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Canadian Railroads > Our Lady of Perpetual Caution.


Date: 10/16/20 09:53
Our Lady of Perpetual Caution.
Author: eminence_grise

As a teenager, I spent many hours watching CN and CP trains pass through Dorval, a suburban station west of Montreal on the main lines of both railways.

We had learned to read signal indications, including the intermediate signal for Ballantyne which would indicate whether eastbound trains on the CN were going to enter Tascherau classification yard, or continue to Montreal Central station.  In those days, the CN was double track ABS as far as Dorval. I'm assuming there was an "OS Bell" which alerted the RTC (dispatcher) that there was an eastbound train approaching his CTC territory. 

Until the RTC knew what type of train was approaching the junction at Ballantyne, he/she would not line up the signals.

From our vantage point at Dorval, this meant that the intermediate signal for Ballantyne was usually at Approach (clear to stop), yellow over red.

One of our number was a Brit, and to him, this indication was "Caution", (same meaning as in North America) , Prepare to stop at the next signal.

Because this was the most frequent indication on the intermediate signal, we named it "Our Lady of Perpetual Caution".

When a passenger train was lined up, it would go to clear, and when a freight was lined up, it would go to Approach Medium (Clear to Medium),
yellow over green, pass next signal at medium speed.

Sometime in the 1970's, CN sold one of the Turbo trains to Amtrak. A large group of Amtrak officers came to Montreal to try out the Turbo train in the CN Montreal terminals.

The Turbo had a small operating cab, but the rest of the dome was a bar car. On the day of the test, the forward dome of the Turbo was crowded with CN and Amtrak officials, all talking loudly over the roar of the turbine engines.

Among the crowd was the engineer-pilot called to direct whoever was at the controls.  In Canada, it is common practice to call out the indications of signals between crew members in the operating cab.

The engineer pilot called out the signal indications, but although some of the officials in the dome responded, he noted that "Mister Important" Amtrak officer at the controls did not, and seemed annoyed at the engineer pilot for interrupting his conversation.

Evidently, there was a westbound "Our Lady of Eternal Caution" intermediate to Ballantyne as well. Another practice when encountering an "Approach" signal was to cease any conversation in the cab and concentrate on stopping the train at the next signal.

The engineer-pilot called out "Approach' to the crowd in the cab, but was not acknowledged.  To his horror, he realized that the person at the controls was not slowing down. Before he could gain access to the controls, the Turbo collided with an eastbound freight navigating the crossovers to enter Tascherau yard.

The Turbo almost immediately caught fire, and the people on board barely got out before the power car was consumed by flames.

This happened during the morning rush hour beside a busy freeway and soon there were hundreds of spectators, and many photographers.

The engineer pilot confronted the Amtrak official who was at the controls and received no response , however his subordinate said "How dare you speak to (an important official) like that".  The engineer replied, "He may be an important official to you, but to me, he is an ----------- who doesn't know how to run a train".

It is unknown whether Mr.Important faced any consequences for destroying the Turbo train.


 



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 10/18/20 15:29 by eminence_grise.



Date: 10/16/20 10:32
Re: Our Lady of Perpetual Caution.
Author: jdw3460

Thanks for the great story.  I can think of nothing with less caution than a bunch of Amtrak "suits" and "hats" running a train.  When the Canadian "hats" arrived at the scene of the wreck, it is hard to imagine the discussions that transpired.  It would be interesting to know what all the actions were that resulted from that mess.  Your post should precipitate a few stories from the U.S. 



Date: 10/16/20 12:38
Re: Our Lady of Perpetual Caution.
Author: Lackawanna484

Didn't somebody very important derail steam engine 611 at speed?

Somehow, with all those important people, nobody demanded he take a pee test...

Posted from Android



Date: 10/16/20 12:47
Re: Our Lady of Perpetual Caution.
Author: ts1457

Lackawanna484 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Didn't somebody very important derail steam engine
> 611 at speed?
>
> Somehow, with all those important people, nobody
> demanded he take a pee test...

You are talking about Robert Claytor. He came very close to giving away the keys to the corporate treasury that day. Fortunately a big train held back his intentions to run as fast as he could.



Date: 10/16/20 12:51
Re: Our Lady of Perpetual Caution.
Author: ts1457

eminence_grise Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Sometime in the 1970's, CN sold one of the Turbo
> trains to Amtrak. A large group of Amtrak officers
> came to Montreal to try out the Turbo train in the
> CN Montreal terminals....

> It is unknown whether Mr.Important faced any
> consequences for destroying the Turbo train.

Thanks. I had forgotten that incidence. 



Date: 10/16/20 15:28
Re: Our Lady of Perpetual Caution.
Author: eminence_grise

I was not living in Montreal at the time, so I have no pictures. Many other area railfans took pictures, however and there were many press photographs and TV coverage.  The turbo ran on jet fuel and the carbody was aluminum. The train burned up like a jet aircraft.



Date: 10/16/20 16:25
Re: Our Lady of Perpetual Caution.
Author: rbenko

https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?4,1893075

Also here - scroll down to the bottom of the page.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/16/20 16:29 by rbenko.



Date: 10/16/20 21:04
Re: Our Lady of Perpetual Caution.
Author: ironmtn

I had never heard of this incident, so thanks for posting this, An interesting and also unfortunate story, to be sure. As to Our Lady of Perpetual Caution, anyone operating any moving vehicle needs to pay attention to small but critical safety practices that foster alertness and attention to the situation. This story is a perfect example of that.

I'm not a railroader, but I certainly understand and appreciate the practice of Canadian crews to cease conversation in the cab on encountering an Approach indication in order to focus on stopping the train. Years ago during Greyhound driver training, that was a safety technique taught to us as student drivers. We were not supposed to converse with passengers (or other drivers who may have been deadheading) in any case. But it was recognized that a passenger might speak to us with an inquiry now and then. If we were engaged in such a brief conversation, or perhaps were making a PA announcement about an upcoming station stop, we were taught to cease it politely and quickly if we encountered a complex traffic situation that demanded our full attention.

During the latter phase of training, three or four student drivers would go out with their instructor driver (and mine was outstanding), and actually drive the routes to learn them, to practice driving technique, and all of the safety procedures we had been taught. On one such trip, my group's instructor kept up a conversation with one of my classmates who was driving at the time. The instructor knew the road situation coming up, which involved a very busy and complex intersection with a tight left turn with two lanes turning parallel. The continuing conversation was a set-up to test the fellow at the wheel at the time, who liked to talk a lot. He kept talking as he entered the intersection until the instructor told him sharply to stop talking and pay attention. He made the turn, but not entirely properly, and almost clipped a pole. The instructor dinged him on his driving score for continuing to talk while preparing to navigate this intersection. He passed and graduated, and was a good operator. He had learned his lesson, and all of us on board that day had learned it as well.

To this day, when I encounter a complex driving situation, I quickly turn off the radio, and stop any conversation that's going on in the car. It has saved me more than a few times, including one time just a couple of weeks ago while passing through a construction zone. I have always been glad that I learned this important point about awareness and attention many years ago during the few years that I drove professionally.

MC
Muskegon, Michigan



Date: 10/16/20 22:50
Re: Our Lady of Perpetual Caution.
Author: PHall

The Air Force has a similar rule in their transport and air refueling tanker aircraft. Below 10,000 feet you have a "sterile cockpit". No non-essential conversation allowed.
This rule is the result of a number of military and civilian accidents where conversations caused radio calls to be missed. Some of these accidents were deadly.



Date: 10/17/20 14:08
Re: Our Lady of Perpetual Caution.
Author: Lackawanna484

PHall Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The Air Force has a similar rule in their
> transport and air refueling tanker aircraft. Below
> 10,000 feet you have a "sterile cockpit". No
> non-essential conversation allowed.
> This rule is the result of a number of military
> and civilian accidents where conversations caused
> radio calls to be missed. Some of these accidents
> were deadly.

I believe the FAA has adopted a similar rule for commercial pilots.

In the GO Aldershot crash, there were several folks in the cab, talking. Nobody noticed the unexpected diverging signal.

Posted from Android



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/18/20 18:55 by Lackawanna484.



Date: 10/17/20 17:53
Re: Our Lady of Perpetual Caution.
Author: 4489

A slight correction if I may.  I was living in Lachine at the time, but hung out at Dorval, like many other's of the Montreal gang. 

The accident  actuallyhappened in the morning, not in the afternoon.  I was working in downtown Mnotreal at the time and someone had the radio no so that is how I knew about it.  I was sorely tempted to leave and go home to watch but eneded up staying at my job.

Thanks Phil for your write up about this.
 



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