Author Topic: A Fun Time to be Had on Amtrak... NOT!  (Read 1031 times)

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C855B

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A Fun Time to be Had on Amtrak... NOT!
« on: January 07, 2014, 10:56:34 AM »
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What the press doesn't get is that this was BNSF's fault. My edu-guess is they scaled-back their own operations on these busy mainlines and then weren't out running pilots to keep the line clear. "12 foot drifts" take a while to form.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-amtrak-trains-snow-polar-vortex-20140107,0,1162418.story
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railnerd

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Re: A Fun Time to be Had on Amtrak... NOT!
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2014, 01:03:48 PM »
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Judging from the photo they used for the story, I guess the polar vortex must have also ripped a hole in the space-time continuum, too:



-Dave

Scottl

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Re: A Fun Time to be Had on Amtrak... NOT!
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2014, 01:24:35 PM »
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LAX cancelled flights because of bitter cold?   :facepalm:

C855B

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Re: A Fun Time to be Had on Amtrak... NOT!
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2014, 01:50:17 PM »
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LAX cancelled flights because of bitter cold?   :facepalm:

Equipment stuck elsewhere. You can't fly when there are no planes. ("I just flew in from Boston, and boy are my arms tired.") :D
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GaryHinshaw

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Re: A Fun Time to be Had on Amtrak... NOT!
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2014, 02:02:03 PM »
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I wonder if the article has been updated since this was posted?  I didn't see anything about 12 foot drifts; the caption on the (stock) photo reads:
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Amtrak's California Zephyr, which transports passengers between the San Francisco Bay Area and Chicago, was trapped in snow overnight Monday in the Midwest. Here the train is seen traveling through the snowy Sierra Nevada. (Amtrak)
so not directly pertinent, but still on topic; and the full quote about LAX reads:
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Meanwhile, at Los Angeles International Airport some three-dozen flights were canceled Monday because of the bitter cold weather in the Northeast and Midwest.

By the standards of current-day journalism, this story seems entirely reasonable to me.  Most readers don't care if it's BNSF's fault, it is still a weather-related delay.

Philip H

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Re: A Fun Time to be Had on Amtrak... NOT!
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2014, 02:15:45 PM »
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LAX cancelled flights because of bitter cold?   :facepalm:

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Bob Bufkin

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Re: A Fun Time to be Had on Amtrak... NOT!
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2014, 02:42:39 PM »
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Amtrak was shut down between Baltimore and Philadelphia last evening for a few hours.  Overhead wire problems.  Hats off the the crews that fixed this in this weather.

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Re: A Fun Time to be Had on Amtrak... NOT!
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2014, 03:05:55 PM »
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Judging from the photo they used for the story, I guess the polar vortex must have also ripped a hole in the space-time continuum, too:

-Dave

It could have had an electrical storm component like that which took the Nimitz to Dec 6, 1941 in The Final Countdown  :trollface:
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C855B

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Re: A Fun Time to be Had on Amtrak... NOT!
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2014, 03:27:37 PM »
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I wonder if the article has been updated since this was posted?  I didn't see anything about 12 foot drifts; ...

Oops. Sorry - that was in other related articles. I thought it was in the AP release.

Quote
Most readers don't care if it's BNSF's fault, it is still a weather-related delay.

True enough, but unlike the airline issues, it was a preventable failure.
...mike

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GaryHinshaw

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Re: A Fun Time to be Had on Amtrak... NOT!
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2014, 05:55:17 PM »
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What is the evidence that it was BNSF's fault?  I'm not trying to challenge you, just curious.

C855B

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Re: A Fun Time to be Had on Amtrak... NOT!
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2014, 08:28:33 PM »
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It's the perspective of somebody with a passing familiarity with snow ops (Donner). They were on a heavy mainline normally with lots of traffic. I'm edu-conjecturing that the RR likely stopped the trains they could leave safely parked - rightly so - during the worst of the conditions, but then didn't run pilots to keep the line cleared for the scheduled movements (the protocol I was aware of). 12-foot drifts don't accumulate instantly, it takes a couple of hours.

I do honestly think somebody wasn't familiar with heavy-snow ops and the need to continuously police the line. It's not like a surprise snowslide, like the 1952 City of SF. In that case they actually weathered being stuck fairly well, as they had plenty of food, and fuel for the heating system... and didn't have "honeypot" waste retention systems.  :scared:

Now I could be corrected on this, maybe a little. I've got a knowledge gap here whether the CZ and Southwest are on the Transcon between Galesburg and Chicago. They might not be. (I should know, I've been on both... but it's such a blur in this section of the trip.) If not, I could cut BNSF a little slack, but, still the trainmaster or whoever should have been thinking about at least running a pilot ahead of the first afternoon Amtrak (both trains arrive close together) to either clear the snow or know to hold everything at Galesburg. Instead he has to pick up the pieces and go to a few uncomfortable meetings in Chicago.
...mike

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draskouasshat

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Re: A Fun Time to be Had on Amtrak... NOT!
« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2014, 05:20:53 PM »
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I think you have to understand what theyre calling a "12ft drift". Its not like it was 12ft tall or anything. It was most likely a 12ft long drift that maybe was a foor or 2 deep. as for patrolling, you dont send hyrail trucks out in conditions like that as, like an amtrak train are light, and you risk derailing much easier  and causing more headaches. Amtraks arent like a freight train with extreme adhesion. Those dinky little units they use are good for normal daily operations, but by no means are they set up for bad conditions.
A drift like that could have formed in less than an hour with the high winds, and as most dont know, we CLEAR the line ahead of any amtrak so we dont have late trains and cause bad performance for them. this is most likely why it seems as though BNSF didnt do anything.
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Scottl

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Re: A Fun Time to be Had on Amtrak... NOT!
« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2014, 05:27:44 PM »
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Most of that makes sense to me, but I think a 12' drift means 12' high.  Most drifts of any size are many tens of feet long, and a hundred feet long would not be particularly unusual.  If the right obstacles were next to the rail line, a large drift of that height could accumulate in hours.

pedro

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Re: A Fun Time to be Had on Amtrak... NOT!
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2014, 03:29:56 PM »
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I work on the Chicago Division and have been hearing that it was indeed a 12' (deep) drift. A drift like that will stop a freight train dead, a passenger train has no chance. You have to realize that where this happened is flat, virtually treeless northern Illinois farmland, where wind-driven snow can blow unimpeded for a long ways. It finds tracks in even a shallow cut, and, bam: instant drifting. I've seen cuts filled completely from side to side. Even with a pilot engine clearing the line, it will re-drift in a matter of minutes in blizzard conditions.

My own memorable experience was during our blizzard in Feb. 2011 where I spent 27 hours on duty on a freight outside of Rochelle. We were DOA because of hitting "normal" drifts - nothing bigger than the top of the plow.  I coasted the last 5 miles downhill into Rochelle with three dead motors - still running in idle but unable to make power. When you hit a drift it powderizes the snow, which can get sucked into the electrical cabinets and traction motors, causing all manner of electrical problems and shorts. That day/night almost every train that was moving went down for the same reason. When the first train got through the next day (at restricted speed) they stopped and picked up everyone who was stranded - there were 13 DOL crew members on three locomotives.


pedro

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Re: A Fun Time to be Had on Amtrak... NOT!
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2014, 03:44:09 PM »
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Also, if they're all on time, the sw chiefs and ca zephyrs, #'s 3,4,5 and 6, all traverse the chicago division between Galesburg and Chicago within a couple hours of each other. The mainline (Mendota sub) dispatcher parks everything else when it gets to be "amtrak time".