Metro-North Derailment: What Past Crashes Teach Us

Monday, December 02, 2013

The latest information on yesterday's deadly Metro-North derailment in the Bronx: Richard Hake and Andrea Bernstein of the WNYC newsroom, and The Wall Street Journal's Ted Mann, update what we know about the cause, the investigation, and disruptions to local commuting.  Plus, George Bibel, mechanical engineering professor at the University of North Dakota and the author of Train Wreck: The Forensics of Rail Disasters (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), adds more information about derailments and what systems might prevent future such accidents.



Andrea Bernstein, George Bibel and Ted Mann

Comments [15]

subway-buff from Wincheser, VA

this is in reply to Nick UWS. When a locomotive is pushing a train, the engineer is still in the front of the train. Passenger trains using Push/pull operation have a cab car on the operating end of their train which gives the engineer full control of the locomotive on the other end of the train. I am a retired NYC subway employee. If it were required to have a locomotive at each end there would be the cost of added rolling stock or turnaround capabilities- also an additional cost

Dec. 04 2013 09:24 AM
Harvey Wachtel from Kew Gardens, NY

Locomotives pushing trains of trailers don't cause accidents but they seriously exacerbate those that do occur. On this line, the solution to that is electrification to Poughkeepsie with operation of all commuter service with electric multiple unit equipment.

I'm aghast to hear that there is no automatic train control system in use on this busy line, or at least some audible alarm that would moo at a possibly distracted engineer when the train enters a restricted-speed zone. You don't need complicated antennas and GPS to do this: Railroads have had track-circuit controlled ATC for decades. The MTA seems to be operating Metro-North with 1950's safety technology, and the MTA is the first place where the heads should roll.

Dec. 03 2013 10:25 AM
The "real" Truth from Becky

I am willing to bet this guy was texting while operating the train.

Dec. 02 2013 11:33 AM
Susan K from Tarrytown, NY

My daughter had a ticket for a 7:58 am Amtrak train to Utica. We were at the Croton train station, and an announcement was made that "All trains are cancelled." The station was filled with many kids going back to college, and others trying to get on a Metro North train. The Metro North agent behind the booth kept saying she had "No information" about why the trains were cancelled. She continued to say this until we left at 8:35 am. (Over an hour after the derailment.)People repeatedly asked her if there was someone she could call to ask what was going on. She picked up the phone and was hysterically laughing with whoever was on the other end, but she said she had no information. If this was true, why doesn't Metro North communicate with its employees??????? We finally found out what had happened when we left and got in our car.

Dec. 02 2013 11:21 AM

I am surprised you are not pushing to scrap the train and expand the citibike footprint.

Dec. 02 2013 11:10 AM

Check the train operators cell phone log.

Dec. 02 2013 11:07 AM
John A.

Too soon. You're just milking this for airtime.

Dec. 02 2013 11:04 AM
Bob from Westchester, NY

To clarify, I believe the locomotive has a dual power system, diesel used north of the Croton-Harmon station and electric used between Croton-Harmon and Grand Central.

Dec. 02 2013 11:02 AM
john from office

Brian, why are we engaging on mindless speculation?? How about having an expert on who knows what they are speaking about. Or we can take calls from the public, speculating?

Dec. 02 2013 11:02 AM

How would seatbelts help save lives in a train wreck like this?

Dec. 02 2013 11:01 AM
Nick from UWS

I null my last comment, as it has been clarified, thank you.

Dec. 02 2013 10:59 AM

Four questions come to mind:
- Has the train operator's cell phone been recovered and inspected?
- Who was he/she texting at the time?
- Was the train operator alone in the control room?
- Was the sex consensual?

Dec. 02 2013 10:59 AM
Nick from UWS

What about the fact that the engine was in the back and so the engineer literally could not see the curve approaching in time, or he lost attention before the curve and forgot it was coming and braked too late?

Dec. 02 2013 10:57 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

There are only two causes of derailments: equipment (train or track) problems or driver error. Either way, someone here is at fault: either the driver for going too fast or whoever inspected the train cars and/or rails. Some head or heads will roll over this one.

Dec. 02 2013 10:52 AM
Joseph from Brooklyn, NY

I take the Hudson Line to Poughkeepsie often, and was planning on riding it on Sunday afternoon, to return home to NYC from Thanksgiving weekend. People are questioning why the locomotive was in the rear, pushing the train, rather than in front, pulling it. On this line, there's no way for trains to turnaround in Poughkeepsie, the terminal, so all travel south with the locomotive behind, and all northbound ones from Grand Central have it in front.

Dec. 02 2013 10:49 AM

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