Crossing Loops, running or otherwise

 
  Showtime Chief Train Controller

Would not the driver have had the authority to tell the fireman to stay in the cab because the crossing was coming up? One would think that upon seeing the fireman about to "step out" that the driver would have said to the foreman  "hang on a moment buddy, you can do that after we have crossed".
Given the fact that the driver was dead at time, it would have been a little difficult.
In normal circumstances, the driver is the boss and, as the old Rules say, the fireman must be "cheerfully subordinate to the driver", but these circumstances were anything but normal.
Valvegear
So you're saying the driver was already dead when the fireman went off to make them both a cup of tea?
Sort of an observant fella that fireman then. Not much chance of him seeing the signals if he hasn't noticed a corpse at the tiller.
Alternatively, if the driver died while the fireman was out of the cab, then that goes back to my first statement that the driver should have directed the fireman not to leave the cab at that point and to wait a few minutes as the crossing was approaching.

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  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Norda Fittazroy
So you're saying the driver was already dead when the fireman went off to make them both a cup of tea?
Sort of an observant fella that fireman then. Not much chance of him seeing the signals if he hasn't noticed a corpse at the tiller.
Alternatively, if the driver died while the fireman was out of the cab, then that goes back to my first statement that the driver should have directed the fireman not to leave the cab at that point and to wait a few minutes as the crossing was approaching.
Showtime

That is exactly what I'm saying.
More from the Report of the Board of Enquiry:-
"Conclusions.
10.6 The Vigilance Control System functioned correctly during the trip. It was effective in that it obtained Fireman Coulthard's acknowledgement of it, particularly in the critical period before the collision. However, Fireman Coulthard failed before acknowledgement to properly check that Driver Bowden was alert. He had done so and taken emergency action to stop the train when he saw the condition of Driver Bowden, the accident would not have occurred.

10.7 The Southern Aurora . . . passed three signals at 71 mph . . .
The three signals and the indications they were displaying are:
AUTOMATIC SIGNAL No. ES 5774 - located 3 miles, 74 chains before collision. It was displaying a Normal Speed Warning indication authorising the the Driver to pass, prepared to stop at the next signal.
"UP" HOME ARRIVAL SIGNAL No. 27/8 - located 1 mile 48 chains from the point of collision was displaying a Low Speed Caution indication authorising the Driver to pass but to travel at a speed which would enable him to stop short of any obstruction.
"UP" HOME DEPARTURE SIGNAL No. 27/4 - located 78 chains from the collision point was displaying a Stop indication.

DRIVER J. BOWDEN died of a coronary occlusion with cardiac arrest prior to the collision. It is probable that he was either dead or incapacitated due to the heart attack about two miles on the 'down' side of Automatic Signal No. ES 5774, or six miles from the point of collision."

Prior to this particular section of the Report, there is a considerable amount of reporting on the questioning and answering of Fireman Coulthard - far too voluminous for me to try and write here. It leaves no doubt that he failed completely in every aspect of his duty, and could have prevented the collision.
As I have already written here, I have the entire Report, and Appendix thereto, scanned in pdf format which is easily transmissible by e mail.
  Lockspike Deputy Commissioner

So you're saying the driver was already dead when the fireman went off to make them both a cup of tea?
Sort of an observant fella that fireman then. Not much chance of him seeing the signals if he hasn't noticed a corpse at the tiller.
Showtime
Yes, according to the coroner he was already dead. The fireman told at least two enquiries (and probably three) that he went to fill the kettle ('though I doubt that actually happened). I've never been in an S class, but I'm told there was (is?) a potable water vessel in the nose of the loco, readily accessible from the cab.

Why do you reckon the fireman was not responsive in the usual manner? I have what I think is a plausible scenario. I'm not prepared to state my thoughts on a forum such as this, as even after all these years it may be too sensitive for some. Call me on the side (PM me) if interested in sharing ideas.
  UpperQuad Locomotive Fireman

Location: 184.8 miles to Sydney
I have what I think is a plausible scenario.
Lockspike
No-one is interested in theories and speculation, and it is unfortunate that this excellent thread has been hijacked.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Norda Fittazroy
No-one is interested in theories and speculation, and it is unfortunate that this excellent thread has been hijacked.
UpperQuad
Quite correct. The incident is examined thoroughly, dead, and buried. Theories are of no value at all.

I am one of the people who has contributed to the thread's highjacking but, being in possession of the Board of Enquiry's Report, I felt that once the thread had concentrated on the Aurora crash, I should help to dispel ideas and instead place facts at readers' disposal.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Yes, according to the coroner he was already dead. The fireman told at least two enquiries (and probably three) that he went to fill the kettle ('though I doubt that actually happened). I've never been in an S class, but I'm told there was (is?) a potable water vessel in the nose of the loco, readily accessible from the cab.
Lockspike
And the nose of the S class is precisely where the fireman went to fill the kettle.
  Showtime Chief Train Controller

I may have also contributed to the derailing of this thread, but I still found the Aurora crash of interest as I was not ware of the details.
It is pretty narrow minded of some who want to shutdown discussion of a rail event on a rail forum.
  Lockspike Deputy Commissioner

It is pretty narrow minded of some who want to shutdown discussion of a rail event on a rail forum.
Showtime
Very true Showtime. RP is similar to normal informal conversation, the subject matter weaves wherever the participants want it to go. I think the moderators here do a good job; overly moderated forums become moribund.
  RobertJM Beginner

Over many years I have thought how the Aurora collision could have been prevented- and it was not by far the only collision on the NE SG line, then very busy.
For what its worth, my scenario is this:
1. Loops could have been set up with "catch points" at each end closed only when the departure/starting signal from the loop was cleared; and an overrun from each catch point of say 50m to avoid derailing any train where for some reason an exact stop was not achieved at the loop departure signal.
2. Crossings in all cases would have initially both home/arrival signals at stop.  The first train to arrive at a point say 400m before either home/arrival signal would cause the points to move to the loop and then clear the home/arrival signal.  The second train to arrive at the point 400m before either arrival/home signal would get the appropriate signal to move forward on the main and to depart once the  other train had cleared its arrival points, and  the points restored to the main.
3. In the case of the Aurora, it would derail as it tried to take the points into the loop at 71mph- a much better scenario than a head-on collision; or in the unlikely event that it made it though the points, it would derail at the far end of the loop, again clear of the oncoming freight.   If instead of what actually occurred that morning, the freight was running more than a couple of minutes earlier, it would be safely in the loop and the Aurora would run harmlessly through on the main, hopefully giving the two members of the crew still alive (I include the Guard) a chance to stop the train before it reached the next point of possible collision.
4. This arrangement of loops would not prevent all possible collisions, but it would most, and it should have been a cost-possible arrangement considered when the SG line was being planned, or especially when incidents started happening in the 1960s.

Some might say why worry about something that happened 47 years ago, but this is foolish; the study of past rail disasters is the key to a safer system; and probably far more useful than pouring huge resources into say, making sure trains are not overspeeding by 10km/hr, which has probably never caused an accident.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Just one point of order for RobertJM, and it's only a minor one.

Point 3: The Aurora was not trying to take the points into the loop. The Aurora was set take No 1 road which is the main line, and the goods train was heading for the loop.

I must say that I agree with the gist of what you say. My only worry is derailing at 71 mph; that could still cause injuries and/or deaths.
Instead of a de-railer, I would prefer to see a brake trip at a signal which is displaying a Stop indication, as it's done in suburbia. I'm no expert but I can't see why it couldn't work here.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
When one has a fireman of the calibre we are discussing here it goes a long way to destroying the argument for the need of a second person on the footplate. He was there (sort of anyway) and the accident still occurred.

Fast forward to today where we have driver only N classes on both BG and SG where the only safety device is the vigilance control (VC). There is no train stop trip. Take, for example, an N class hauled driver only pass, especially in the metropolitan area, mixing it with sparks. Should the driver suddenly become disabled at the critical moment after hitting the VC, how far would/could the train go before the VC eventually brought it to a stop? Is there an elephant in the room?

In summary, we have replaced a non-entity of a fireman with a non entity and called it progress and efficiency.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Years ago, immediately after a high ranking V-Line peanut wrote to heritage operators about the alleged dangers of double-headed steam locomotives, I wrote back and suggested he took the plank out of his own eye before worrying about the speck of dust in someone else's. I pointed out exactly what YM-Mundrabilla is now saying about DOO. At 115 km/h the train is covering 32 metres a second. Let's say the driver presses the VC and immediately collapses. In the 90 second interval before the VC sounds again, the train covers 2880 metres = 2.88 km. Add to that the time between the failure to press the VC and the system actually cutting in and stopping the train, and you have in excess of 3 km at totally undiminished speed, plus the time/distance taken for the brakes to actually stop the train.
This is not safety by any stretch of the imagination.

Before anyone writes about a dead man's handle or pedal, there are numerous instances on record of these being over-ridden by hooking the handle back with a cord or similar, or putting a weight on the pedal.

If the system is better than I have suggested, I don't know about it, and would be delighted to learn that I'm wrong.
  t_woodroffe Assistant Commissioner

Vic DOO VC worked, when introduced to service (late 1990s), on a time basis of 50 seconds from acknowledgement to audible and flashing light warning, another 10 seconds to penalty brake, and another 55-60 seconds to emergency call ("squawker") to Control. Function acknowledgement (movement of throttle etc) was also incorporated. I am not sure what VLine run with these days.

I understand that some VC systems now work on a random time basis so you cannot predict when audible and flashing light warnings will occur. Advanced Train Control and moving blocks linked with GPS allow close monitoring of the train and driver action reaction. The TPWS in Victoria provides a type of signal trip functionality.

Trips were trialled on A2 locomotives in the 1920s but proved such a nuisance with unintended application due to objects adjacent the track fouling the trip clearance "up the bush" that the trials were abandoned.

TW
  Lockspike Deputy Commissioner

Some might say why worry about something that happened 47 years ago, but this is foolish; the study of past rail disasters is the key to a safer system; and probably far more useful than pouring huge resources into say, making sure trains are not overspeeding by 10km/hr, which has probably never caused an accident.
RobertJM
Well said RJM.

Cat 5 medicals (an administrative control) have gone a long way to prevent another Violet Town scenario, although they were introduced about 20yrs after so not as a direct result, however, they are not a perfect control and can be circumvented if a person is determined enough.

Engineering controls such as RJM has proposed while good, also are not perfect. As Valvegear has pointed out the Aurora was to take No1 Rd, (RJM, would you propose catch points on the main?). Derailing a loco and 14 cars at 70mph on catch points is horrific and only a little better than the head-on collision; had that occurred at Violet Town the resultant pileup would very likely have fouled the other track anyway.  

ATP (of which TPWS is a form) is preferable.
  RobertJM Beginner

Yes, I appreciated that the Aurora was routed to the main line- this was a problem.  That is the reason for my suggestion that the first train to arrive at a loop be invariably and automatically routed to the loop.
A derailment is a lot better than a total 90mph collision!  Believe me, I have been in a pass train  line-speed derailment (Indian Pacific, Daroogalbie NSW, 1970s;  no one injured.     Run offs from catchpoints can certainly to set up so derailed trains do not foul main line- that is their only purpose!
Certainly, more sophisticated devices can be used, any number of them, depending on what you can spend.  I was just proposing a minimum cost system that would have been well within the thinking parameters of VR of the 1960s.
  awsgc24 Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney
I would prefer to see a brake trip at a signal which is displaying a Stop indication, as it's done in suburbia. I'm no expert but I can't see why it couldn't work here.
Valvegear
A magnetic trip like the BR AWS, modified to show three positions, R, Y and G, would be better at high speed than a mechanical trip like on Electric trains in Syd and Mel.

The BR AWS was introduced about 1948 and is an improvement of the electro-mechanical AWS of the GWR of 1906.

Biggest problem is the NIH issue (Not Invented Here).

The NE SG line was opened about 1961, when the BR AWS was reasonably tried and tested. Cheaper than catchpoints.

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