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Spotting Train Vibrations

Posted June 14, 2015 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

In light of the recent Amtrak crash near Philadelphia, a review of recent safety measures is necessary. European rail regulations, for example, dictate that trains traveling in excess of 160 km/hr (99 mph) must support bogie-mounted vibration sensors to help prevent derailment. Such systems are outfitted on new high-speed trains in Saudi Arabia. Curve detection sensors are also critical. Able to detect when a train enters and exits a curve, these sensors inform the train's wheel lubrication system, which in turn provides lubricant to the wheels at the right time and in the right amount.


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#1

Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/15/2015 12:35 AM

Casey Jones would be horrified.

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#2

Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/15/2015 3:07 AM

Lubed wheels? I love the squeal of the wheels on the tracks on tight winding rail routes.

Next they'll stop using steam....

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#3

Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/15/2015 4:50 AM

All the reports suggest that the train was travelling far too fast round the curve. Would not rotational speed sensors not have been more appropriate?

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/15/2015 5:39 AM

Plenty of lower tech ways of detecting a vehicles speed other than vibrations. A speedometer comes to mind with a governor perhaps....or a GPS....

A passive speeding deterrent..

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#5
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Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/15/2015 6:28 AM

Yeah, it's not like these curves in the track move from place to place.

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#7
In reply to #5

Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/15/2015 9:37 AM

Actually you will find that the curves do move, with thermal expansion and contraction as one of the causes. Having worked, some time ago, in the industry, the alignment of the rails is always changing, not only from the temperature differences of the rails, but also movement and changes in the road bed(ballast and sub-ballast). If the road bed is not properly maintained, not only by correctly aligning and tamping the ballast, but also by keeping the ballast clean, accidents will happen unless slow orders and in place and adhered to.

The company I worked for not only made the various pieces of equipment needed for proper road bed maintenance, but also spent $millions in R&D to make higher speed maintenance equipment to keep the trains moving at higher speeds and more frequently by reducing the down time required for road bed maintenance.

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#19
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Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/17/2015 7:09 PM

That must be Otto's cousin.

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#6

Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/15/2015 8:56 AM

While other countries look for ways to improve their rail systems we find ways to cripple ours.

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#8

Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/15/2015 10:06 PM

Why not require another accountable person in the cab? A simple, quick, and effective way to reduce single human factor accidents.

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#9
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Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/16/2015 4:12 AM

I think you will find that a speed limiter is a far cheaper, quicker and more effective way than a second driver's salary.

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#10
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Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/16/2015 6:10 AM

Second guy rolls smokes and lights them and opens and holds beers for the driver so he can remain focussed.

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#11
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Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/16/2015 8:46 AM

The question I always ask is just how much is a human life worth? When we start cutting safety to cut costs I personally think we have lost sight of what's important.

imho

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#12
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Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/16/2015 12:14 PM

The second person in the cab can be accomplished on the next shift. How long will it take for the GPS based Positive Train Control to be installed? Until then put a second person in the cab.

After the repairs are made and the lawsuits are settled the ROI for that second person is going to look pretty good; granted not as good as an automated system but much faster and easier to accomplish until the automated systems can be put in place.

As a Railroad Manager and Regulatory Inspector with 36 years of experience in rail operations I know what it takes in terms of time and money to ensure safe and efficient rail operations.

Again; I agree that automated systems can be more economically effective; but they can also be overridden and often times take years to implement. The second accountable person in the cab can be accomplished on the next crew assignment schedule and be used until the automated systems can be put in place.

This appears to be a wholly human factor caused accident with a high probability that it would not have occurred had their been a second accountable person in the cab.

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/16/2015 1:00 PM

I think you need to think this one through. Either you train double the number of drivers very quickly, or you put the ones you've got on compulsory overtime. The latter will work in the short term until they all go on holiday at the same time or they all go off on stress-related sickness at the same time. Human resources need managing just as much as stocks of engines and carriages.

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#14
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Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/16/2015 1:12 PM

The second person does not need to be a "driver" and Hours of Service Regulations must be met. Any person qualified on the operating rules would suffice in the short term. This includes conductors (as is done on freight operations) or even brakeman if they still exist in the industry.

If it is a shared territory with freight operations then borrowing (contracting) from a freight operation is also a possibility.

Doing nothing is not an option - even if it means reducing service in order to ensure safety.

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#15
In reply to #14

Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/16/2015 5:08 PM

Really? You believe that a person who is not qualified to drive a train will nevertheless be qualified to tell a qualified train driver how to drive a train safely? On which planet does that happen? This is not a problem to be solved by short-term fixes; whatever solution you come up with, it has to be sustainable in the long term.

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#16
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Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/16/2015 5:26 PM

So I return to my above question, what is a life worth? How long do we wish to wait? How many more need to die before the "long term" solution is available, tested deployed and implemented? What Galivan proposes is a rational, can be done tomorrow, and rather inexpensive fix compared to the legal circus about to unfold. Not perfect and it was never claimed to be. Afterall, in the real world, no system is ever perfect.

It is the same argument being made for another person in the cockpit of an airliner. Consider that in the Good Old Days, before the almighty dollar trumped everything. Trains had ample crews and so did airliners. wrecks and crashes still happened and always will.

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/17/2015 1:38 AM

The actuarial value of 1 human life is around $7.5 million. You start looking for a long-term solution now.

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: Spotting Train Vibrations

06/17/2015 9:00 AM

And they say life is cheap......

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