Category Archives: Railroad

Amtrak train on wrong track in deadly crash; it says freight line controls signals

Channel 8 News

A Miami-bound Amtrak train appeared to be on the wrong track when it collided with a freight train in South Carolina early Sunday, killing two people and injuring 116, according to authorities.

Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a news conference Sunday afternoon that the track the Amtrak train was on had been manually switched and “lined and locked.” It caused it to divert from the main line and onto a side track, where the freight train was parked.

“Of course key to this investigation is learning why that switch was lined that way because the expectation is the Amtrak would be cleared and would be operating straight down” the main line, Sumwalt said.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said at a news conference that a CSX freight train appeared to be on a loading track when the Amtrak train with 147 people aboard slammed into it at 2:35 a.m. in Cayce, South Carolina, just east of Columbia.

Authorities investigate the scene of a fatal Amtrak train crash in Cayce, S.C., Feb. 4, 2018.

“It appears that the Amtrak was on the wrong track,” McMaster said at the news conference midday Sunday. “They weren’t supposed to be meeting right there by the bridge, clearly. And it may be a time factor, but that’s what it appears to me. But I defer to those who are experts in that and do have the correct information, but it appears that Amtrak was on the wrong track.”

The two people who died were the train conductor and engineer, the county coroner said.

Amtrak officials said in a statement that they are “deeply saddened” by the deaths of its employees and that the agency is cooperating fully with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration in the investigation of the crash.

Richard Anderson, Amtrak’s president and chief executive officer, told reporters in a telephone news conference that CSX railroad operates all aspects of the tracks in the area where the crash occurred.

“They are in complete control of the track, the signaling, the switching and, in fact, our train engineers and conductors, as we move over their railroad, are directed and in regular contact with the dispatch center at CSX,” Anderson said.

He said at the time of the crash Amtrak crew was communicating with a CSX dispatcher via a telephone communication system. He said the signaling system that controls traffic on the four tracks in the area was down for maintenance.

“Normally the train is directed by the dispatcher and the dispatcher in this case was CSX,” Anderson said. “The control of which train is on which track is within the authority of the dispatcher and the host railroad that controls the switch.”

He said Amtrak train 91, which was traveling from Penn Station in New York to Miami, should have been on the main line, but it was directed to tracks just east of it, where a CSX train was parked.

The speed the Amtrak train was going at the time of the collision is still under investigation, but Sumwalt said the speed limit in the area is 59 miles per hour.

Sunwalt said the CSX train had two locomotives and 34 empty auto-rack cars. He said prior to the Amtrak train’s arrival in the area, the CSX train had unloaded automobiles on the west side of the main line and then used it to back into a side track on the east side of the main line.

Asked if there was any evidence of a mechanical problem with the rail switch that diverted the Amtrak onto the side track, Sumwalt said, “We were able to see that it was actually literally locked with a padlock to make it lined to go into the siding.”

He said typically when rail switches are mechanically thrown “the conductor will get out and lock it in that particular position.” He said the investigation will focus on why the rail switch wasn’t put back to allow the Amtrak train to keep moving straight down the main line.

Sumwalt also said a front-facing video camera in the Amtrak locomotive had been recovered and sent to the NTSB laboratory in Washington, D.C., to be analyzed. He said the train’s event data recorder, which should say the exact speed of the train when it crashed and if the crew tried to apply the brakes, had not been located as of Sunday evening.

“I can tell you there’s catastrophic damage to each of the locomotives,” Sumwalt said. “In fact, I would say that the Amtrak locomotive would be not recognizable at all.”

Sumwalt said the CSX controlled tracks were not equipped with Positive Train Control, a high-tech overlay system Amtrak uses on tracks it operates. The system is designed to read signals and automatically stop a train before certain accidents occur.

“An operational PTC system is designed to prevent this type of accident,” Sumwalt said.

CSX offered its condolences to the victims in a tweet on Sunday, but it did not comment on the ongoing investigation.

“Our sincere condolences go out to the families of the two individuals who passed away following the tragic events that took place in Cayce, SC this morning,” the statement said. “We remain focused on providing assistance and support to those impacted by today’s accident.”

The crash came just five days after an Amtrak train carrying Republican members of Congress collided with a garbage truck in western Virginia, killing one passenger and injuring several others.

Sunday’s wreck was the third fatal Amtrak incident since mid-December.

The two Amtrak employees killed Sunday are 54-year-old Michael Kempf, the train engineer, and 36-year-old Michael Cella, the train conductor, said Margaret Fisher, coroner for Lexington County, South Carolina. Kempf was from Savannah, George, and Cella from Orange Park, Florida, Fisher said.

Both men were in the first car, the locomotive car, when the collision occurred, the coroner said. She said she spoke on the phone to the wives of both men.

“They were very distraught, very shocked, as anyone would be in this situation,” the coroner, Fisher, said.

Fisher added that given the size of the trains involved and how many people were aboard the Amtrak, “You would have expected more fatalities.”

The more than 100 people injured suffered everything from minor cuts to broken bones, Gov. McMaster said. At least 62 people were treated at three hospitals in the area, said Dr. Eric Brown, the executive physician for Palmetto Health.

He said three children were among those treated at hospitals.

Brown said six people were admitted to hospitals for more severe injuries, including head trauma.

Anderson said that besides the P-42 locomotive, the Amtrak train was comprised of three coach cars, a cafe lounge car, two sleeper cars and a baggage car.

Alexandra Delgado of Tampa, Florida, told ABC News she boarded the train in Raleigh, North Carolina, about 9:30 p.m. Saturday and was riding the rails because she’s terrified to fly. She said she was sitting in a car near the front of the train when the crash occurred.

“People were screaming. I thought I was gonna die. I didn’t think I was gonna survive that,” Delgado said as she waited at Palmetto Health Baptist Hospital in Columbia to be treated for two injured knees. “When we crashed, everyone got ejected from their seats… Trays all over.”

She said her sister-in-law, who was sitting next to her on the train, suffered a shattered ankle. She said she saw an elderly woman with a bloodied face and a bone sticking out of her leg, and another women who was sitting in front of her with a severe jaw injury.

“Don’t ask me to get on another train,” Delgado said. “I’m never gonna get on a train.”

Passenger Derek Pettaway told ABC News that he and his wife were in a sleeper car near the back of the train when the crash occurred.

“There was a lot of violent shaking and everything just came to a stop, and I hit my head on the wall,” said Pettaway, 33, of the Philadelphia area, who was traveling with his wife, Erin, 32, to Orlando for vacation. “When it was happening, it was quick. You just knew it was not the regular type of movement.”

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Alan Chartock’s The Capitol Connection: The Chutzpah Kid rides again

Yes, that’s right, it’s time for another chapter about the unbelievable gall of a politician riding across the plains of New York. Not unlike the red headed cowboy, Donald Trump and his brand of making stuff up, we now have our own trusty companion in the form of Andrew Cuomo who, the press reports, has decided to frontally attack other state Democrats. Like any hero of the old West, he is taking on a crowd of made up desperadoes.

Let’s see. There is his old enemy Big Bill de Blasio who, for some unfathomable reason he seems to hate with a passion that might better be channeled to his love life. Then there is the matter of mayoral control of the schools. He says he’s for it but apparently only for a year or two which is just silly. And with Cuomo, one never knows what game he’s playing. This is classic Cuomo, say one thing and do another. So who does that remind you of? YES, the red headed cowboy. Go right to the head of the class.

But it doesn’t stop there. Now he pulls the old switcheroo and tries to blame de Blasio for his troubles on the MTA. Like the old song about another politician, Cuomo simply can’t get off of that blame train. Governors are often immune to trouble because way too few people know anything about state government. It’s just too remote. Mayors, on the other hand, are held responsible for more immediate problems like failure to clear up the snow or collect the garbage. But this time Chutzpah Andrew has literally touched the third rail. People are sweating in the subways. The trains are breaking down. They are sweltering infernos and Andrew, the Chutzpah Kid, is getting blamed for the mess.

This is the way it works. Andrew basically owns the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He gets to name the most people on that board and he has always tried to take the credit for anything good that happens on the subways. One case in point is the mule-like braying and credit claiming he did over the opening of the Second Avenue Subway. You would think that he laid every brick on the line himself. But now, the Chutzpah Kid is ringing his hands suggesting that he doesn’t have ENOUGH power. Whoever is giving out breaks might think about giving me one of them.

Then there are his inexplicable attacks on Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. DiNapoli is one great politician. He is SO good that he may actually be giving politicians a good name. From day one, the Chutzpah Kid has been trying to deprecate DiNapoli. DiNapoli took a damaged Comptroller’s office and set things right. Now it is back to doing its job. That has apparently made the Chutzpah Kid even crazier. As occasionally happens, there was a jerk who did some corrupt things working in the office of the Comptroller. DiNapoli fixed it but that didn’t stop Andrew from suggesting that this was the worst thing to have ever happened. This is where the chutzpah thing really showed itself. Remember, this is the same Andrew whose best pals are now on trial for corruption schemes that would and should make any politician blush. In Andrew’s case we are not talking about some schlemiel way down in his administration. We are talking about his best friends. Who the hell is Cuomo to be casting aspersions on Tom DiNapoli, one of the most honest, decent men in politics? Not only that, Cuomo worked out a deal with the morally corrupt legislative leaders to take away some of DiNapoli’s pre-audit functions that might have stopped the Cuomo cronies from their schemes. Instead of giving DiNapoli back his powers, the Chutzpah Kid said that he would appoint people like the ones now on trial to oversee his agencies. Are you kidding?

So the Chutzpah Kid rides off into the sunset, ready for his next adventure.

Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at alan@wamc.org.

Reblogged from Troy Record

Amtrak maintenance backlog tops $38 billion on northeast route

Crains New York Business via California Rail News

The busiest U.S. passenger rail route needs $38 billion to stay in good working order, a 36% jump over the estimate just a year ago, according to a group that oversees the Northeast Corridor.
Though Amtrak and the regional railroads that use its tracks have pledged $3.3 billion for infrastructure over five years, that won’t go toward the backlog of projects needed to refurbish signals and power systems, replace bridges and build a new Hudson River tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey, according to a five-year capital-investment  plan released Thursday by the Northeast Corridor Commission.
All told, 820,000 daily riders—two-thirds of them commuters using New Jersey Transit, Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road—are at risk of increased service interruptions or even failure of the entire 457-mile Boston-to-Washington route. Last fiscal year, 11% of trains using the line were late or canceled.
The Gateway Project which includes a new Hudson River rail tunnel to relieve commuter rail congestion is $25 Billion of this $38 Billion backlog.

The D&H in Oneonta

During the steam days and for some time afterards, Oneonta was a busy yard for trains both out of Binghamton and Wilkes Barre. It was also an engine change point and crew change point and had a huge roundhouse. The roundhouse fell into disuse after the Alco RS-3’s took over. Eventually, traffic patterns changed and the yard at Oneonta was more or less replaced by a rebuilt facility at Binghamton and the crews were run through between Binghamton and Saratoga or maybe Mohawk Yard in Schenectady and Binghamton. The last major activity in Oneonta was probably the car shop which after the CP takeover was shut down and replaced by facilities elsewhere.

Find out more on railroads in CentralNew York

https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/the-southern-new-york-railway/

 

My Stock in the Warwick Valley Railroad

Recently a good friend of mine found a stock certificate for the Warwick Valley Rail Road Company. I knew a little bit about it and decided to investigate even further. The Lehigh & Hudson River began as a small line, the Warwick Valley Railroad that connected the town of Warwick, NY with the Erie Railroad at Greycourt, NY. The line expanded south into New Jersey, and in 1882 the Warwick Valley and its affiliates merged to become the L&HR. The line extended from Belvidere, NJ to Maybrook, NY where the New Haven Railroad provided a gateway to New England. The L&HR built a bridge between Phillipsburg, NJ and Easton, PA and ran via trackage rights on the Pennsylvania RR and the Jersey Central Railroad to Allentown, PA. The L&HR handled zinc traffic from the area around Franklin, NJ but mostly it was a bridge line carrying overhead freight. The mergers and abandonments of the 1960 did the L&HR harm, but the New York Central – PRR merger in 1968 caused much traffic to be diverted. The line went bankrupt in 1972 and inclusion in Conrail spelled the end in 1976. The line north of Sparta Jct. became part of the New York, Susquehanna & Western main line in 1982 and the line south of that point was abandoned by Conrail in 1986.

 

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https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/the-warwick-valley-and-other-railroads-west-of-the-hudson/