Not my own of course... not that I don't make them. I just don't have enough time to catch and correct all of them.
For that essential task I depend on the kindness of friends and strangers.......
So as both a stranger and a friend to one Nicole Gelinas, let me provide some corrections to the information she has provided in today's New York Post regarding the December 1 derailment on Metro-North Railroad. You can, and should read her "Page 6" opinion piece (http://nypost.com/2013/12/06/mta-also-to-blame-in-train-crash/)
Please do. That way you can correct my mistakes.
Anyway Ms. Gelinas writes that we should "Blame the MTA for train crash, too."
That's a good idea. Holding organizations responsible for the errors, accidents, actions of their employees is something I support.
I think that accountability should be applied with more rigor, zeal even, to organizations like say banks, political parties, hedge funds, football leagues, governments, the military, corporations, advocacy groups, and newspapers.
Corporations are, as the US Supreme Court has so recently made clear, people too, so I am looking forward to the day when those who own corporations that pollute a city's water supply, or contaminate an area with asbestos tailings, get frog-marched down the courthouse steps and into a bus that says "Department of Corrections" on its sides.
But I digress. Ms. Gelinas wants us to hold the MTA responsible for the derailment too and that's fine. However, the last time I checked, nobody was letting MTA, or Metro-North Railroad, off the hook. Certainly not FRA which has sent a rather emphatic letter to MTA detailing the responsibility, and the failure to properly discharge that responsibility, Metro-North Railroad bears regarding safe train operations.
Anyway, the point is, nobody is "not blaming" MTA or Metro-North for what happened.
There are practices, processes, procedures, methods. The things we see, we expect, we experience-- good and bad-- are the results of the success, and failure, in executing those practices, processes, procedures, methods.
The most important part of those processes, of developing a practice of responsibility, is the gathering, evaluation, and communication of the proper information. In this vital process, Ms. Gelinas' column has shown itself to be inadequate. Ms. Gelinas tells us that
"It turns out that Metro-North trains don't have the speed-governing technology on this stretch of the Hudson line, and only have the whistle alert technology on northbound Hdson trips. When the train is going south the locomotive pushes the the passenger cars rather than pulls it [sic]. So it's way in the back, far away from the driver..."
No, actually, and technically not.Ms. Gelinas is confusing automatic train/speed control technology with the alertness device.
All Metro North trains are equipped with a cab signal/automatic train stop/automatic speed control system with an alerter that requires acknowledgement. All territory on Metro-North east of the Hudson River, save the Danbury and Waterbury branches is cab signal/automatic train control territory and has been for almost 20 years-- which of course coincides with the FRA mandated change after the collision at Chase, Maryland.
The reason why the cab signal alerter did not sound, and why an overspeed brake penalty did not occur is because the train was traveling a "normal route" with no trains ahead that would require a brake application to maintain safe train separation.
The cab signal system does NOT include permanent speed restrictions due to curvature, alignment, run-off or other elements of the track geometry. The cab signal/train stop/speed control system is driven, pardon the pun, by conditions of occupancy requiring deceleration of a train following another train, or a divergence at an interlocking, where a signal change is precipitated by a change in routing.
On the day in question, on the train in question, the system was cut in and functioning properly in the control car of the train. It is not designed to keep an engineer from "nodding off."
The operator alertness device is a different system altogether and serves a different purpose and would not have prevented this accident. The locomotive engineer would NOT have been required to reduce the speed of the train to satisfy the alertness device. The engineer could have absent-mindedly continued to overspeed and stop the alertness device simply by moving his hands and touching the locomotive horn, its bell switch, headlight switch, etc. etc. I have ridden, in my previous lives on the railroad with a locomotive engineer, who, while completely asleep, eyes closed, head tipped back, unconsciously and repeatedly moved his hands to satisfy the alertness device in the locomotive.
Just in case anyone is wondering, putting another person in the locomotive cab has not proven to be an effective preventative measure. How do we know? Look at the entire history of railroading; look at the recent history of collisions on freight railroads in the United States. Look at Creston, Iowa. Look at Goodwell, Oklahoma. Look back at Chase, Maryland. There was more than one person on those locomotives.
Ms. Gelinas compounds her dissemination of mis-information when she refers to the 1988 collision at "Vern" on the New Haven Line, that killed a Metro-North locomotive engineer. Ms. Gelinas wants to know why, with "plenty of current Metro-North managers around back then... why hasn't the problem been fixed?" Well, not to put too fine a point on it, since I was around back then, we did fix that problem. I know because I'm very proud of the role I played in developing that fix. This problem is not that problem.
So what in the world is Ms. Gelinas driving at? She will tell us: "(MTA) spends far too much money on unaffordable pension and health benefits......."
Ms. Gelinas, you see, has a political agenda, and she draws upon, utilizes, and propagates misinformation as the foundation for her political agenda, so that it appears that her political conclusions follow from some sort of objective analysis of facts. But her facts are not facts.
Ms. Gelinas asks, in the interests of the public welfare, "who was supervising Rockefeller?" That's a good question, a damn good question. That's the question I always ask. And I'll ask another one, and in the public interest: "Who is supervising Ms. Gelinas?"
December 6, 2013
Good railroads are good from the ground up.