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View Full Version : Semi OT. Is it possible for a bullet to stop a train ?



goose
05-17-2015, 09:20 AM
What is this nonsense? It seems part of the media (a large part) has gone off on a tangent about rocks or bullets or paper cups striking a train and causing it to derail.

Should the question be, "is this possible", or is the question "are people this stupid"?

Am I misunderstanding the laws of physics? Or perhaps the laws of probability with an object striking a moving train, causing some reaction with the operator, causing the train to speed up, causing the operator not to compensate, causing the de-railment?

Is all this even remotely possible ? And do not "things" hit trains all the time? When I'm driving and a rock hits my windshield do I speed up and crash ? Does anyone?

brian Rupnow
05-17-2015, 09:40 AM
Only if it hits the engineer in the head!!!

AD5MB
05-17-2015, 09:41 AM
if you leave out the "O gauge"...

tyrone shewlaces
05-17-2015, 09:57 AM
I'm not surprised. I don't think it's quite as high a percentage as it used to be, but somewhere around half of Americans believed that the earth, and humanity, were 6,000 years old. It's still am embarrassingly high percentage today though. I'm not joking when I say that it might be a higher percentage of congressman believe this.
So they'll read a stone-age book and believe it just because the book itself says to believe it (or else), it's no surprise that folks will believe nonsense physics lies, or that health care in the US is "the best on earth", or that US elections are not fixed before they start, or that Iraq had WMDs, or that Islam is a religion of peace, or .....
They call it "journalism". They check their facts and vest their sources, right? It has to be true, right?
Riiiiiight.....
Sell advertising and political ideas and it's a success.

The general lack of doubt in people worldwide is a major problem. How to doubt well (call it analyze for truth if you prefer) should be a required class every year from K-12 and through college in my opinion.

MaxHeadRoom
05-17-2015, 09:59 AM
..And does a Bullet train fire back?
Max.

AD5MB
05-17-2015, 10:26 AM
How to doubt well (call it analyze for truth if you prefer) should be a required class every year from K-12 and through college in my opinion.

...taught by the same guy who "teaches the controversy" of evolution versus one particular creation story.

Black Forest
05-17-2015, 10:26 AM
only if the bullet is coming the other direction on the tracks.......bullet train that is!

flylo
05-17-2015, 10:42 AM
Very possible with a big enough bullet or small enough train. See size does matter.

tyrone shewlaces
05-17-2015, 10:44 AM
...taught by the same guy who "teaches the controversy" of evolution versus one particular creation story.

Good point. But I would hope that only one or two years of the curriculum would be taught by "that guy". Plus, if they learned enough in previous years, then the students would have a few techniques in their arsenal to see the teacher's bias and flaws, and maybe even be able to do something about it.
It will never happen in my lifetime, but I'd sure love to see some effort that direction. All I see now is pushing from the ignorance team and politically correct pandering from those in office, with the real resistance in-between from the irate informed.

edit to add: ... then again, maybe I myself am misinformed and the chances are better than I think. I know there is a trend toward reason from a more vocal percentage lately. I can dream.

Weston Bye
05-17-2015, 11:08 AM
I have yet to see a comprehensive timeline on this event, apart from the black box speed record. When did the "projectile" strike the train? There was a report of radio traffic between engineers about projectile strikes, heard by the conductor on the train. Was this a factor? When did the engineer suffer his concussion? Did the projectile strike the engineer or just the windshield? If it only struck the windshield, did it scare the engineer silly and cause him to react incorrectly? Seems if the engineer was commenting on the radio, he must have been somewhat rational. Why the sudden increase in speed rather than slowing for the curve?

More questions than answers, but little info of any value is coming from the media either.

Juiceclone
05-17-2015, 11:14 AM
Well .... the NTSB will sort all that out and tell us the actual facts ....Isn't that what WE pay them for?
......right.......

boaterri
05-17-2015, 11:17 AM
Only if the "bullet" comes out of a 5"54 caliber rifle.

Rick

MichaelP
05-17-2015, 11:26 AM
If the bullet is fast and heat-resistant enough...

topct
05-17-2015, 11:27 AM
It is possible that a bullet or that a hand thrown object caused the wreck.

The overhead crane I used to operate at Kaiser was is the same area as the stretcher for large plates of various alloys. Every once in while a piece would snap while being stretched. A piece of .500 gauge 7075 could be heard and felt throughout the entire plant. Having moved up to the overhead from the floor operated crane that handled the plates for the big stretcher, I knew what the sound was, and that it was simply a very loud noise.

But being a brand new crane operator (and one afraid of heights) up there I was doing everything I could to make sure I didn't kill anyone down on the floor. So there I was, a full load of coils (about 60,000 lbs) traveling down the tracks, watching, watching, looking, and more looking. So very deep in concentration that when a plate snapped I was suddenly and very strangely caused to first, try to figure out the foul taste in my mouth, then to try to find my hands, then to try to somehow do something, anything to bring back into focus what the hell I was in the middle of doing. The crane itself was traveling down the building towards a section of old punch presses that if I did not trolly the load towards myself the fully loaded tray of coils would collide with very large punch press. I did not make the jog. But I also did not hit the press. But it was all I could do to get the lever controlling direction into neutral and with all my strength stand on the brake and stop just a few feet short of a disaster.

So ask yourself this, what would it be like to be going 60 mph and have a piece something very hard hit your windshield? You are a liar if you say you would not take a variable amount time for your brain to react in any way. And then as part of that reaction what would your action be? How long would it take you to find yourself? People have recalled their reactions and then had to ask themselves, why did I do that?

Weston Bye
05-17-2015, 11:34 AM
I opined too soon...

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/fbi-looks-into-shattered-glass-in-new-twist-in-derailment/ar-BBjQEYg?ocid=DELLDHP

tlfamm
05-17-2015, 11:49 AM
It is possible that a bullet or that a hand thrown object caused the wreck.

So ask yourself this, what would it be like to be going 60 mph and have a piece something very hard hit your windshield? You are a liar if you say you would not take a variable amount time for your brain to react in any way. And then as part of that reaction what would your action be? How long would it take you to find yourself? People have recalled their reactions and then had to ask themselves, why did I do that?

That's a pretty profound startle reaction that you underwent. I'm hoping that some exigent circumstances will be discovered that relieve the engineer of (at least) legal culpability. Living with eight deaths and multiple seriously injured on one's shoulders could easily send a man into a downward spiral with no possibility of recovery.

Guido
05-17-2015, 12:00 PM
topct X 2, or 3, or ????

Illusionists practice the art of purposefully misguiding the reactions of ordinary people.

wierdscience
05-17-2015, 12:24 PM
Is it possible that someone threw a rock or other object that went through the windshield and struck the engineer injuring him and causing the wreck?Absolutely,it happens in this country two or three times a year that kids drop rocks or chunks of concrete off interstate overpasses injuring and killing drivers.So yes,it is possible.

Then there is the case of that poor bus driver in China,talk about presence of mind.Mortally wounded,but still managed to get the bus stopped.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfALRWXCw18

LKeithR
05-17-2015, 12:51 PM
It is not physically possible for a bullet or thrown object to either stop or derail a train--not instantly, at least. Something of the right size and shape placed on the tracks will do it but that's a different thing

Virtually all trains have an auto-stop safety feature which monitors the engineer's (there are no "drivers" on North American trains) activities in the cab. In newer systems if the engineer is not "working" the controls he or she must periodically respond to a query from the monitor and if there is no response the system will take over and bring the train to a safe stop. Older engines have a "dead-man" pedal which must be depressed by the engineer. If it is left un-touched for too many seconds the train will automatically go into "emergency" which is a full-on application of the brakes. The dead-man system is easily de-activated by using a stick of some sort to hold down the pedal.

So yes, if the engineer is distracted or incapacitated the train will eventually stop.

The bullet or rock or other object thrown at the train theory is merely a distraction because it does not explain away the fact that the train was traveling at roughly twice the speed it should have been for the curve it derailed on...

Evan
05-17-2015, 01:26 PM
Keep in mind that exactly half the population has a lower than average IQ.

boslab
05-17-2015, 01:42 PM
Keep in mind that exactly half the population has a lower than average IQ.
I do love the normal Gaussian distribution, it's fascinating, but what if the bell has become skewed in the direction of the lower end?, it might have in the uk at least
Mark

loose nut
05-17-2015, 03:06 PM
Is it possible that someone threw a rock or other object that went through the windshield and struck the engineer injuring him and causing the wreck?Absolutely,it happens in this country two or three times a year that kids drop rocks or chunks of concrete off interstate overpasses injuring and killing drivers.So yes,it is possible.

Then there is the case of that poor bus driver in China,talk about presence of mind.Mortally wounded,but still managed to get the bus stopped.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfALRWXCw18

It is one thing to cause a wreck on a road in the manner you stated but not a train. They run on tracks and the engineer has to keep a "dead man" pedal depressed to keep the train moving. Kill the engineer the train stops, it does not run off on it's own.

Mike Amick
05-17-2015, 03:23 PM
When I started out in the 70's I worked out of Harrisburg which is just off the area where this happened. I brought trains in from PIttsburgh handing them off to these guys. Anyways
even way back then, there were lots of places on the northeast corridor where the
allowable speed was 125.

What needs to be known and I haven't seen it reported is what the speed was right
before the curve where this happened. Just saying, that its possible the speed right
before the incident WAS 100 or 90 and it really wasn't so much that he speeded up
as much as he just failed to slow down.

Besides, it's not like a car. If you go full throttle on a passenger train, it still takes
quite a while to get from say 70 to 100.

As far as the OP's question. No. Of course not. As I am trying to get at, the only thing
a flying object could have done is distract or injure the engineer to NOT slow down for
the curve. I really doubt there was much " speeding up " for it.

flylo
05-17-2015, 03:27 PM
ask yourself this, what would it be like to be going 60 mph and have a piece something very hard hit your windshield? You are a liar if you say you would not take a variable amount time for your brain to react in any way. And then as part of that reaction what would your action be? How long would it take you to find yourself? People have recalled their reactions and then had to ask themselves, why did I do that?

Great point, when we used to skydive it was drilled into us to LOOK at the handle before pulling as many have bounced pulling on a pc of harness or rigging with their mind telling them it was the handle.

Rich Carlstedt
05-17-2015, 03:34 PM
Keep in mind that exactly half the population has a lower than average IQ.

Yes, and that half seems to work in the News Media !
Those that abide by the axiom "there is no such thing as a dumb question" have never looked at
reporter questions in the papers or on TV
Instead of asking " How could you not report 50 millions dollars to the IRS for 5 years ? "
or "Have you fired your accounting manager?",
they say " Are you being harassed for your speaking engagements?"

Dumb, Dumb

Rich

KJ1I
05-17-2015, 03:49 PM
It is one thing to cause a wreck on a road in the manner you stated but not a train. They run on tracks and the engineer has to keep a "dead man" pedal depressed to keep the train moving. Kill the engineer the train stops, it does not run off on it's own.

Modern train locomotives do not have a dead man switch. It was too easily bypassed. Think "Silver Streak" when a tool box placed on the foot pedal did the job. Nor is the throttle of a locomotive similar to an automobiles foot pedal. I'm trying to think of analogy but can't come up with one right now, but the throttle has "notches" where the engineer selects a setting and it remains there until changed.

http://blog.amtrak.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/INR_DSC_2529.jpg

The train had accelerated through 100 mph and at 106 mph, the emergency brakes were applied, too late to prevent the derailment.

So to answer the OPs original question, no, by itself, a "small" rock could not derail then train. A large rock, rolling down a hillside, hitting the train just right, might. But yes, as the proximate cause, disabling the engineer, it could cause the derailment. That is what the FBI is investigating.

PStechPaul
05-17-2015, 04:00 PM
This may remain a mystery for some time, and may never be totally understood. I would think all modern trains would have a cruise control as well as a sort of "dead man switch" as has been noted above. It seems unlikely that the engineer could have been so distracted, confused, or injured for a full three minutes while he accelerated the train, although perhaps there was some way that he could have fallen and mashed the throttle fully, which probably would have caused the 50 MPH speed increase over that period of time.

It also seems odd that the brakes were applied so quickly as the train entered the curve, but perhaps the lateral forces caused the engineer to roll over and regain consciousness. It might be good to equip trains with accelerometers that would detect excessive speed on a curve, but by then it's probably too late. However, a sophisticated ABS might have applied less than full braking, and it may have been safer to have rounded the curve at 100 MPH with little braking. Full emergency braking might lock the wheels, or perhaps an ABS might apply a little less braking to maintain better control and a quicker stop than locked wheel skid.

Rounding the bend too fast, but without braking, may have resulted in a less violent derailment and rollover of the engine and the cars. The images of the crash seem to indicate that the engine may have jammed up on the tracks and the momentum of the remaining cars caused them to crush the first car against the engine.

Years ago I believe there was a "fireman" accompanying the engineer in the cab, but the position was eliminated. If trains had a second person in the cab (like a copilot) this would probably not have happened. But congress is cutting the budget for railroads, so it's not going to happen, even though it would create a few more jobs. The "copilot" would not even need to be fully qualified, and perhaps it could even be a volunteer position. Lots of train buffs would love to ride in the cab!

tmarks11
05-17-2015, 04:01 PM
What needs to be known and I haven't seen it reported is what the speed was right
before the curve where this happened. Just saying, that its possible the speed right
before the incident WAS 100 or 90 and it really wasn't so much that he speeded up
as much as he just failed to slow down.
One of the reports was that the straight track before the curve had a speed limit of 80 for quite a distance.


The NTSB announced Thursday that they were able to determine that the train accelerated more than 35 mph in the final 65 seconds before the crash.

Speed at time of crash was 106 mph.

flylo
05-17-2015, 04:06 PM
I understand all the equipment is in place on that line to slow the train if it goes over the speed limit but hasn't started use because of budget constraints. I may be wrong hut I'm pretty sure I read it after the crash.

As for the throttle notches a simple comparison would be an older tractor throttle.

PStechPaul
05-17-2015, 04:10 PM
Apparently the equipment "needed further testing". Probably a contractor trying to delay completion and get more money from Amtrak.

Another possibility that explains the engineer's actions is "startle epilepsy":

http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/s/startle_epilepsy/intro.htm

flylo
05-17-2015, 04:11 PM
I know the brakes were applied but was the throttle closed? Sorry if it was already posted.

Rosco-P
05-17-2015, 04:13 PM
Modern train locomotives do not have a dead man switch. It was too easily bypassed. Think "Silver Streak" when a tool box placed on the foot pedal did the job. Nor is the throttle of a locomotive similar to an automobiles foot pedal. I'm trying to think of analogy but can't come up with one right now, but the throttle has "notches" where the engineer selects a setting and it remains there until changed.

Is it not similar to he throttle on a farm tractor? Set it and speed is a near constant, influenced only by grade, implement drag and obstacles? Talked to a friend who welds rails for Conrail, unofficial opinion of all the crew he's talked to is that the Engineer fell asleep.

tlfamm
05-17-2015, 04:13 PM
I understand all the equipment is in place on that line to slow the train if it goes over the speed limit but hasn't started use because of budget constraints. I may be wrong hut I'm pretty sure I read it after the crash.

As for the throttle notches a simple comparison would be an older tractor throttle.

That equipment (not PCT) is installed on the south-bound tracks only, according to news reports I've read.

janvanruth
05-17-2015, 06:12 PM
For sure it can.
If a fly can stop a train so can a bullet.

It is quit simple:

If two objects are touching each other and one object is stationary the other one must also be stationary.
Agreed?

An object first moving into one direction in a straight line must come to a standstill before it can start to move in the opposite direction.
Agreed?

Well then:

The train is moving in a straight line from left to right.
The fly is moving in a straght line from right to left.
At some point the fly and the train make contact.
After that point the fly is moving in a straght line in the reversed direction.
We agreed that, in order to reverse direction when moving in a straight line there has to be a standstill.
So the fly has had a standstill when it hit the train.
We also agreed that two objects touching whilst one is stationary must both be stationary.
So the moment the fly did hit the train the fly and the train were stationary.

Motion is nothing but a continuous line of moments of standstill.

Daveb
05-17-2015, 06:32 PM
If you were to record those moments of standstill, you would not see the trains caboose exiting the front of the engine, the fly however does exactly that.

Baz
05-17-2015, 06:59 PM
Is anyone working on a gps based system that sets the safe speed based on where the loco is? bells and whistles triggered from the track seem a bit primitive these days.

ed_h
05-17-2015, 09:09 PM
Is anyone working on a gps based system that sets the safe speed based on where the loco is? bells and whistles triggered from the track seem a bit primitive these days.

Positive Train Control (PTC), which the rail industry has been developing under congressional mandate for the last several years, has GPS positioning, and the capability to enforce speed limits. PTC is just starting to roll out in a few areas of the country.

Ed

J Tiers
05-17-2015, 10:20 PM
If the train driver (the term "engineer" needs "disambiguation" in this crowd) must have a hand on the throttle, and must actually be adjusting it from time to time in order for the train not to stop, that does NOT mean the train WILL stop if the driver is incapacitated. Not right away, anyhow.

If the driver falls or collapses in such a way that the throttle is pushed up, the train will accelerate. It will not detect a problem until the driver stops "twitching" and the throttle is no longer moving.

There is no guarantee that the driver won't fall forward and ram the throttle to the limit.

If the driver were in fact startled by a rock, etc, especially if he saw it coming and ducked, it is perfectly possible that the throttle got pushed up, and may not have been pulled back for some time, even if the rock missed the driver. Glass might block the throttle until cleared, or the driver might be so rattled as to forget what he is doing under the influence of the self-preservation reflex. A rock and/or broken window coming in on a person has that effect.

Obviously if a rock did hit him, it might be some little time before he got it back together and tried to do something, if he could at all. The "dead man" system may have been what applied the brakes. I assume the data recorder would record the source of the command, but it may not.

Edit: If, as it seems, there IS no "dead man switch". that only makes is a lot more possible.


For sure it can.
If a fly can stop a train so can a bullet.

It is quit simple:

If two objects are touching each other and one object is stationary the other one must also be stationary.
Agreed?

An object first moving into one direction in a straight line must come to a standstill before it can start to move in the opposite direction.
Agreed?

Well then:

The train is moving in a straight line from left to right.
The fly is moving in a straght line from right to left.
At some point the fly and the train make contact.
After that point the fly is moving in a straght line in the reversed direction.
We agreed that, in order to reverse direction when moving in a straight line there has to be a standstill.
So the fly has had a standstill when it hit the train.
We also agreed that two objects touching whilst one is stationary must both be stationary.
So the moment the fly did hit the train the fly and the train were stationary.

Motion is nothing but a continuous line of moments of standstill.

There is a considerable quantity of misconceptions, poor assumptions, plus errors in the above quote. It violates important and basic physical laws. It fails on conservation of energy, for instance.

Lew Hartswick
05-17-2015, 10:34 PM
I do love the normal Gaussian distribution, it's fascinating, but what if the bell has become skewed in the direction of the lower end?, it might have in the uk at least
Mark
I think it has become skewed all over the planet and the educational systems are doing their level best to skew it further. To the extent the mean is even going down. :-(
...lew...

Juiceclone
05-17-2015, 10:51 PM
"motion is relative to the observer and his inertial frame of reference"

Brian H.
05-18-2015, 01:11 AM
Somewhat tangent to the current discussion, but for a strict (well, sorta) analysis of the OP's question, I offer the following link for your consideration:

https://what-if.xkcd.com/18/

tc429
05-18-2015, 04:38 AM
when I first heard of this. sounded like driver dozed off... whether a rock hitting the windshield or the lateral acceleration entering the curve alerted him to hit the brakes, wouldnt matter, too late. I'd bet time to accelerate to over 100 from half that would be a minute or more- doubt the glass breakage coulda been that much of a distraction. dunno, wasnt there...recorders will tell the tale most likely

janvanruth
05-18-2015, 05:36 AM
If the train driver (the term "engineer" needs "disambiguation" in this crowd) must have a hand on the throttle, and must actually be adjusting it from time to time in order for the train not to stop, that does NOT mean the train WILL stop if the driver is incapacitated. Not right away, anyhow.

If the driver falls or collapses in such a way that the throttle is pushed up, the train will accelerate. It will not detect a problem until the driver stops "twitching" and the throttle is no longer moving.

There is no guarantee that the driver won't fall forward and ram the throttle to the limit.

If the driver were in fact startled by a rock, etc, especially if he saw it coming and ducked, it is perfectly possible that the throttle got pushed up, and may not have been pulled back for some time, even if the rock missed the driver. Glass might block the throttle until cleared, or the driver might be so rattled as to forget what he is doing under the influence of the self-preservation reflex. A rock and/or broken window coming in on a person has that effect.

Obviously if a rock did hit him, it might be some little time before he got it back together and tried to do something, if he could at all. The "dead man" system may have been what applied the brakes. I assume the data recorder would record the source of the command, but it may not.

Edit: If, as it seems, there IS no "dead man switch". that only makes is a lot more possible.



There is a considerable quantity of misconceptions, poor assumptions, plus errors in the above quote. It violates important and basic physical laws. It fails on conservation of energy, for instance.

in other words : rubbish
i agree
but why?

becksmachine
05-18-2015, 06:58 AM
in other words : rubbish
i agree
but why?

Because the initial "agreement" is in violation of the laws of physics. I think conservation of energy would be one.

High speed photography can "stop" a nuclear explosion in progress, would that lead us to believe that it did really stop?

Just because you and I "agree" that the sun won't come up tomorrow doesn't mean that it won't.

Dave

J Tiers
05-18-2015, 07:58 AM
The speculation may be premature, concerning the possible rock, etc.

Statements on the news this morning are that the "evidence" so far is limited to a small area of damaged glass, which was not penetrated, and was consistent with something the size of maybe a half brick or so bouncing off the glass. Not enough to cause more than a cracked windshield.

A.K. Boomer
05-18-2015, 10:19 AM
I did not have the time to read everyone's reply's but i will add my two cents... Its hard to stop a Trane,
there have been many tests and countless studies done and some extreme examples...

https://youtu.be/jI2tRKj3oBk

Now in keeping with the original topic, "if it's possible for a bullet to stop a trane" the answer is yes, the condenser coils basically wrap around the machine, if you stand kinda above it but still at an angle and aim down at the outside starting about 2/3rds or more high you will absolutely sever one of the freon lines, then it's game over.

hope this helps... as far as it being the engineer's fault im thinking it would be pretty hard to build this unit bullet proof without it weighing in double of what it does already, so no not really his fault as bullets are not a huge threat to A/C units in the first place so why do it?

Carld
05-18-2015, 10:36 AM
I'm pretty sure a 155 howitzer explosive round would stop the train.

RandyZ
05-18-2015, 10:52 AM
All freight train locomotives in the US are require to have bullet proof windows. I would guess that passenger trains do as well.

A.K. Boomer
05-18-2015, 10:52 AM
"I'm pretty sure a 155 howitzer explosive round would stop the train."


A train or a trane? somebody's way off here...

wierdscience
05-18-2015, 10:53 AM
Somewhat tangent to the current discussion, but for a strict (well, sorta) analysis of the OP's question, I offer the following link for your consideration:

https://what-if.xkcd.com/18/

That reminds me of the theory that shooting a BB at opposite sides of a skyscraper just at the point of maximum arc would eventually cause the building to sway back and forth so far it would fall over.

Of course it would be impossible for it to fall over because of the massive piles of BBs on either side ;):D

vincemulhollon
05-18-2015, 11:23 AM
All freight train locomotives in the US are require to have bullet proof windows. I would guess that passenger trains do as well.

Speaking of bullets you've got the full crisis management thing going on. OK so just like the other crew was talking about, we're under fire. Takes a bit to realize that. Hand jerks off the throttle and pat myself down was I hit? Is that sweat or blood or nothing? OK well then glance at the air pressure we may need to stand on the brakes and we gotta stop sooner or later anyway and if there's a hole in the line we need to get a handle on that situation. OK emergency hasn't tripped wait forget that we're under gunfire get the heck out of here now that we know we can stop if we want. Next lets look at the fuel gauge, the EPA loves it when we dump 1000 gallons of diesel along the right of way in a spray. Speaking of spraying diesel are there any fire alarms on the engine did they get a high pressure line, look out the window don't see a fire, ok good so far now look at the electric are any of the motors tripped off, meanwhile think about pick up the radio or phone to warn dispatch I'm taking fire, now is that cracked window a bullet like the guys were talking about or just a rock or something dangling into the right of way from above (a power line broke?), whoops we just flew off the tracks in a tight curve while I was managing gunfire damage.

From my pilot training a long time ago there's a heck of a big difference between "the next training flight, I'm gonna cut the engine and you're going to trim for descent, set up for an off field landing, etc" vs the examiner reaches over at some random point during a check flight and slams the mixture to lean cutoff or whatever he did exactly. If you know whats coming, its pretty easy, especially if slowly monday morning quarterbacking. If you've practiced it a zillion times, no big deal but you can still get shocked or surprised if you were otherwise distracted. "Never heard of this happening before" is usually what you hear right before the crash. Assuming it was gunfire, willing to bet this train driver had never been under fire before, leading to paralysis and an eventual crash.

Another popular crisis mgmt problem is figuring out what the crisis is. Hmm the fuel tank is about 100 gallons low. Am I leaking? I wonder. Is this just measurement error? I remember 5 years ago being on an engine that leaked out about half a tank in an hour, now do I remember anything about the fuel level an hour ago, if it was 100 gallons low an hour ago, then there's certainly no rush because I'm not leaking any extra. Or did they overfill the tank so what I thought was full when I left was actually 105% capacity and now its dropping normally? I wonder if there's a good place to stop for a minute and run out there and take a look. At 100 gallons an hour could I see that dripping if I stopped? Hmm. Bang I'm taking gunfire, now what do I do, keep working on the somewhat low fuel tank or start figuring out the gunfire damage? Can't do both at the same time. Or it could have been some electrical flicker or a motor running "a little hot but not officially broken yet" or any number of things. Maybe he could have handled either crisis while driving but not both simultaneously.

RWO
05-18-2015, 01:03 PM
Modern train locomotives do not have a dead man switch. It was too easily bypassed. Think "Silver Streak" when a tool box placed on the foot pedal did the job. Nor is the throttle of a locomotive similar to an automobiles foot pedal. I'm trying to think of analogy but can't come up with one right now, but the throttle has "notches" where the engineer selects a setting and it remains there until changed.

http://blog.amtrak.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/INR_DSC_2529.jpg

The train had accelerated through 100 mph and at 106 mph, the emergency brakes were applied, too late to prevent the derailment.

So to answer the OPs original question, no, by itself, a "small" rock could not derail then train. A large rock, rolling down a hillside, hitting the train just right, might. But yes, as the proximate cause, disabling the engineer, it could cause the derailment. That is what the FBI is investigating.


This is not correct. Modern locomotives have an alerter system that functions like a deadman switch The device that will cause a train to stop if the engineer does not do the prescribed action within a given time. http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?4,1761627


RWO

dp
05-18-2015, 01:11 PM
I'd read that there was no automation at the section of track where the crash happened. If so the train would have no way to know what a prescribed action might be. The train was on manual control and that failed. If the press is to be believed.

I don't think anyone on the interweb thingy knows the failure modes of this machine. I sure don't, so I'm going to wait to be fed a load of crap from the government assuring me that single person in control of a billion ton train is good policy. My opinion though, is the root cause was policy failure of the governing body that makes the rules.

Paul Alciatore
05-18-2015, 02:47 PM
I have worked with TV news reporters. They are not the brightest bulbs in the pack. They often get the details wrong. And they often do not understand the details, even when they get them right.

Consider: someone above said that train windshields are "bullet proof". What does that mean? Does it include armor piercing bullets? Although it is not available to the general public, the military has it and terrorists may also have such ammo. Are the bullet proof train windshields able to resist every bullet?

Scenario:

Rifle bullet hits window.
For whatever reason, window does not stop it completely.
Engineer has hand on throttle control.
Bullet hits engineer with a grazing trajectory.
Engineer partially or completely looses consciousness.
As he slumps, his hand, still on the throttle, moves it to high end.
Several minutes later engineer regains consciousness and he realizes, too late, that he needs to apply the brakes.

It's a scenario. A theory of how it could have possibly happened. Unlikely? Yes! But then, train derailments are also highly unlikely.

Question: Is that crack in the windshield a complete penetration? Or, did the windshield hold and nothing traveled through it?

Question: Does the engineer have a head injury that is consistent with this scenario?

Have any news people reported on these questions? Have they asked these questions? Heck NO! Not the brightest.....

Paul Alciatore
05-18-2015, 03:00 PM
Generally, I am not a big fan of unions. But they do have their place and their legitimate concerns. Many years ago the railroad unions lost the fight to keep a second person (the fireman) in the locomotive. The RRs claimed they weren't needed. The unions, God bless them, said they were needed for safety.

Who is running the train when the engineer has to use the potty? If he gets sick? Is injured? Is dead?

Commercial airplanes are required to have a pilot and a copilot. And a third person is often required to be in the cockpit when one of them leaves. How is a freight or passenger train different? If anything, the need for backup is greater.

PStechPaul
05-18-2015, 05:11 PM
As I mentioned before, there are probably many highly qualified and motivated rail buffs or retired engineers who might love to accompany the engineer in the cab and serve as a backup in case something happens (or seems suspicious). Many would probably do it for free in return for a train ride. It does not take much skill to control a train in an emergency situation - certainly much less than a copilot needs to make a safe landing.

But, sadly, in these days of hungry lawyers, corporate greed, and political gamesmanship, it probably would never be allowed. It's too logical and nobody makes any money....

Mike Amick
05-19-2015, 01:00 AM
Just got back from my weekly dinner with my railroading buds. Another Engineer and
three conductors .. ( one of them is my better half. ) Way over a 100 yrs combined
experience.

The engineer on the wreck was actually in one of the conductors "conductor class".
This is a many week class they send Assistant Conductors to .. to become full conductors.
i actually had dinner with her and him during that period. Seemed like a nice guy.

I would like to say that being an engineer is very stressful and much more difficult
than most would suspect. Heres some tidbits :

We kill more people than any other profession. more than cops, more than executioners
in a prison, more than soldiers. Ask most cops, ask most soldiers .. most have never
killed anyone. MOST ... again .. MOST engineers have killed someone if not many.
I personally have killed 10 people. Lots of nightmares. Oh btw, I didn't count doctors.
they do have us beat.

This is one of the few if not the only industry where they try and trick you to make a mistake so they can fire you. During a normal run, we will have all kinds of temporary speed restrictions, crossings that are temporarily out of service, workers on the track, just all kinds of stuff. Management will come out and put up restriction boards where none belong. Drop signals in front of you. Its nerve wracking .. trust me.

Anyways .. a note about windshields. They seem to be in question right now. I have been shot at several times. All were in the hills of Pennsylvania during hunting season.
I guess just too much of a fun target for a 13 yr old hunter. And yep .. windows are bullet proof.

But I will have to say that twice, coming along the coast here is southern California I have
had my windshield caved in with a rock the size of a football, thrown from an adjoining hill. Twice in the same place. About a week a part. Rock never made it inside, but the
windshield was caved in real good.

Back on the corridor where the wreck happened a lot of the engines also have bars on
them because kids were hanging cement blocks at windshield height from bridges, then
hauling them up and waiting for a train and throwing the block out so that it swung down
into the train. Nothing can withstand that.

Anyways .. If anyone ever has any loco / railroad questions, I am pretty qualified to
answer them.

Mike

kNucKlbustr
05-19-2015, 01:43 AM
As far as I know the windshields are fairly thick, Ive seen them.
Many many yrs ago a person threw a brick at a Septa train w/s. It didnt go thru but was only travelling about 35mph.

That engineer fell asleep. Of course if that did happen it would be total negligence on Amtrak. Many lawsuits.
If anything, a rock would have woke him up to hit the brakes.

Black_Moons
05-19-2015, 02:39 AM
Sure. It could happen...

http://i60.fastpic.ru/big/2013/1029/89/b690eb2f6d6f4b9c737362a9d7155e89.jpg

Black Forest
05-19-2015, 02:47 AM
Here in Germany a favorite method of suicide is to jump in front of a train. As I understand it the train drivers take classes on the problem because it seems the person stepping in front of the train often looks the driver directly in the eye. This causes a lot of psychological problems for the drivers. It seems it haunts them for the rest of their lives.

Mike Amick
05-19-2015, 03:22 AM
Yep BF .. right in the eye.

The first time I met my honey .. she had just hired as an assistant conductor. It was like
her first week and they had her up on the head end with me. They do that a lot with
new hires. Anyways we were coming down the mountain around a curve coming into
San Diego, and there was a college student on the ground with his head laying on
the rail. Messed her up for quite a while. I, by that time had already developed an
attitude many engineer develope. A horrible contempt for these people that involve
us in this horrible act.

Many people don't understand this .. but .. I explain it like this.

Lets say you had a friend that decided to end his life. He sets it up where when you
come over to his place .. that when you open the door .. it pulls the trigger on a
shotgun pointed at his head. You see, I would totally understand when you open that
door and it happens .. you going over and kicking the crap out of the body for involving
you. I live that story .. over and over

Sorry for all this unloading .. I must be in a funky mood.

Black Forest
05-19-2015, 03:36 AM
Yep BF .. right in the eye.

Anyways we were coming down the mountain around a curve coming into
San Diego, and there was a college student on the ground with his head laying on
the rail.



Maybe he was listening for the train with his ear to the rail.......but he was hard of hearing.......opps.......it's here!

Tilaran
05-19-2015, 07:44 AM
In the land of miraculous exceptional~ism, anything is possible. Trillion of dollars simply vanish. Buildings free-fall for no reason at all( Gawdz Whill).
Oprahs opinion(on anything) is relevant.
In Closing: Miley Cyrus is a multi-millionaire.
I rest your case.

fjk
05-19-2015, 08:59 AM
First, regarding engineers and trains killing folks on the tracks ... I was going to take the Down Easter from Boston to Portland two or three weeks ago. The incoming train (which was to be turned around and used for the trip back north) struck and killed someone on the tracks. Massively delayed lots of trains, including (of course) the train I was to take... Anyway, other people who were to take the train were all standing around talking about the poor dead guy ... I agreed and then said "... and think about the engineer" ... lots of blank stares. "... sitting at the front of the train, blowing the horn and hitting the brakes for all he's worth ... and still knowing that it just won't matter ... and watching it all unfold right in front of him".

Second ... there was an interesting graphic on this morning's New York Times web site showing the route the train took from just before 30th street station to the crash. It shows the typical speeds all along the route. There's a west-to-east stretch of track for about a mile before the curve where the derailment happened. The graphic indicates that trains get up to 90 or so mph before slowing for the curve. About 2/3 of a mile before the curve, train 188 was going a bit faster than typical (the graphic says 94mph) and then accelerated when others started to slow. At what looks like the last measurement for train 188, 188 was going 106mph (and accelerating) while the typical speed at that spot looks to be about 60mpg (and slowing). If these numbers are close to correct, then the train started significantly speeding up about 2/3 mile before the crash ... it would take between 20 and 30 seconds to go that distance. If something bad happened ... it didn't happen for very long. I could easily imagine, for example, the engineer being distracted for only a few seconds at Just The Wrong Time ... the engine speeds up (maybe mechanical problem, maybe he inadvertently knocked a control the wrong way, who knows) and by the time he looks back, notices the speed, and says "Holy Air Brakes Batman!" it's too late...

All the numbers, other than the speeds of #188, are me eyballing the graphic ... so ymmv.

The graphic is at http://nyti.ms/1EEOGdB, about 1/3 way down the page ...

PStechPaul
05-19-2015, 10:34 AM
It seems that it could have been the sudden application of full emergency braking that caused the engine to stop (or slow down significantly) while the rest of the train behind the mangled car continued forward with enough momentum to cause the first car to be crushed in between. Without braking, the worst that would have happened might be that the engine and all the cars would have rolled over and probably separated. The train may even have remained mostly on the tracks, leaning heavily on the wheels on the outside of the track. If you are driving, and engage a turn too fast and start to tip over, the worst thing you can do is slam on the brakes, as it will virtually guarantee a roll-over.

But I don't know, and would like to hear from those more knowledgeable about my conjecture. It would be interesting to run a test car or engine at that speed on that or a similar curve, to see what would have happened without application of brakes.

becksmachine
05-19-2015, 10:52 AM
Yep BF .. right in the eye.
Sorry for all this unloading .. I must be in a funky mood.

Well, I must be also, in a funky mood that is.

I am glad that I was here to read what you wrote.

It is said that every cloud has a silver lining, it may be difficult to see one in this scenario, but try it this way. Something along the lines of Chris Kyle (American Sniper) when asked about how many people he had killed, who replied that he was more concerned as to how many of his comrades he had saved by eliminating imminent threats to them.

Granted, it can be a sad thing when someone commits suicide, but it just makes me angry when they feel that they should take some other folks with them, to prove their point I guess. If they would just shoot themselves first, it would make it easier for everyone all round.

Those folks that want to commit suicide by train don't take their (ex?) husbands, wives, lovers, children, bystanders etc. with them. So think of all the lives you have saved.

Dave

JohnMartin
05-19-2015, 02:05 PM
Consider: someone above said that train windshields are "bullet proof". What does that mean? Does it include armor piercing bullets? Although it is not available to the general public, the military has it and terrorists may also have such ammo. Are the bullet proof train windshields able to resist every bullet?

..

Paul, it certainly IS available to the general public. I've got quite a few rounds of surplus .30-06 AP black tip, which is a pretty good target round. Rather have .223, 5.56, .308 or even .50 BMG? It's all readily available, legally available. Maybe not in all states....

flylo
05-19-2015, 02:15 PM
I haven't thought of this in years. When I was 18 I had a '66 Chevy short van & was leaving work taking a friend home crossing angled RR tracks in the parking lot with a rail sideing no signal & cars on the sideing. Asked my friend if we had it & he smarted off by saying a freight train was coming, he couldn't see because of the parked train cars & I was crossing the tracks on an angle. Just as I'm pulling onto the tracks he yells there is a train coming! It's winter & the van gets stuck on the tracks, the engineer is laying on the horn & brakes, the van is spinning, I yelled at my friend to get out which he does, I have my hand on the door handle then my friend gets back in & crawls in the back, I had waited too long & could see the engineer eye to eye, the train is within maybe a few feet, the van is spinning, the train wheels are sliding steel on steel, the horn is blasting & I'll never forget the eyes of the engineer as I've waited too long, just before it hit the van jumped backward the opposite way the wheels were turned & still too close to the tracks. The van had no nose & I pushed way back as the train missed by
an inch or two, no more, as it rattled by I thought that a step or handle would hit as the tracks we so bad the cars would sway, in fact at the same spot right after this a train derailed with a whole load of new cars onboard. To this day I can't explain what happened but I'll never forget the eyes of the engineer.

=Black Forest;983775]Here in Germany a favorite method of suicide is to jump in front of a train. As I understand it the train drivers take classes on the problem because it seems the person stepping in front of the train often looks the driver directly in the eye. This causes a lot of psychological problems for the drivers. It seems it haunts them for the rest of their lives.[/QUOTE]

flylo
05-19-2015, 02:30 PM
Years ago I shot 1-1/4" mild steel I assume & the bullet thent all the way thru but didn't exit, it cleared the 1-1/4 but pushed about an inch of steel out of the block but still attached.


Paul, it certainly IS available to the general public. I've got quite a few rounds of surplus .30-06 AP black tip, which is a pretty good target round. Rather have .223, 5.56, .308 or even .50 BMG? It's all readily available, legally available. Maybe not in all states....

Mike Amick
05-19-2015, 10:18 PM
flylo .. your story about the van was written really good. I was starting to slide up
on the edge of my seat to see how the story ended.

krutch
05-22-2015, 11:00 PM
Only if Supreman is holding the bullet!

tlfamm
06-10-2015, 02:44 PM
NTSB is reporting that there is no evidence that the locomotive engineer (Brandon Bostian) was using his cellphone at the time of the Amtrak crash:


http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/11/us/amtrak-crash-engineer-brandon-bostian-not-on-cellphone-ntsb-says.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage

Mike Amick
06-10-2015, 07:55 PM
As long as he continues to "not remember" they will never be able to bring
criminal charges.

Its pretty obvious that he didn't do what was needed to control the train. The whole
issue is why not. It's impossible to say it was neglect as opposed to a medical
condition.