07-30-2002, 07:18 AM #1
- Join Date
- Mar 2002
Train Derailments and Deferred Maintenance
It seems to me that yesterday's derailment of Amtrak's Capitol Limited is the latest examples of the railroads' cutting corners on track maintenance and trying to fatten the bottom line as best as they can. While the need to turn a profit is understandable, but at the expense of train and track safety? Fire departments along the nation's railroads should be especially concerned, since some of the cargoes in tank cars are potential incendiary bombs looking for somewhere to go off and enough of these cars in the same block of cars could wipe out an entire village, even if every fire department in the county responds to the scene of such a disaster. In light of corporate scandals that have begun coming to light, I cannot help but wonder if the executives of the nation's major railroads are not engaging in similar hijinks as the executives of Enron, Adelphia, Global Grossing, and a few others have been caught doing. Maintenance of way forces on most major railroads are stretched so thin that they just are not up to the job of proper maintenance, no matter how many machines they have to work with. This trend toward corporate greed got started back in the 1980s and with derailments on the rise, not to mention the recent corporate scandals, every fire chief and his or her men and women ought to be greatly concerned about the true state of safety on the nation's railroads. What their corporate staff says is one thing and what is reality, when a train piles up a bunch of propane gas filled tankers or a crowded passenger train leaves the rails is something else again. From what I have seen actually watching railroad operations, most freight trains carry their dangerous cargo tank cars grouped together in blocks of 10 or more cars peer block with each block going to different destination, based on how the train is made up. Usually propane tankers are coupled together, clorine tankers coupled together and those tankers carrying food products separated from the haz mat cars by box cars or other types of freight cars.. Not only railroad tank cars are potential time bombs, but so are many tanker trucks traveling the highways. God help the town in which one overturns and breaks open.Jim Mancuso
07-30-2002, 07:42 AM #2
Two seperate issues here.
First, I'm pretty sure the derailment was along track owned and operated by Amtrak. That's a hopeless mess of subsidized nostalgia that should be ended. Then hopefully a successor agency in the northeast corridor could focus efforts on a good rail system there instead of running trains to montreal and florida and chicago where air transport is the better option.
Second is the freight railway system, and that system is seriously overworked in many areas. There are many parts of the system that need not only maintenance, but need new construction of additional track so there is time to take the old tracks o/o/s for heavy maintenance. It's also time for a high-speed/high-capacity freight rail system to complement high-speed/low-capacity air freight, low-speed/high capacity freight rail, and medium speed/medium capacity trucking.
07-30-2002, 08:40 AM #3
Tip O' the Leather
On a lighter side, tip o' the leather to Montgomery County, Prince George's County, Fairfax, Va. and Washington, D.C Fire and EMS. I have read nothing but glowing reports about this incident. Luckly for them the situation was favorable, with 173 passangers and crew aboard, all were rescued with only 6 passangers with life threatening injuries. Good work!
Reports this morning state that the "blackboxes", much like those in aircraft, have been recovered, and are being evaluated today. Hopefully we'll find out more. There was a heavy train that passed over the tracks minutes before without incident, and the passanger train was moving at a safe rate of speed. Funny though, that Amtrak is rebuilding from a fincacial crisis. I'm not suggesting that they are cutting corners to see profit, but God help them if they are.
Be Safe, Drew.**************************
---NO RETREAT... NO SURRENDER---
______Look Ma'... No Hands______
07-30-2002, 12:23 PM #4
Agree with the tip of the hat. DC Metro area sure sees an awful lot of passenger train accidents...seems like every couple of years.
Amtrak isn't recovering though, just continuing to circle the drain. Just a few weeks ago they threatened to simply cease service if they didn't get the latest infusion of taxpayer support. Congress makes it worse by insisting long, low ridership, money bleeding routes stay open in exchange for funds -- Oink, Oink. There are things like electricity, telecommunications, roads, and even fire protection that are neccessary in rural areas unless we want to have a bunch of illiterate subsitence farmers running around (like most of the rural world) and it's a valuable public service for state & federal governments to subsidize them so they can contribute to the economy. Passenger rail service isn't one of them.
(By the way, Amtrak annual subsidy when you add up direct cash, loan guarantees, and accounting magic works out to be about $750 million dollars a year)
Last edited by Dalmatian90; 07-30-2002 at 12:32 PM.
07-30-2002, 02:59 PM #5
- Join Date
- Mar 2002
Shut down of Airways Proof Trains are Needed
First, the shutdown of the airways after 9-11 is proof that the trains are just as important a part of the transportation system as the rest of the transportation network, including the airlines, some of which clearly deserve to go out of business with the way they have abused their passengers. Actually, I meant that it was the freight railroads cutting corners on maintenance, not Amtrak. CSX got into hot water over this several years ago and seems likely to do so again, given the number of Amtrak accidents occuring on their rails. It seems to me that the same corporate shenanigans that brought down Enron, Global Crossing, and Adelphia, to name a few, could be going on at a number of the freight railroads, particularly the major roads in the east. Greyhound could not necessarily handle the traffic diverted when the airways were shut down on 9-11. They only have about 2400 or so buses nationwide, not the 5000+ bus fleet that they used to have. Also, there are many people who are afraid to fly and many more who are priced out of the market and for whom a trip of several days on Greyhound is not a viable option. Not only that the passenger rail system is no where near what it should be. Don't forget that even though airliners are now a lot more difficult to hijack since 9-11, they can still be shot down on take off and that is what these Al Qaida vermin want to do. That is why rail needs to be given a more important role in moving both people and goods, some of our other modes are over worked. By taking some of the passenger load off the highways and airways, it would mean fewer accidents for fire departments to have to deal with. My 1997 head on collision is an example of one of them.Jim Mancuso
07-30-2002, 04:28 PM #6
Hmmm, anyone wanna guess what carried more passengers home in the wake of the unprecedented airline shutdown:
b) Rental Cars
Highways backup airports when they're unavailable or people are unwilling to fly. There's no need for a third alternative to massage people's nerves or sense of nostalgia.
Passenger rail needs to focus on the commuter & dense inter-urban routes that can support it, not on sending rails out to every place that already has jetports and interstates serving it.
07-30-2002, 05:24 PM #7
OK OK I CANT STAND THIS MIS-INFOMATION ANYMORE!!!!!!!
Get your back packs on fellow brothers, Im takeing you to school on railroads.
First off ,the most likely cause of that de-railment was something called a "Heat-Kink" it what happens when rail sits in the sun all day and acuteally expands (like any other metal)and bows out a inch or so-that is un-avoidible,especially with welded rail it has to expnad or else it will break. The rail road reported "Visually" inspecting the track sunday night which means nothing.That just means two guys sat in the HI-RAIL truck and drove on the tracks looking for downed trees and such.The railroad should of taken the action to place a speed resrticion on the line- but they didnt.CSX's manegment has a history of being in-compitent and lack common sense.
The tracks that this train was traveling on belong to the CSX corp. out of Jacksonville FL. If you did your homework on this you find Amtrak- only owns two routes in the whole of the United States.
There is a short route in Michigan, there largest is the North east corridor which runs from Washington DC to Bostons South station, this Amtraks high speed corridor.Other than that they are on a Freight railroads rights of way!
People complain that the trains arnt fast enough- thats because stupid people go through the crossings with the lights on- that is there own fault not the railroads!Thats the reason why amtrak can do 150 mph is on there own ROW becuase they have no public crossings-So stupid people cant drive out in front of the train!Its not a question of technologie - its a question of can people get any dumber? And it goverment regualtions that keeps passenger train speeds low.
If the railroads did not get out of the stupid Stagers act in the 80- there would be no railroads today- not and opinion - a fact!
Last time I checked airplanes werent that great at carrying coal to fuel a power plant to run the computer!And im sure people would complain even more about traffic if all the goods moved by rail were put in the air or on the road and they get stuck behind a row of trucks on there way home.
Yup acourse we put the haz-mat together, instead of haveing a mile of leaking propane and chlorine ,you only have a few hundred feet of tank cars together- lets say you had a derailment and those cars were spread through out you have more of a chance of getting those car in the bad part of the de-railment.
And this is to dalmation - if your going to complain about rail subsidys why dont you say all the facts, such as Amtrak only gets 790 million,Freight railroads get nothing- they get Zero! They are on there own ! And you complian about the railroads 790 mill. but what about the airlines billions and billions of subsidary for ever diminishing service and fustraitions ? Or the billions and billions Highways get so we can build more highways that will get congested anyway?
Just my facts and opinions from working in this industry.
Yes I know I went off on to railroad crossings ,but its another dangerous issue.
PS. Trains always have the right of way at any crossing- this was settled by the Supreme court in 1949-so its the law of the land like it or not and those red flashing lights and cross bucks are the same as running a red light and stop sign.
Last edited by dfdex1; 07-30-2002 at 07:16 PM.
07-30-2002, 10:08 PM #8
-- 150 miles per hour is still way too slow for intercity travel outside of certain urban corridors. Air travel, even with security checks, is still quicker. And I dare say cheaper and safer than building guarded corridors across the country. We know no teens would ever scale that fence around the tracks...
-- Highway construction is not federally subsidized -- it's payed for by fuel taxes payed into the Highway Trust Fund. Far from being federally subsidized, highway users (through their fuel taxes) actually are seeing $3 billion a year go towards supporting mass transit, which is siphoned off of the Highway Trust Fund. There's about $19 billion in surplus trust money right now -- money designated for highways but instead being used to counterbalance the federal debt.
-- Similiarly the Airport & Airways Trust Fund receives money from excise taxes on air carriers/users/shippers/etc and passes it through to fund airport capital operations and FAA commercial air operations. There's a $13 billion surplus in the A&A Trust.
-- If the railroads would like to start paying federal excise taxes into a trust fund, no problem. There is a major need for freight rail in the U.S., not for long distance passenger rail. There are serious bottlenecks and weaknesses in the railroad grid were the loss of critical facilities could cause mass disruption, and fixing these major capital items is a place a federal intermediary like a trust fund could function.
-- Unlike the Highway and Airport Trust Funds that have generated surpluses, Amtrak has simply spent $11 billion in taxpayer money since 1971 and what do we have to show for it? A northeast corridor that can achieve 150mph for a short while and some track in Michigan?
Go to amtrak.com and run some route times and tell me what the speed of Acela is good for. I can leave Boston tomorrow on Acela at 6:15 and arrive in D.C. at 12:41. I can leave Boston on a regular train at 6:20 and arrive in D.C. at 2:00. That's an hour and fifeteen minute difference for all the work building special guarded track and trains.
For $100 more than the Acela ticket I can get on a plane in Logan and be at Ronald Reagan in an hour and a half. Heck, give yourself an hour to get through security, still a lot, lot shorter than a train ride. Don't know many people going central business district to central business district anymore...probably still need to rent a car, etc no matter which way you go.
-- I was wrong in my assumption since the accident was in MD it was on the Northeast Corridor. The train engineer was confirming this evening he saw the rails bent just before the accident, sure sounds like heat on continous weld rail.
I'm gonna quit from this debate, I probably hijacked the thread. Just there's some federal programs so wasteful they really get my hackles up. There's not much more than the facts that speak for themselves. Amtrak = Subsidized Nostalgia.
07-30-2002, 10:24 PM #9
- Join Date
- Sep 2000
- Westchester Co., NY USA
Dal good points.
dfdex1, other then some of the sarcasm, that is one of the best posts I've seen you compose in regards to the railroad incident. The freight companies are on their own because they strangled the market in regards to the right of ways also. They lease their use to commuter railroad companies and then bitch when their freight trains take so long because they can only do 15 mph so they are on schedule for commuter trains to be able to pass. I
As far as the track, I believe Amtrak leases almost all of the tracks it uses. In fact speaking with some MTA guys, they said that they know of no tracks that Amtrak owns other then the east coast corridor that runs through Penn Station and that many of the problems that Amtrak has had over the years is that the freight companies that own the tracks don't and can't maintain them like those used in metro areas for mass transit.
07-30-2002, 11:13 PM #10
Als Firefighter your on the right track-no pun intended.
Amtrak does "lease" there routes-there called "Trackege- rights"its sort of a railroad lease. There are several forms of this .
A good example is on the Union Pacifics Feather river sub.The STB granted rival railroad BNSF trackege rights over the UP line from the BNSF's Terminal in Stockton to its junction with its own tracks at Keddie Californa on there way to Denver. The STB did this to prevent a monopoly and give shippers another option to ship out of Stockton and surounding industrail areas to Denver.How ever the BNSF does not get off scott free- like Amtrak they must pay a maitinece fee to UP(or other host railroad) in order to fufill there end of the bargin.
Thats about as simple as I can explain it-with out going into detail.
the problems that Amtrak has had over the years is that the freight companies that own the tracks don't and can't maintain them like those used in metro areas for mass transit.
Reason being is alot of states make them let the local tranist
authority use the frieght rr. ROW that go into citys for commuter
Show them enough green- they will!
You are right about the rr bitchin about it too-and they got every right to be! First off commuter trains make almost no money (Accept rush hour- but then that is diluted by the cost of running the trains the rest of the day near empty.)thats why railroads gave them up
So with commuter trains the freight componys cant run thier trains when they want to which means sometimes might arrive near the city early in the morning and it might sit on a sideing till night- but by then under federal law the crew must leave if they worked more than 12 hours.So the railroad has to foot the bill for hotel ,food taxi,and another crew to take that train in to town.So that train is now late.Becuase a empty commuter train has to get back the station to pick up no one.
And this will cause back ups on the system and make other trains sit on a sideing too and burn fuel pointlessly and make its and other cars miss there connection with othr railroads or switchers and locals. They have to pay other crews etc. The rr must put up with customers complaints and potential loss of businuess to trucks and the bills and maintaining track and signals and insurance to a FRA class standerd they dont need- so that money they get starts to dissapear fast.
It is like im building my deck in your back yard type thing. Ive worked with both so I dont favor one but thats how the freight componeys view it anyway.
The trick is to make the commuter operations profitable for the private railroads-cause they dont care if bob smith gets to work in a train-they just care if our oil gets to the customer ontime.
I notice alot of public transit people tend to treat PRIVATE RAILROAD property as it was there own to use as they please.
Bottom line is -Private railroads- like any other pirvate compony have to turn a profit and look out for there interests- it is a businuess not a public intrest fourm.
And they do have a line in michigan."Michigan Corridor"
And to dal. The Acela is near or at capcity everyday, all trains so Amtrak must be doing something right. Each train holds about 2 737s worth- thats two more jets I dont hear at night.
Sorry to keep going on hehehe but I sure do like to talk about trains heheeh
Just my thoughts and opinions
Last edited by dfdex1; 07-30-2002 at 11:56 PM.
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