Re: What caused this derailment?, Alerter?
Author: Glen Icanberry
Date: 06-27-2007 - 23:39
Hherjem, Brian Jennison, and Old Pole Burner have a better grasp on reality than some. The answers lie within the video and the report. It is highly unusual that the public audience has digital access to both. Previously rails and railfans were often left with "facts" and conjecture from the rumor mill. How about some more facts and observations?
Notice the signals as the westbound train approached the east switch at Kismet. The eastbound train rolled down the main track, PAST eastbound controlled signal displaying stop indication, then continued PAST the fouling point, WITHOUT STOPPING, and struck the westbound train. That is pretty much it. However if you want more explanation read on: The eastbound train would have had intermediate signals in advance of the west siding switch Kismet, requiring a reduction in speed. The eastbound would have had a restricting eastbound controlled signal, at the west switch Kismet, which would have required the engineer to STOP short of the next controlled signal. (In this instance the eastbound controlled signal at the east switch Kismet, where the collision occurred.) The very eastbound control signal, which furnished the eastbound engineer with a STOP indication, which was NOT complied with. As reference please see the report and video.
The video, from the lead unit on the westbound, shows that engineer of the westbound properly slows his train to enter the siding at the east siding switch at Kismet. As the westbound train approached the east siding switch, the westbound controlled signal, (right side of the screen), went from a red over green indication, to red over red indication, just before the collision. (Meaning that the westbound was properly lined up by the train dispatcher to proceed THROUGH the siding, (red over green indication), and back out onto the main track without having to stop. Unfortunately the collision ended that plan. Notice that when the eastbound train went past the fouling point, the westbound control signal went to red over red. This was due to the opposing train running past the eastbound control signal displaying stop indication.
One can see at least one crewman on the eastbound train jumping off to the left side of the screen. Possibly that was the engineer, as he would have been closest to the back door of the cab. Further speculation: maybe the conductor beat him to it. One would have to ask them who left the cab first. Also notice that the engineer on the eastbound kept his headlight and ditch lights on bright, as the westbound train approached. Possibly an indication that the eastbound engineer was not entirely in control of his train, nor was he necessarily aware that he was meeting an opposing train. The fact remains the eastbound train's engineer did not control his own train's speed, in accordance with signal indications. The headlight on bright might have also been intended as an indication that he was no longer clear of the opposing movement, or that he simply did not touch the headlight switch. This incident occurred just as the sun was coming up. The eastbound train had haz mat cars in the train, and was required to hold the main track, per outstanding BNSF instructions and rules.
Rest assured that the signal system was properly tested, the signal system was in proper working order, and that the entire unfortunate circumstance was recorded, and can be played back by the CAD in San Bernardino. The observations in a certain previous post have simple explanations, to those familiar with the CAD and the signal system. I have first hand knowledge of otherwise qualified, experienced train and engine crewmen who may to this day believe that train dispatchers have toggle switches for each and every signal. (They don't.) Being a regular scanner or radio listener does not qualify one to poke fun at, nor criticize some of the best and safest signalmen, nor their work on class one railroads. These employees are extremely competent, dedicated signalmen working on keeping the signal system absolute. BNSF, NTSB, PUC and FRA investigators have all looked at the evidence. Multiple digital locomotive event recorders also accurately recorded the incident, in real time. Rest assured, that as pointed out in previous posts, proper air tests were made on these trains, and that the westbound had been through three crew change points. As previous posts pointed out these trains would not have gotten as far along as they did with exceptions to the air brake rules. No fault can be found with the westbound train crew, or equipment. They had no warning, nor time to stop until the eastbound train ran past the eastbound controlled signal at Kismet. The westbound train was not speeding, and was operated properly and safely in accordance to signal indications. The westbound train could not physically nor reasonably been expected to comply with a stop indication caused just prior to the impending collision.
This accident deprived many deserving railroaders, their families, and friends the opportunity to ride the BNSF Employee Recognition Special out of Fresno, which was cancelled due to the derailment. Many of those same dedicated BNSF employees were forced to respond to the derailment. Only good thing about it was that nobody was killed, and that for once a catastrophic accident happened during daylight hours, and did not wake the majority of the responders up, and keep them up all night. Although many were out the following nights and days to restore service, and for the cleanup.
By the way Kismet means "fate." For you conspiracy theorists/pundits, who remain unconvinced, maybe you will just have to ASSume that a UFO with the reporting marks "NWP" caused this. As Don Henley sings, "They're not here, and they're not coming..." From the album "Inside Job."