My Take on It – Wrongly Routed Trains

I recently read an article about US Railroad – Amtrak – wanting to know how ‘a train got lost’ on SEPTA tracks. In other words, the train was incorrectly routed. This piqued my interest since most trains these days are controlled or rather routed from a central control center – known as Centralized Traffic Control or CTC for short.

On the Golden Railway and a few others I know of, the procedure for the Train Driver is to:

a) If the train is moving – stop the train immediately and call CTC and enquire as to what is the reason, or,
b) If the train is stationary – call CTC and enquire as to what is the reason.

Now, there are instances where CTC can change the route of your train for a plethora of reasons, BUT, they will call the Train Driver first to inform him of the situation.

Here is the article, read it for yourself and see what you make of it:

Amtrak wants to know how NYC-bound train got lost in Philadelphia suburb
By Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News

An Amtrak train en route to New York City from Harrisburg made a wrong turn last week and got lost in the Philadelphia suburbs, officials say.

According to CBS’ Philadelphia affiliate, the train left Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, apparently missed a signal and accidentally wound up on tracks used by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

The train, with 130 passengers on board, stopped at a train station in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., where local crews helped the crew return to Philadelphia. Passengers were put on a different train and arrived in New York several hours later.

Amtrak said it has launched an investigation into the Nov. 14 incident.

Steve Kulm, Amtrak’s media relations director, added that the train’s “crew has been held out of work until they can be fully debriefed and additional training can be conducted.”

The only thing that stood out for me was the last paragraph. Does that mean that both Train Driver and Conductor are at fault here? Did the Conductor not realize that something was different (having been a Conductor, trust me when I tell you that you can feel it)? Why didn’t the Conductor radio or contact the Train Driver? Why did the Train Driver not stop immediately? This is the second article, released a week later by the Huffington Post:

How Does A Freaking Amtrak Train Get LOST In The Philly Suburbs?!?
The Huffington Post

An Amtrak train carrying 130 people got lost last week after it traveled too far backward while turning around and ended up on local tracks in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Amtrak says the train, which was headed to New York from Philly, experienced a mechanical issue in the undercarriage of the front cab car, where the driver was.

In an attempt to complete its trip, the train had to turn around so that the locomotive in the back could be at the front, Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz told The Huffington Post Wednesday over the phone.

“They have to make a K turn and run with the locomotive in front,” Shulz said. “It’s a rare move they’d never executed in that spot before.”

While reversing, the train accidentally went too far down the wrong track, Shulz said. It ended up on local tracks of SEPTA, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, where Amtrak trains do not run.

SEPTA shut down power to the track when it noticed the foreign train, SEPTA spokesperson Jerri Williams told HuffPost Wednesday. “That will slow the train down,” Williams said.

The lumbering Amtrak eventually reached the Bala Cynwyd, Pa., SEPTA station. It came to a stop and received directions to come back to Philadelphia, where passengers were put on a separate train to New York.

The incident happened mid-day on Thursday of last week. As a precaution, the train’s engineer and its crew were taken out of service, given tests for drugs and alcohol and additional training before being allowed to return to work this week. The drug and alcohol tests came back clean, Shulz said.

Shulz assured us that no one on the train was ever in ever danger. “The infrastructure worked,” he said.

Luckily there were no SEPTA trains on that track at that time, Williams said. “It was the middle of the day, so there was only one train before the morning commuter trains and the evening commuter trains,” she said. “There was no chance of an incident.”

I truly think there’s some good old Hogwash in these articles, but then again I am looking at it from my understanding of ‘the rules’. The Train Driver MUST have noticed that the overhead power was off, meaning he had to stop the train immediately incase the contact wire was broken/damaged ahead.

It seems to me that there is a huge lack of communication – where the workers below and top management don’t communicate what is happening and frankly, if I was the public, I’d be worried that they allow a train to run with a ‘mechanical issue’ with the undercarriage. I don’t think the Driver or Conductor were clueless as to what was happening. I think that the PR people need to come up with better excuses for delays in the service.


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