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Date: 12/03/08 09:55
Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: raillady

I wondered when the investigation would uncover something else than just texting....!

Red signal's visibility in Metrolink crash now suspect

The visibility of a red signal may be a factor in the Sept. 12 train collision in Chatsworth, Calif., involving a Metrolink passenger train and a Union Pacific freight train. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board have discovered that the red signal in question may not have been as clearly visible as the green and yellow displays.

"We did some signal inspections. Can't hardly see the red," one investigator reportedly told another before a meeting Sept. 15, just before the pair ducked into a closed-door briefing three days after the Sept. 12 crash.

Still unclear is how much of a factor such visibility contributed to the crash, which killed 25 and injured 135, and spurred congressional action to mandate Positive Train Control on U.S. routes sharing freight and passenger traffic. potential responsibility for the crash. NTSB officials note that train collisions normally have more than one cause, and cell phone records indicate that the Metrolink engineer was using his cell phone just before the accident occurred.



Date: 12/03/08 10:33
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: Cloaker




Date: 12/03/08 10:37
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: djansson

"Situational Awareness" can be impacted by lot of things and from what I hear, the Metrolink engineer had a lot of distractions going on:

1) The "split shift" - nobody is totally awake when alternating between on-duty and off-duty cycles.

2) Complacency - after running this train over the same stretch of track the comfort level of "same old, same old" can let things slide. How many times had he met another train at that location? Probably not many to speak of, and if there hadn't been any radio chatter about the UP freight's location or movement it added to the degree of routine, "clear track, head for the barn".

3) Text messaging - the eyes are focused on the PDA, not out the window at signals or track conditions. This in itself would have been enough of a distraction but, coupled with the dim signal aspect, work / rest / work cycle, and routine of the run, everything came together in a perfect storm.



Date: 12/03/08 10:45
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: rresor

Pretty good analysis, djansson! I'm reminded of the 1972 rear-end collision on the ICG, where the engineer of the express following the local had been used to seeing an approach indication, then finding the home signal (concealed around a curve) green as the local pulled away from the platform at 23rd Street. One day, he saw the approach, didn't slow down since he expected the next signal to be green -- and the local had backed up into the block to retrieve a missed passenger, the block signal was red, and 46 people died.

Notwithstanding all that, witnesses confirm that engineer Sanchez had a flashing yellow ("advance approach") and then an approach signal prior to the stop at Chatsworth. So even if he couldn't see the red signal (and *especially* if he couldn't see the indication) he should have come up to it at restricted speed, not accelerated to full track speed.



Date: 12/03/08 12:08
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: caseyjones

I'm no engineer nor expert on train operations. But, if I'm driving my car and come across an intersection in which I can't recognize which color light, if any, is displayed, I think I'd stop and figure things out. A dimly lit "red" railroad signal does not mean the signal is green. That's just plain common sense.

The text messaging is the most disturbing part of the investigation so far. It will also be important to understand the engineer's thought processes. I'm still not convinced this wasn't intentional.



Date: 12/03/08 12:40
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: OliveHeights

Right on Casey, a dimly lit red looks like just what it is or a dark signal. A burned out signal is regarded as displaying its most restrictive indication, in this case STOP. Plus, having passed a yellow signal he should have been looking for the next signal to be red.

To me, this revelation means nothing as far as determining a reason, the NTSB is going to have to make a best guess on why Sanchez ran the signal.



Date: 12/03/08 12:41
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: toledopatch




Date: 12/03/08 13:09
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: smitty195

caseyjones Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> The text messaging is the most disturbing part of
> the investigation so far. It will also be
> important to understand the engineer's thought
> processes. I'm still not convinced this wasn't
> intentional.

Ditto!! It's almost like the big elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. All options are on the table, and that is absolutely one of them.



Date: 12/03/08 13:10
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: fjc

I'm told that signal isn't far from the end of the platform in Chatsworth, so I don't buy what the newspaper says.



Date: 12/03/08 13:18
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: Jaanfo

fjc Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I'm told that signal isn't far from the end of the
> platform in Chatsworth, so I don't buy what the
> newspaper says.


The signal is about a mile west of the station, there is an intermediate only a couple hundred feet to the East.



Date: 12/03/08 13:28
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: AlwaysLate

Jaanfo Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> fjc Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > I'm told that signal isn't far from the end of
> the
> > platform in Chatsworth, so I don't buy what the
> > newspaper says.
>
>
> The signal is about a mile west of the station,
> there is an intermediate only a couple hundred
> feet to the East.

I rode in Metrolink cabs before and the engineer always had some binoculars handy. He used them constantly. He wasn't required to, but it made his train faster, as he could throttle up faster knowing that "way down there," the aspect was green.



Date: 12/03/08 13:37
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: TopcoatSmith

AlwaysLate Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I rode in Metrolink cabs before and the engineer
> always had some binoculars handy. He used them
> constantly. He wasn't required to, but it made
> his train faster, as he could throttle up faster
> knowing that "way down there," the aspect was
> green.

One of the original "Moorpark 4" was warned not to do that, the signal aspect only controls what's behind it and if for any reason it drops and you roll by it ... you're done.
As he was told: "that'a a bad habit to get into ..."


TCS - not buying the times or eye witnesses



Date: 12/03/08 13:52
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: Cumbresfan

Help me out here as I'm not too knowledgeable about signal rules. If an engineer is doing restricted speed due to a yellow in a block and the next signal is green, is he required to continue that restricted speed until he passes the green signal or can he power up before then?



Date: 12/03/08 14:15
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: toledopatch

Cumbresfan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Help me out here as I'm not too knowledgeable
> about signal rules. If an engineer is doing
> restricted speed due to a yellow in a block and
> the next signal is green, is he required to
> continue that restricted speed until he passes the
> green signal or can he power up before then?

Watch your terminology. "Restricted" speed is different from "reduced" speed. A yellow requires that the engineer be prepared to stop at the next signal, and may require immediate reduction to a certain speed depending on whose rulebook applies. "Restricted" speed is defined as that speed at which the train can be stopped within half of the operator's line of sight, and usually not exceeding a certain proscribed speed in any case (often 15mph or 20mph).

When a train enters a block at Restricted speed having passed a red signal (either by flagging or under a permissive red), it must not begin accelerating again until after having passed a following green because of the possibility that the red was caused by a broken rail or other track defect in the block*. When a train that has entered a block at a reduced speed because of a yellow later observes a green on the next signal, I believe acceleration may begin immediately unless the crew has reason to believe there has been some sort of signal malfunction.

*-At night, there is also the risk that a green seen in the distance is actually being displayed for a leading train whose rear end is, for whatever reason, unseen by the following train's crew. A CSX train rear-ended another in southwestern Ohio a few years ago after its crew made this precise judgment error and throttled up.



Date: 12/03/08 16:05
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: GP25

Jaanfo Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> fjc Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > I'm told that signal isn't far from the end of
> the
> > platform in Chatsworth, so I don't buy what the
> > newspaper says.
>
>
> The signal is about a mile west of the station,
> there is an intermediate only a couple hundred
> feet to the East.


That signal is actually about a less then a mile from the Chatsworth Platform.



Date: 12/03/08 16:42
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: highball

GP25 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Jaanfo Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> > fjc Wrote:
> > --------------------------------------------------
> > > I'm told that signal isn't far from the end
> > > of the platform in Chatsworth, so I don't buy what
> > > the newspaper says.
> >
> > The signal is about a mile west of the station,
> > there is an intermediate only a couple hundred
> > feet to the East.
>
> That signal is actually about a less then a mile
> from the Chatsworth Platform.

Measuring using Google Earth, the signal is 0.98 miles from the north end of the east platform. Appears pretty close to a mile away.



Date: 12/03/08 16:45
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: fjc

I must have been mis-informed, thanks for the information.

Jaanfo Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> fjc Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > I'm told that signal isn't far from the end of
> the
> > platform in Chatsworth, so I don't buy what the
> > newspaper says.
>
>
> The signal is about a mile west of the station,
> there is an intermediate only a couple hundred
> feet to the East.



Date: 12/03/08 17:22
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: lowwater

Ok, this begs a question that I remember from reading several of the "false clear" incidents reported on this fascinating website:

http://www.ironwoodtech.com/researchcenter/falseproceeds/falseproceeds.htm

From the maps it appears that the signal at the north end Chatsworth faces due south. It was 4:43 PM, right? Lowering sun angle from the southwest. Pictures of the signal do not show anything but the ordinary short top sunshade. Is it possible that a dim red coupled with a reflection off the green lens gave at the very least a confusing aspect and possibly a fairly-bright green?

Just wonderin'.....

lowwater



Date: 12/03/08 18:57
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: InsideObserver

>Pretty good analysis, djansson! I'm reminded of the 1972 rear-end collision on the ICG, where the engineer of the express following the local had been used to seeing an approach indication, then finding the home signal (concealed around a curve) green as the local pulled away from the platform at 23rd Street. One day, he saw the approach, didn't slow down since he expected the next signal to be green -- and the local had backed up into the block to retrieve a missed passenger, the block signal was red, and 46 people died.

Not quite. While the following train was going too fast, it had a yellow but encountered a train in the block, and this was the main cause of the accident -- the local backing up. You don't go by a yellow and find a train ahead of you, regardless of how it got there nor what you expect to see at the next signal.

> I rode in Metrolink cabs before and the engineer
> always had some binoculars handy. He used them
> constantly. He wasn't required to, but it made
> his train faster, as he could throttle up faster
> knowing that "way down there," the aspect was
> green.

Using binoculars isn't permiited [anymore] and hasn't been for several years.

> Help me out here as I'm not too knowledgeable
> about signal rules. If an engineer is doing
> restricted speed due to a yellow in a block and
> the next signal is green, is he required to
> continue that restricted speed until he passes the
> green signal or can he power up before then?

Capital R "Restricted Speed" is quite specific, and no he couldn't speed up if operating at Restricted Speed.

While a yellow signal is a "resctrictive indication", i.e. you can't go au fond du train after receiving one, it doesn't require Restriced Speed but reduced speed. If the next signal is green, you can speed up.



Date: 12/03/08 19:52
Re: Red Signal's Visibility in Metrolink Crash
Author: ATSF429

As far as a dim signal indication, if the one in question uses incandesent bulbs) they do get dimmer as they age.



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