Looking back on your time as a raw youth, as a novice railroader, as an entry level officer, as division officer, and as a system officer, just how many times were you told "You should really learn to shut your mouth."?
This may come as a surprise, but I heard that, or its equivalent, "just do as you're told," more times than I care to recall. I heard it from the kid bigger than me just before, and just after, he placed his bigger fist on my littler jaw; I heard it from teachers, parents, relatives, neighbors, from so many people you might think I purposely went out of my way to antagonize people by asking questions, by offering opinions, by pointing out what I thought were obvious flaws in logic, planning, data, observation, or just the way we should be doing something well before I went to college, not to mention hired out as a brakeman in Chicago where of course I continued in the incorrigible ways of my youth. Tough to believe, isn't it?
But I did not. Go out of my way to do this. It came, and comes naturally. As the Four Tops made perfectly clear, I Can't Help Myself.
I paid a little bit of price, too. A couple of whopper-jaws, a black eye here, getting kicked there. Getting kicked down in rank; getting kicked upstairs into a back office where I was able to play all 39,9000 Free Cell games before being released from purgatory to resume my time in the fire of day-to-day, and long-term, operations. Not a bad price, mind you. Nobody was shooting at me. I got to go home and sleep in my wife's bed, so who's complaining? Not me. My wife's not taking questions right now.
Still, I mean I know I should learn to shut-up every once in awhile... because I really like railroading. I really like figuring out not just how to move 10 trains in two directions on two tracks in 4 minutes, but how to program those trains to make the connections so that the service achieves the maximum benefit for the user, and the maximum safety for all. So sometimes, I should shut-up, not say what I'm thinking, smile, and make my pitch in such sweet tones, using such gentle, soothing, timid words that nobody, positively nobody, not even somebody built (mentally, or emotionally--heaven forbid) just like me will take offense, and fire me, or decide to not contract for my services.
Never happen. I Can't Help Myself (Holland-Dozier-Holland, 1965; lead vocal Levi Stubbs; backing vocals Abdul Fakir, Renaldo Benson, Lawrence Payton).
So obviously, no matter how strong my desire to participate, work, consult, help railroads anywhere, including NYC, to move forward; no matter how attached I am to those still working wheres I used to work (plural), I cannot not say something. Forgive me, Sugar Pie, Honeybunch and I'll forgive you if this means you'll never talk to me again.
A friend informed me that tomorrow (if I finish this today) November 19, the MTA Board will award contracts for the installation of on-board cameras on the controlling ends of Metro-North's rolling stock. I presume the cameras will be both inward and outward facing. So that's two cameras per controlling end.
And... since most MNR rolling stock consists of married pairs of electric MUs with controlling cabs at each end; and because non-EMU service is provided by push-pull diesel locomotive/cab car consists, were talking in the neighborhood of 1500 cameras.
That's a lot of cameras. Now I know how eager Senators Schumenthal (D-NY/Ct) are to see their long wished for solution to all things evil installed, presumably so that the next time they call for "heads to roll," they'll have real heads in mind, and can post the results on YouTube. Swell. But...
But me, big-eyed me, I see problems dead ahead. And me, big-mouthed me has just got to ask some questions, like:
Question 1: What operating rules and procedures will govern the status of the cameras?
Question 2: Will the failure of either internal or external camera disqualify the vehicle from being the controlling end for movement, when the failure occurs prior to the train's initial dispatchment for that day?
Question 3: Will the failure of either camera disqualify the vehicle from being the controlling end and completing its service cycle, when the failure occurs after the initial dispatchment?
Question 4: How will an enroute failure be handled. Will a speed restriction be imposed on trains enroute after a failure?
Question 5: How will the operability of the cameras be verified before any dispatchment?
Question 6: How will the camera on the leading end of movement be activated during a reverse (shoving movement)? How will the person in the leading end of movement, but not controlling the application of power, know the camera is working?
Question 7: If the camera on the leading end of movement of a train making a reverse (shoving) move is not operable, is the shoving move prohibited?
Question 8: Who will be authorized to review the images from the cameras, and how will data be archived?
Question 9: What will constitute actionable (requiring further investigation and possible discipline) observations of actions that do not result in failure to control the movement of the train?
And here's my personal favorite question: MNR has petitioned FRA for a waiver of compliance, asking for relief from imposing mandatory sanctions on locomotive engineers and conductors who violate sections of 49 CFR 240 and 242.
Question 10: This petition is made as part of the railroad's introduction of a Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS). Exactly what use are these cameras in those instances where crew actions represent such a threat to the safety of employees and passengers and the general public as to (under the intent of the regulation) trigger these mandatory sections?
I don't know the answer to questions 1-9, but if somebody wants to hire me to work on it, I'm rested and ready.
I do know the answer to question 10. "Of no use whatsoever." More precisely, "use of the cameras is prohibited." The confidentiality of the person violating the provisions of 240 and 242, must be preserved. This means no identification of the employee, or the train can be made part of the notification to the railroad; or be introduced into the investigation of the report itself.
Wonderful, isn't it? Don't know if the Senators Schumenthal sorted that out when they were beating the drums for installation of the cameras and C3RS. Don't know if departing administrator of FRA, Szabo, sorted it when he agreed to initiate rule-making for camera installation, in between riffs on behalf of C3RS. But I can't help myself, I just have to ask.
There's this rule of thumb on the railroad that goes something like this: "The best way to f**k your boss is to give him exactly what he says he wants." I learned that the easy way, when every once in a while I did shut up, and I did do exactly as I was told.
November 18, 2014
If you can't say anything good............
then you have properly assessed the situation.