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Passenger Trains > The comedy of errors that was delay stricken 20 (7)

Date: 01/08/21 08:29
The comedy of errors that was delay stricken 20 (7)
Author: Amtrak-P42

I rode NOL-ATL yesterday in a bedroom. Latest northbound Crescent I have been on in 20 years (that originated on-time). Here is the summary of the delays experienced. It truly was a comedy of errors. Lot of unhappy people. As for the load, as many will want to know, it was about 20% in Coach and I would say 30% in sleepers. Slowly filled to about 45% overall by Atlanta.

1. We departed NOL right on time and made the first 5 stops without any issue, departing Laurel about 10 minutes late due to some slow orders. 

2. About 15 miles from Meridian and the main-trackage of the NS AGS South, we struck a tree at 70MPH that knocked the entire air reservoir out of service on the second unit. The train didn't go into Emergency but we braked hard and came to a stop. Engineer over the radio reported as such and you could hear a loud "hisssssss" coming from the second unit. HEP goes down to investigate. After about an hour its determined they need to try and isolate the Unit rather than set it out and get on the phone with mechanical to try and solve the issue. At this point and in my 25+ years experience of riding trains (admittedly I am no Mechanic), it seemed very strange they wouldn't try and set out the unit (AMTK 10 for those wondering) especially when the main issue seems to be brakes will not release. 
After another almost full hour the hissing stops, the HEP returns, and we continue onto Meridian arriving about 2 hours late. 

3. I knew from experience the AGS South from Meridian to Birmingham typically results in at least an hour delay, so I figured we would be about 3 hours late into Tuscaloosa. Below are a summary of the delays yesterday just from freight traffic. 
-We took a 35 minute stop at Livingston, AL for NS 225. Pulled in behind a freight, had to back out and continue. 
-Took a 20 minute stop at Boligee for a KCS southbound manifest. 
Sure enough we arrived 3 hours 13 minutes late into Tuscaloosa. 

4. Just north of Tuscaloosa at CP Mercedes (next to the plant), the DS got on the radio to inform us a freight ahead on the single track had gone into Emergency and to come to a stop. We came to a stop and sat, and sat, and sat. 1 hour 30 minutes later of complete radio silence we finally got an approach as the freight had cleared the emergency then followed it for 20 minutes up to the next siding. By the time we got to Birmingham, we were 4 and a half hours late (actually 5 hours late without the 30 minutes of padding here). 

5. I figured at this point we would be good, right? No, not even close. In fact, it was about to get worse. We ran fine from BHM to Anniston, losing only 15 or so minutes there with slow orders. Crossed into GA and it looked like we would make it to Atlanta. We took a brief 5 minute stop at CP Taylor and from there things looked good. Until....

6. Dispatcher calls our train to ask about hours of service. Its clear we wont make it now. Engineer and conductor decide to do the dog catch crew swap at Villa Rica (was originally going to try for Douglasville but it was decided after the ht at CP Taylor we wouldn't make it). We arrived at Villa Rica with 4 minutes to spare (Crew went dead at 11:34pm we got there at about 11:30), and the crew was nowhere to be found. 10 minutes later they showed up. The entire crew change took 35 minutes. Once loaded up, we began to pull....then immediately stopped again. Engineer comes on the radio to report that whatever fix had been applied earlier to the damaged unit had come unhinged. The engine was giving him wheel slip/axle warnings and locked up completely and no matter what they tried all the brakes on the rear unit were locked. A quick listen outside could hear the Hisssss sound had return. HEP goes down almost immediately. 

At this point, the next 2 hours were spent without electricity, in the dark from about 1230-230am, as the engineer and NS Mechanical/NS Pilot crew tried everything to get it to release. After an entire 2 hours further delay, they were able to get the brakes released enough that we could move at restricted speed to Bagget siding (1 mile away) where we would then set out the engine. The 1 mile was very rough as there were no train brakes at all, he was using only the single engine for braking power and the train had a LOT of slack in it. Roughest Ive ever experieced. HEP returned for this slow crawling move which was delayed even more to let a southbound NS freight go by. This let the toilets flush and the heat to be on for 15 minutes. There was further complication at Bagget as they realized the engine had NO working brakes, not even the handbrake, so it would have be tied down attached to some rolling stock. Lucky for them the siding had a few hopper cars with applied handbrakes, so the poor AMTK 10 was attached to those and left. 

The set out of AMTK 10 (which is currently at that siding in West Georgia) took 45 minutes, and FINALLY HEP was restored and we limped into ATL arriving 8 hours and 29 minutes late at 404am (schedudeld for 734pm day before), having left New Orleans completely ontime. 

What I cannot wrap my head around is why they wouldn't set out that engine at Meridian. It just seemed like the band-aid fix was too risky, but again I am not a mechanic. 
* NOL * * 1 700A * 701A Departed: 1 minute late.
* SDL * * 1 757A * 757A Departed: On time.
* PIC * * 1 822A * 826A Departed: 4 minutes late.
* HBG * * 1 930A * 939A Departed: 9 minutes late.
* LAU * * 1 1005A * 1014A Departed: 9 minutes late.
* MEI 1 1102A 1 1107A 1254P 101P Arrived: 1 hour, 52 minutes late. | Departed: 1 hour, 54 minutes late.
* TCL * * 1 1244P * 357P Departed: 3 hours, 13 minutes late.
* BHM 1 215P 1 224P 644P 657P Arrived: 4 hours, 29 minutes late. | Departed: 4 hours, 33 minutes late.
* ATN * * 1 359P * 845P Departed: 4 hours, 46 minutes late.
* ATL 1 735P 1 804P 404A 414A Arrived: 8 hours, 29 minutes late. |

Edited 10 time(s). Last edit at 01/08/21 17:43 by Amtrak-P42.

Date: 01/08/21 08:45
Re: The comedy of errors that was delay stricken 20 (7)
Author: Peak45068

That beats my latest ATL arrival on Train 20 by 3 hours! I was watching that train on transit docs and went to bed in the knowledge it would get to the ATL by around midnight.
I woke up and could not believe it’s arrival was 0404am and a whole load of time was lost between Anniston and Atlanta, only 100 miles.
Your trip sounded truly dreadful. Has it put you off Amtrak for good? I’m on 19 tomorrow so I’ll look out for #10.

Posted from iPhone

Date: 01/08/21 08:46
Re: The comedy of errors that was delay stricken 20 (7)
Author: boejoe

Thanks for informative report.  I am reluctant to recommend Amtk travel to any friends or family for fear of nightmares like this.  Too often, even short trips become a horror.  Sad to say.

Date: 01/08/21 09:28
Re: The comedy of errors that was delay stricken 20 (7)
Author: DirtyShirt

Thanks for the detailed report. 

Of course this whole debacle started with a tree on the track.  Railroads don't appear to put any effort into keeping the right of way clear of vegetation.  The attitude seems to be that when trees fall on the tracks, it is an "Act of God," as if there's nothing the railroad could have done to prevent it.

There have been recent reports of at least one serious derailment (UP in Oregon) and one employee fatality (CSX in Ohio) due to trees, so you would think the railroads would take it more seriously.

Date: 01/08/21 10:13
Re: The comedy of errors that was delay stricken 20 (7)
Author: Lackawanna484

In fairness, Amtrak doestrim trees etc on its own right of way.

After a particularly contentious encounter with neighbors in Princeton NJ, Amtrak had Asplundh do a vertical clear cut on the property line. And notified the neighbors of their liability if their trees interfered with trains.

Hardball !

Posted from Android

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/08/21 13:38 by Lackawanna484.

Date: 01/08/21 11:33
Re: The comedy of errors that was delay stricken 20 (7)
Author: sums007

boejoe Wrote:
> Thanks for informative report.  I am reluctant to
> recommend Amtk travel to any friends or family for
> fear of nightmares like this.  Too often, even
> short trips become a horror.  Sad to say.

I got delayed 26 hours once in SFO trying to get to Eugene, OR one time.  The Coast Starlight would've been a lot faster.  Just goes to show that nightmares aren't limited to the rails.

Date: 01/08/21 11:44
Re: The comedy of errors that was delay stricken 20 (7)
Author: Tominde

Sorry for your delay.  The crew and folks on the other end thought that the fastest way was to keep the engine in the consist.  I suspect that they are veteran railroaders and made what they thought was the best decision at the time.  They have a lot more insight than those of us sitting in our homes or on board the train.  You make a decision and go with it.    You can't control downed trees or broken down freights. 

Date: 01/08/21 12:51
Re: The comedy of errors that was delay stricken 20 (7)
Author: Pacific5th

I wonder if the train had air brakes but they were afraid to use them for that mile for fear the train could dump? I won’t pull a freight train a mile with no brakes let alone a passenger train. 

Date: 01/08/21 20:05
Re: The comedy of errors that was delay stricken 20 (7)
Author: wa4umr

About 5 years ago I took the Cardinal from Cincinnati to DC.  The train was late leaving Chicago and late arriving at Cincinnati, several hours late.  The cause of the delay was turning the train in Chicago.  The train was delayed several hours in West Virginia the day before because there was a barn on the tracks.  A storm had come through and basically picked up the barn and dropped it on the tracks.  

On the return trip, they had trouble with the locomotive.  Every time they got up to speed, it shut down.  We limped into Charlottesville and the support center talked the engineer through a fix.  We ended up in Cincinnati on time, or close to on time.

I tell my friends that if they take Amtrak, don't expect to arrive on time.  If you really have to be somewhere at a particular time, schedule your trip a day before.  Of course, with three days a week service, that might be hard to do.


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