Sunday morning, two operators of a backhoe died when they, contrary to all the protocols of safe railroading, occupied a live track on the Northeast Corridor near Chester, Pennsylvania.  Along came Amtrak 89, heading for Savannah and expecting men and equipment to be in the clear.  The Federal Railroad Administration has requested that maintenance personnel enroll in Railroading 099.  Yes, a remedial course, for no credit.
The FRA ordered Amtrak late Wednesday night to require all railroad maintenance workers and their supervisors to review safety rules applicable to their jobs. The regulatory agency also required Amtrak to review the rules governing communication between rail workers, their foremen and dispatchers. FRA also recommended that the rail agency conduct a similar safety review for all safety sensitive workers.

In the case of rail incidents the FRA conducts its own investigation parallel to one underway from the National Transportation Safety Board. The FRA issued the directive because of information received during its investigation, which is ongoing.
Amtrak succeeds Conrail, which succeeds Penn Central, which succeeds The Pennsylvania Railroad.  And all the Crusty Old Roadmasters who reinforced the Prime Directive, Safety is of the first importance in the discharge of duty, have crossed the final summit.


David Foster said...

Why don't maintenance crews carry a cable or bar that could be used to short between the tracks and thereby close the track circuit, causing all signals to behave as if they would if a train were on the line at that point? I can't think of any reason why that wouldn't work technically or would be inadvisable operationally.

Stephen Karlson said...

That bar works on a signalled line with a track circuit, which is not true of all tracks used by the major railroad systems. Thus, a uniformly applicable set of rules involving the placement of stop boards at the entrance to and resume speed boards at the exit from a work zone, and the granting of work limits by bulletin order or by track and time under a Form B clearance, is what the railroads use.

(That's one of the difficulties of implementing positive train control, as some of the lines transporting cargoes for which positive train control will be mandatory are currently not signalled. But once that control is in place, the location of work equipment will be accounted for in the information the train control is handling.)

None of which does any good if the operator of work equipment moves it without first obtaining the proper grant of work limits, which is what happened in Chester.