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Eastern Railroad Discussion > EMERGENCY - How to stop a train


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Date: 01/11/22 08:21
EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: cinder

The train vs. plane crash in CA  raises an important question:  How can/should you stop a train in advance of a potential tragic/catastrophic incident?  

Scenario:  

You are trackside for whatever reason and you spot a washout, a large tree across the tracks, a crashed car (or airplane) on the track..  OK .... OK, your'e a railfan with some knowledge of the train traffic on the line.  There is no crossing nearby with an 800 number attached to a post.  But yes, you do have a cell signal.

Do you call 911 first?  Do you choose one of two directions to walk/run down the track(s) in an effort to stop any oncoming train?.  How should a person stop a train?  Stand near the track and wave frantically?  Pretend you are a third base coach giving a stop signal to a runner?  If it's night and you have a flashlight, how do you display it?  Will an engineer stop a train when a civilian waves him down?

BTW - Pick any pronoun you like.


 



Date: 01/11/22 08:26
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: ctillnc

Google the name of the RR followed by "emergency". You'll find the 800 number to call.



Date: 01/11/22 08:31
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: Cole42

Well, I have CSX and NS emergency numbers saved in my phone.  So for the scenarios you list, if it is a life-threatening issue (airplane, car whatever) of something crashed on the tracks, I would call 911 first then the RR.  If it is just an issue for the RR (abandoned car on tracks, tree or wires down on tracks) I would call the RR.  And the benefit of being a rail fan is that we usually have an idea where we are on the RR, either the name the RR gives the place or a milepost.  I have found the couple times I called the RR emergency number having the milepost and locale as the RR knows it makes it quicker for the RR personnel to figure out where you are.   For non-railfans it can be much more vague, they give the closest town they know which may not be very helpful at all for pinning down a location.  That is one reason 911 CAD systems hone in on the cell signal, people don't even know where they are on a street when they are stressed and often give incorrect locations.



Date: 01/11/22 08:42
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: niagara484

cinder Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The train vs. plane crash in CA  raises an
> important question:  How can/should you stop a
> train in advance of a potential
> tragic/catastrophic incident?  
>
> Scenario:  
>
> You are trackside for whatever reason and you spot
> a washout, a large tree across the tracks, a
> crashed car (or airplane) on the track..  OK ....
> OK, your'e a railfan with some knowledge of the
> train traffic on the line.  There is no crossing
> nearby with an 800 number attached to a post. 
> But yes, you do have a cell signal.
>
> Do you call 911 first?  Do you choose one of two
> directions to walk/run down the track(s) in an
> effort to stop any oncoming train?.  How should a
> person stop a train?  Stand near the track and
> wave frantically?  Pretend you are a third base
> coach giving a stop signal to a runner?  If it's
> night and you have a flashlight, how do you
> display it?  Will an engineer stop a train when a
> civilian waves him down?
>
> BTW - Pick any pronoun you like.
>  

I've taken Roadway Worker Protection training for several railroads and most of them have the same basic rule.  Verbatim from the RWP manual for one:  "Any object waved violently by ANY person on or near the tracks will be taken as a signal to stop."  Could be a lantern, flashlight, even the proverbial T-shirt you rip off your back and start waving around like mad.  Of course, you need to take the precautions to make sure that you are not putting yourself in danger (too close to the tracks or the object fouling the track, etc).



Date: 01/11/22 08:47
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: cctgm

There is a Blue Emergency notification sign(ENS)  on both sides of every crossing with railroad name and 800 phine number and a DOT location number. . In. This case LAPD dispatch would have called Metrolink but in this case I am not sure there even  enough time to call between the plane crash and the train hitting the plane as it crashed just outside the local LAPD station.  I teach 1st responder classes and we always tell them how to call the railroad and then give them information on the proper hand signals to use  to stop a train with a light of a fusee. We always tell them their safety comes 1st.   We also tell them to go 1 to 2 miles on each side of they cannot contact anyone and in thinks case there was no time.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/11/22 09:01 by cctgm.




Date: 01/11/22 08:51
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: TAW

ctillnc Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Google the name of the RR followed by
> "emergency". You'll find the 800 number to call.

...keeping in mind that calling that number doesn't stop traffic. It is a number for someone who has to call someone else to stop traffic. The time delay can be substantial...and significant. Tell the person on the phone that you will hang on until the dispatcher responds that traffic has been stopped. In the mean time, keep a sharp ear and lookout in both directions for the hint of a train coming. If there is one, head that way prepared to give a stop signal in any way possible.

TAW



Date: 01/11/22 08:54
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: TAW

cctgm Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
  I
> teach 1st responder classes and we always tell
> them how to call the railroad and then give them
> information on the proper hand signals to use  to
> stop a train with a light of a fusee. We always
> tell them there safety comes 1st.   

You should add to the material that the person on the phone doesn't stop trains and there may be a substantial delay. You have not been protected until the train dispatcher responds that traffic has been stopped. When calling that number, tell the person at the other end of the phone that you will wait for the dispatcher to respons. In the mean time - there is no protection.

TAW



Date: 01/11/22 09:11
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: cctgm

Tom; I agree and we teach them to stay on the line and confirm with the railroad that they are stopping the trains. And to have a lookout and if possible being safe try and flag the train.  Most of the 1st responders I train are fire and  hazmat teams and not local PD, we always tell the host railroad or host agency to invite the local LEO's but in most cases they do not come to the class. Operation Lifesaver does do a LEO class.

There was an incident about 10 years ago in Orange County CA where the police and fire and CHP all thought one or the others dispatch had called the railroad and in fact non had depending on the other agency and it was also with Metrolink and a very close call. We always tell each agency they need to call even if it duplicates the other calls. I use this as a teaching example.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/11/22 09:11 by cctgm.



Date: 01/11/22 09:25
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: ctillnc

> ...keeping in mind that calling that number doesn't stop traffic. It is a number for someone
> who has to call someone else to stop traffic. The time delay can be substantial...and significant.
> Tell the person on the phone that you will hang on until the dispatcher responds that traffic has
> been stopped. In the mean time, keep a sharp ear and lookout in both directions for the hint of a
> train coming. If there is one, head that way prepared to give a stop signal in any way possible.

You're right. But depending on the speed limit of the line, you may have to walk quite a long way (flagging distance per timetable) for a train to be able to stop short of an obstruction, broken rail, etc. Walking along the right-of-way has its own risks, especially if it's nighttime or the right-of-way is narrow or the line has trestles or bridges. Murphy's Law says you'll get just far enough down the track to be in the middle of the pileup. And unless there are wayside signals that you can see and interpret properly, or unless you know the operating schedule of the line very well, it's a 50-50 guess which direction to start walking. Depending on the terrain, the weather, and the speed of trains, by the time you hear a horn it may be way too late to flag the train and have it come to a complete stop. 



Date: 01/11/22 09:27
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: mbrotzman

cinder Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The train vs. plane crash in CA  raises an
> important question:  How can/should you stop a
> train in advance of a potential
> tragic/catastrophic incident?  
>
> Scenario:  
>
> You are trackside for whatever reason and you spot
> a washout, a large tree across the tracks, a
> crashed car (or airplane) on the track..  OK ....
> OK, your'e a railfan with some knowledge of the
> train traffic on the line.  There is no crossing
> nearby with an 800 number attached to a post. 
> But yes, you do have a cell signal.
>
> Do you call 911 first?  Do you choose one of two
> directions to walk/run down the track(s) in an
> effort to stop any oncoming train?.  How should a
> person stop a train?  Stand near the track and
> wave frantically?  Pretend you are a third base
> coach giving a stop signal to a runner?  If it's
> night and you have a flashlight, how do you
> display it?  Will an engineer stop a train when a
> civilian waves him down?
>
> BTW - Pick any pronoun you like.
>

You call the number first.  Apply jumper cables to shunt the track circuit next (if available) and then either work to get the person out of the vehicle or move the vehicle off the tracks.  If evta persons are available then you send them down the right of way with something they can wave. 

>  



Date: 01/11/22 09:50
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: TAW

cctgm Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I use this as a teaching example.

Same stuff I used to do. I also added effective flagging distance and emphasized how long a train will keep going once braking starts.

TAW



Date: 01/11/22 09:53
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: pennsy3750

My question would be, which is faster - calling the railroad's emergency number, and waiting for info to get relayed, or calling 911, and letting them contact the railroad through whatever (hopefully direct) channel they have?



Date: 01/11/22 10:44
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: Rathole

I can tell you with certainty it's faster and better to call the number on the blue sign first.  The crossing inventory number nails down which railroad is affected, and which dispatcher's desk has control of trains moving over that crossing.  Before I retired as a train dispatcher I got a number of those requests to stop trains.  Unfortunately, it's not an instantaneous process (though usually pretty swift) and more than once I was on the radio to notify a train about a situation only to have them reply that's it's too late.   

===============================================================================================================================           

pennsy3750 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> My question would be, which is faster - calling
> the railroad's emergency number, and waiting for
> info to get relayed, or calling 911, and letting
> them contact the railroad through whatever
> (hopefully direct) channel they have?



Date: 01/11/22 11:06
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: toledopatch

mbrotzman Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> You call the number first.  Apply jumper cables
> to shunt the track circuit next (if available) and
> then either work to get the person out of the
> vehicle or move the vehicle off the tracks.  If
> evta persons are available then you send them down
> the right of way with something they can wave. 
>
I'm glad I'm not the only person who thought of shunting a signal circuit if possible. The emergency had better be real for anyone to play with the signal system like that, but I would think the scenarios presented -- vehicle or other obstacle on the track, damaged track, or other potential derailment or life-threatening hazard -- would qualify.

With a flashlight I would make the "washout" motion -- low and rapidly back-and-forth horizontally, akin to the football signal for "incomplete pass" -- to flag an approaching train at night.



Date: 01/11/22 11:57
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: Badorder

Shunts are illegal plus what if the track is in dark territory? A burning road flare in the gauge will always get a train crew to stop. Simple as that.

Proud Foamer
OAKLEY, CA



Date: 01/11/22 12:10
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: halfmoonharold

To make it simple, it's like learning "yes" and "no" when your a little kid. Up and down is yes/go, back and forth is no/stop. As the poster above explained re: washout signal. 



Date: 01/11/22 12:32
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: Englewood

In the mid-late 1970's I lived in an apartment along the B&OCT in Blue Island.
One day during a Chicago blizzard a guy got his car stuck on the inbound 
main.  Our parking lot was right along the tracks and there was no guardrail.
Apparently he slid out of the parking lot.  I got a fusee out of my trunk and
placed it on the tracks.  Then I went inside and called the Rock's Blue Island
Tower on the phone.  That was before the cell phone era. I had B.I. tower's
phone number because I worked there on the extra board.  I explained the 
situation to the towerman and asked him to contact Grand Trunk Tower in
B.I. so that towerman could tell the B&OCT DS about it. Then I went back
to the tracks in case I had to flag a train that didn't get the message.

So carry some road flares in your trunk.  Get the visual protection out first
and then make your call.  



Date: 01/11/22 12:42
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: OscarManheim

This is definitely an interesting thread. I'd like to add that if a 'civilian' is going to swing a washout signal, the emergency had better be real (aka, life-or-death, or have truly catastrophic potential). In 30 years of being a Class I engineer, I've had maybe a dozen non-RRer washout flags given, a good half of which were only because some dope got their snowmobile or ATV stuck on the tracks. The tough part is that a decision needs to be made within seconds to place the train in emergency, which at least might cause some 'jewelry' (broken knuckle, drawbar, lengthy delays), or at worst, with a fast heavy train, a derailment. And yeah, don't attempt to shunt the signal system with jumper cables...that's just dangerous, stupid, and may land you in legal jeopardy. I'll agree with the general consensus here so-far: call the emergency crossing number if available, 911 if not, and use 'washout' only as a very last resort. Safety first! 

My .02, -Manny

 



Date: 01/11/22 12:44
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: MPCA349

pennsy3750 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> My question would be, which is faster - calling
> the railroad's emergency number, and waiting for
> info to get relayed, or calling 911, and letting
> them contact the railroad through whatever
> (hopefully direct) channel they have?

When the public is involved, 911 is usally faster.  Emergency mgmt. / first responders and the railroads work together, and closely for these situations.  My last call I ran (I'm a volunteer FF in Southern WV) involved a vehicle on the tracks with a person inside, and the CSX dispatcher was contacted and aware as our tones were dropping for the call.  Not every railroad situation should be a 911 call, but if you see something serious (Vehicle on track, locomotive / car on fire, body on the track, etc), I'd suggest calling 911 first.   



Date: 01/11/22 13:24
Re: EMERGENCY - How to stop a train
Author: Trainhand

Also,if you know the sub-division name, give it to the person on the 800#. That crossing inventory sign was the result of the wrong dispatcher being notified to stop trains. This is necessary if 2 subdivisions are close together at a junction.

Sam



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