we had a Derecho storm hit us while we head down a mountain with empties, 12 or 13 years ago. We didn't know how big it was but we just kept going...hit over 200 trees and bashed the front of the engine in so that we had to go out the back door. But we didn't derail...the signals didn't go out and we made it to our destination. The dispatcher did know how bad it was because we told him. But we told we were going on to the yard too. 



Date: 06/01/23 05:33
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: FiestaFoamer

MrMRL Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I do believe one of the gnarliest lightning storms
> I was ever in (outside of tornadic) was as a
> sleepy passenger in the sightseer lounge of a
> Westbound Amtrak SW Chief in rural Kansas late
> overnight in July 2005... it was absolute strobe
> lights and waterfalls outside the curved windows
> as we rattled along the stick rails somewhere near
> Dodge City at 50-60 mph... I'll never forget that
> trip.
>
>
> ~ Mr. MRL

Had a very similar experience on the Chief in Kansas in... I think it was August, 2009. I won't forget it, either -- absolutely sublime.

 



Date: 06/01/23 09:19
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: WW

I've lived in several pretty thunderstorm-prone locales, but central Kansas and Oklahoma, and down into north Texas are pure nirvana for thunderstorm and lightning aficionados.  That swath of the country has very high lightning strike density per square mile, coupled with the fact that, unlike many areas of the U.S., lightning-rich thunderstorms are most common during the nighttime hours in that region.  I've seen Kansas nighttime thunderstorms where visible lighting flashes were occurring every 2-3 seconds--better than any fireworks show.  Combining railfan and lightning photography is difficult in the extreme, but the results can be pretty captivating.  An excellent resource for determining average lightning density in a county is the Vaisala Lightning Density Map found here:  https://interactive-lightning-map.vaisala.com/ 

As to trains and weather, most Class I railroads use contract meteorological services to predict and observe weather conditions and storms.  They will relay potential hazards to the railroad and the railroad will instruct trains accordingly.  



Date: 06/01/23 09:23
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: RailDawg

Dumb question but when going into say some heavy T-storm crosswinds is it better to slow your train down or keep the momentum going?

Chuck



Date: 06/01/23 09:35
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: sfbrkmn

WW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I've lived in several pretty thunderstorm-prone
> locales, but central Kansas and Oklahoma, and down
> into north Texas are pure nirvana for thunderstorm
> and lightning aficionados.  That swath of the
> country has very high lightning strike density per
> square mile, coupled with the fact that, unlike
> many areas of the U.S., lightning-rich
> thunderstorms are most common during the nighttime
> hours in that region.  I've seen Kansas nighttime
> thunderstorms where visible lighting flashes were
> occurring every 2-3 seconds--better than any
> fireworks show.  Combining railfan and lightning
> photography is difficult in the extreme, but the
> results can be pretty captivating.  An excellent
> resource for determining average lightning density
> in a county is the Vaisala Lightning Density Map
> found
> here:  https://interactive-lightning-map.vaisala
> .com/ 
>
> As to trains and weather, most Class I railroads
> use contract meteorological services to predict
> and observe weather conditions and storms.  They
> will relay potential hazards to the railroad and
> the railroad will instruct trains accordingly.  
Accu Weather. Used to be based @ Wichita & owned by former tv weatherman, Mike Smith, who I believe is a TO members and had authored a couple of very good books which covers rr severe storm warnings

Posted from iPhone



Date: 06/01/23 12:51
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: engineerinvirginia

On CSX we can be given wind warnings but this is so rare we have to ask what they want us to do should those winds develop. The usual response is "do like you always do....keep her stretched and signal indication west!"



Date: 06/01/23 12:54
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: callum_out

Out in this end of the world it's stop and hold, aka I can see my house from here!

Out 



Date: 06/01/23 13:07
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: P

Got caught in a brand new rental car in one of these storms in central Kansas coming back to Indiana from a trip to Big Bend and the Cumbres & Toltec. I cannot believe the hail did not destroy this car as it was deafening- and we had nowhere to go. This Indiana boy has seen some thunderstorms, but nothing like this one.

Posted from Android



Date: 06/01/23 16:19
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: WW

P Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Got caught in a brand new rental car in one of
> these storms in central Kansas coming back to
> Indiana from a trip to Big Bend and the Cumbres &
> Toltec. I cannot believe the hail did not destroy
> this car as it was deafening- and we had nowhere
> to go. This Indiana boy has seen some
> thunderstorms, but nothing like this one.
>
> Posted from Android

Storm chasers refer to big hail (golfball-size and larger) as "gorilla hail" in current weather slang.  Most of Tornado Alley can get gorilla hail on occasion, but the area most prone to gorilla hail is actually in what is referred to as "Hail Alley"--about a 200 mile wide strip from just east of the Front Range of the Rockies, southward from Cheyenne, Wyoming, through Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo in Colorado, thence southward into the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandle.  The meteorological reason for this is that the large hail from supercell thunderstorms of the Great Plains--due to the higher elevation of Hail Alley--has shorter distance to fall before hitting the ground and temperatures near the ground are often somewhat lower than farther east.  The result is that big hail tends to melt less in Hail Alley before it hits the ground (or your car, or you, or anything else).  The hailstorm that hit Denver on July 11, 1990 did over $600 million in damage, the most expensive single hailstorm in American history up to that time. Then, on May 8, 2017, that record was broken by another Denver hailstorm, with damages totaling a staggering $2.3 billion. In most of Tornado Alley, the most common months for big hail are May and June, however, along the Front Range in Colorado and eastern Wyoming, big hail can occur in July and August, as well.  People who haven't experienced big hail can be shocked at what it can do.  Golfball and bigger hail can literally total an automobile that is not under some kind of shelter.  It can also severely injure or kill people or animals caught in it without shelter.  Plains residents get used to looking for "hail shafts" in thunderstorms, and, if possible, attempting to avoid them when driving.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/01/23 16:23 by WW.



Date: 06/01/23 20:55
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: JasonCNW

Back in the early 1980's a westbound train was leaving Boone headed into a thunderstorm, rear part of their train TOFC loads got blown off the Kate Shelley high bridge. Rear end crew was safe in the waycar it stayed on the rails.

Bridge took some damage from the falling rail cars and trailers but was fairly quickly repaired.
JC

Posted from Android



Date: 06/01/23 21:04
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: BoilingMan

Working on the Capitol Corridor our biggest weather threat was tornadoes.
Huh?
More than once we had to stop our train until the tornado warning ended (in Omaha) and the dispatcher could come back to his desk.
SR

Try explaining THAT to passengers…



Date: 06/02/23 06:50
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: ns1000

RailDawg Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Dumb question but when going into say some heavy
> T-storm crosswinds is it better to slow your train
> down or keep the momentum going?
>
> Chuck


Under most circumstances, just keep going. The storm will pass.....and yes, hope you don't have to go for a "walk"....

Of course, the best case scenario is sitting at a stop signal when a storm approaches. Just sit back and watch the light show.

Posted from Android



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/02/23 07:13 by ns1000.



Date: 06/02/23 10:11
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: TAW

Then there was, in Olden Tymes, working in a tower in storms. Towers with mechanical machines have lots of holes in them for the pipelines and a huge open space under the interlocking machine. There were storms during which it was windy inside too, even with the windows closed. Wind so strong you could feel the tower moving. Hail as loud as a train on the diamonds at 40 mph. One afternoon at 75th Street, the dispatcher asked me if the third main  (really a siding) between 79th Street and 75th Street was clear. It's only four blocks, but I couldn't tell because it was raining so hard that I couldn't see more than about five carlengths, let alond four blocks. Going out to hand up orders regardless.

One night at B&OCT C&A tower (Summit IL-B&OCT/IHB crossing GM&O) there was a storm with torrential ranl, giant hail, and winds so strong the double hung windows were rattling and the wind coming up out of the machine was pretty strong. I opened the windows a bit on the lee side of the tower (used to hear that doing that would equalize the pressure in a tornado and reduce the likelihood of the tornado tearing the building up if it passed close by, don't know if that is current knowledge). There was the unmistakable smell of potential tornado in the air. I remarked about the possibility to the operator at Argo, about 60 carlengths away. Evacuate? To where? We were out of hearing range of any sirens, so it was just stand by and fine out.When the sun came up, the Old Yard between C&A and Argo was littered with turned over boxcars. The tornado had passed between us as we were talking about there might be one.

That was the day this happened: https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?11,3684088,3684092#3684092

Read the thread all the way down.

TAW



Date: 06/02/23 11:18
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: LocoPilot750

Our lead unit got struck by lightning years ago on a westbound between the switches at Matfield Green. A bright, hissing crackling noise, more than a boom. Engine died instantly, air filters caught fire, wouldn't crank. Would still control, so finished the trip to Wellington.

Posted from Android



Date: 06/02/23 23:37
Re: Trains and Thunderstorms
Author: RailDawg

If the visibility goes to zilch in heavy rain what are the requirements?

The whole you-have-to be-able-to-stop-in-half-the-distance-restricted-speed thing?

Chuck



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