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Monday, February 5, 2018

Railroad crossings are hazards as are mistakes by employees

CAYCE, S.C. (AP) — Federal investigators are trying to figure out why a switch was in the wrong position, sending an Amtrak train into a freight train and killing a conductor and an engineer in South Carolina.


When crew members operating a local train were supposed to have moved their train into a siding and then re-set the switch so that the next train coming up the main line would stay on that line the crew members failed to reset the switch so the next through train entered the siding hit the parked train.

The csx signal system was down at the time so train dispatchers were directing trains with NO safety signals.

The switch to a train siding was set to divert a train to the siding. It was lined and locked for any train to be diverted off the main line.

Crew members FAILED to reset the switch back to allow any train to travel down the main line normally.

All it takes is 1 person to make a stupid mistake for a fatal accident to happen.

On Feb 4, 2018 a stupid mistake was made in Cayce, SC on Feb 4,2018


The passenger train hurtled down a side track near Cayce (CAYsee) around 2:45 a.m. Sunday after a stop 10 miles (16 kilometers) north in Columbia because a switch had been locked in place, diverting it from the main line. A crew on the freight train had moved the switch to drive it from one side track — where it unloaded 34 train cars of automobiles — to the side track where it was parked. The switch was padlocked as it was supposed to be, Sumwalt said.

The system that operates the train signals in the area was down, so CSX dispatchers were operating them manually.

The Silver Star was going an estimated 59 mph (94 kph) when it struck the freight train, Gov. Henry McMaster said. It was the middle of the night, and many people were jolted from sleep by the crash and forced into the cold.

“I thought that I was dead,” said passenger Eric Larkin, of Pamlico County, North Carolina, who was dazed and limping after banging his knee.

Suddenly awake, Larkin said the train was shaking and jumping and his seat broke loose, slamming him into the row in front of him.

He heard screams and crying all around him as he tried to get out. Other passengers were bleeding.

The locomotives of both trains were crumpled on impact, and the Amtrak engine ended up on its side. One car in the middle of the Amtrak train was snapped in half, forming a V off to one side of the tracks.

Engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Georgia, and conductor Michael Cella, 36, of Orange Park, Florida, were killed, Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said. Of the 116 people taken to four hospitals, only about a half dozen were admitted. The rest had minor injuries such as cuts, bruises or whiplash, authorities said.

“Any time you have anything that happens like that, you expect more fatalities. But God blessed us, and we only had the two,” Fisher said, her voice choked with emotion.


On Wednesday, Jan 31, 2018 a chartered Amtrak train carrying Republican members of Congress to a retreat slammed into a garbage truck at a crossing where locals said the safety arms were down even when no trains approached. That accident in rural Virginia killed one person in the truck and injured six others.

And on Dec. 18, an Amtrak train ran off the rails along a curve during its inaugural run near Tacoma, Washington, killing three people and injuring dozens. It was going nearly 80 mph (128 kph), more than twice the speed limit.

“It’s becoming almost like an epidemic for Amtrak,” said Najmedin Meshkati, a University of Southern California engineering professor who has studied positive train control.


People get frustrated when the see railroad crossing arms blocking the rail crossing when they malfunction.

I have seen this many times.

In a local town near where I live the main line goes through the middle of the town. There are 2 main crossings with crossing arms that have been known to malfunction.

Sometimes people think the railroad crossing arms are malfunctioning when in fact they are not.

(1) If a track crew is working nearby on the rails it can make the crossing arms come up and down and the safety lights to flash. You may not notice the track crew working on the track nearby if you don't look close. You think the rail crossing warning is malfunctioning so you cross the track after waiting 5 minutes or so even though the crossing arms are blocking the road.

Is this safe?

I would say no but if you can see a track crew nearby working on the track neaby it would mean the track crew had to call dispatch to keep that section of track clear of trains while they were working on the track. Also the track signals to other trains would tell the engineers to stop and not enter the block that the train crew was working on.

If railroad crossing arms are malfunctioning sometimes the just go up and down and up and down.

This also can mean a local track crew is nearby working on the track believe it or not.

It can also mean that the crossing arms are really malfunctioning.

I always wait 5 min or so and look down the track in the daytime to see if a track crew is working on the track nearby.

If I see a track crew I don't take a chance and go across the road even though the crossing arms arm down.

If the rail crossing has a track curve near by where you can't see a train approaching you are taking even more of a chance if you bypass the crossing arms.

If all this happens at night that adds another unsafe aspect to crossing a track that can lead to a train hitting your vechicle because of the blind spot!

Here is my advice for dealing with a railroad crossing that appears to be malfunctioning:

Find a nearby bridge that goes over the tracks so you can safely go across the road!

Also here is my advice about using amtrack to travel. DON'T.

Until nationwide positive train control is everywhere do not ride the rails using amtrack.

When train block signals fail dispatchers manually tell trains when to stop and go. (Blind leading the blind so to speak.)

The problem is train dispatchers can't know about switches that are thrown in the wrong position like what has happened recently in Cayce SC if the signal system is down.

How could they if the signal system was down? Also if the signal system was working they depend on the employees to have switched the side track switches back to the normal main line position as was not the case in Cayce SC.

If you are on an amtrack train the engineer could be traveling down the track with no signals depending on a blind track dispatcher telling him what to do!

I have never thought it was safe to travel on the rails on amtrack.

It still will not be safe even after positive train control is nationwide.

Positve train control sounds good but so does the "affordable care act".

A train travels over hundreds of switches and all it takes is just one that malfunctions or some railroad employee has failed to set a switch correctly.

I have personally seen the ribbon rail on the main line track move like a snake when a bridge crew had to spike up the rails very fast because an amtrack train was approaching.

This happened because the bridge crew foreman was a DRUNK and did not correctly get the track time for the crew to work on the track. He was an idiot, a part time chicken farmer and full time drunk.

The track was spiked up every 5th or 6th railroad tie.

The amtrack train engineer had a slow order but ignored it! Another idiot!

The passenger train was moving much to fast for the track conditions.

The amtrack enginner was only thinking about trying to stay on time.

He did not have the passengers safety in mind nor the bridge crew working on the bridge.

From that time on I knew riding on an amtrack train was NOT SAFE and never would be.

Not only are track crossing hazards, so are potential mistakes by railroad employees.


(1) if you see a malfunctioning signal crossing do not cross the track at that crossing. Take the time to drive up or down the road to a bridge that over the track and cross over there. Don't be stupid just because you are in a hurry.

(2) Never ever ride on any amtrack train because they will never be safe for the above reasons.

(3) How do I know all this?

I am either a former employee or know one. Take your pick.


All it takes is just one out of hundreds or thousands to be set in the wrong position.