Questions that you've always been too embarrassed to ask

 
  duttonbay Minister for Railways

LX protection:

Does the presence of boom gates actually have any physical effect, ie would a boom gate hold back a car (at a suitably low speed - high speed no way of course)?  Or is the protection more of a mental one that encourages a greater precautionary response from drivers?
james.au
It's a visual barrier, not a physical barrier - and designed to break off if a motor vehicle runs into it.  

A signalling engineer in Victoria told me of a level crossing where there were a number of near misses or collisions with trucks when the LC was fitted just with lights, all blamed on "brake failure". As soon as boom barriers were in place miraculously there were no more brake failures, and no road/train collisions. So, anecdotally the visual barrier is effective.

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  KRviator Moderator

Location: Up the front
The Ardglen Bankers are manned, with the coupler release rod chained up. The air is not through from the train to the bankers.
  petan Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting to see a zebra using a zebra crossing!
One thing I have been too scared / embarrassed to ask for a long time, for fear of an angry response, is to ask about level crossing smashes as someone will probably say the truck driver has to be vigilant, but the reality in the real world is the vehicle driver is a human so normal lapses in concentration will occur.  

The reality is modern 1.5 km freighters consist of a string of container flats and sometimes these include many empty wagons per train. My question is how come there are not more level crossing smashes especially as empty container wagons are low and flat and not always brightly lit at night. I don't give much credit to the reflectors on the wagons being of much use revealing the train to a truck driver approaching the level crossing at night at 100 kph.

It is a genuine question and not meant to stir an angry anti truck driver response.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Petan - I reckon that's a good question. I'd never thought of the problem of empties and visibility thereof at a crossing, particularly at night.

(As an aside, a bizarre sight at Seymour was the passage of a freighter beside SRHC, where there was long grass beside the track. A line of empties, which were hidden by the grass, could be followed by a loaded wagon, and there was the sight of a seemingly disembodied container whizzing along at grass top level.)
  sthyer Deputy Commissioner

One thing I have been too scared / embarrassed to ask for a long time, for fear of an angry response, is to ask about level crossing smashes as someone will probably say the truck driver has to be vigilant, but the reality in the real world is the vehicle driver is a human so normal lapses in concentration will occur.  

The reality is modern 1.5 km freighters consist of a string of container flats and sometimes these include many empty wagons per train. My question is how come there are not more level crossing smashes especially as empty container wagons are low and flat and not always brightly lit at night. I don't give much credit to the reflectors on the wagons being of much use revealing the train to a truck driver approaching the level crossing at night at 100 kph.

It is a genuine question and not meant to stir an angry anti truck driver response.
petan
The rail industry response is AS7531 Lighting and Visibility. In years gone by, rakes of dirty freight wagons with no side reflectors probably didn't get easily seen by the road vehicle headlights of the time. Thus, collisions occurred. These days, while there are processes for assessing relative dangers of level crossings and the fitment of side reflectors to rail vehicles, plus better road vehicle headlights, vigilance is always going to be part of the risk assessment for level crossings. If we assume there is no vigilance, then level crossings are an unacceptable risk and need to be all replaced. But to continue that logic, stop and give way signs aren't any better defence if there is no vigilance by the driver.

Perhaps the reason that there are not more smashes at level crossing in the scenario you describe is because of a combination of the above safety improvements.

The next industry upgrade being discussed / tested is radio warnings. For those who have been through various road tunnels in Australia, you will have discovered that the road operator can broadcast over your radio to give safety warnings. A similar system is proposed for level crossings.
  justapassenger Chief Commissioner

One thing I have been too scared / embarrassed to ask for a long time, for fear of an angry response, is to ask about level crossing smashes as someone will probably say the truck driver has to be vigilant, but the reality in the real world is the vehicle driver is a human so normal lapses in concentration will occur.  
petan
It is true that drivers on the road (of all vehicles) need to make sure a crossing is clear before entering it. That's a basic fact, no need for anyone on either side of the issue to get angry.

The idea of the Safe System (Australia's national road safety strategy) is to create a forgiving transport system which avoids getting as far as the blame game as often as possible.

My question is how come there are not more level crossing smashes especially as empty container wagons are low and flat and not always brightly lit at night.
petan
Australian rail operators have known about this for quite some time. Back in Australian National days there were already policies requiring the distribution of containers along the train to avoid having long strings of empty wagons.

The modern operators seem to be pretty good at filling backhaul capacity. The intermodal trains I see in SA rarely have more than a handful of empty wagons in a row, even on the trains going the 'wrong' direction.

If it were more of an issue, I think we would quickly see some sort of equivalent to trucks' running lights used on empty container wagons. It wouldn't be hard to design some kind of light on a stalk at driver's eye level which could be mounted using the hardware normally used for securing containers.

I don't give much credit to the reflectors on the wagons being of much use revealing the train to a truck driver approaching the level crossing at night at 100 kph.
petan
Correct move there, reflective strips don't work when they are covered by grime.

Bean counters only see the cost of keeping locos and wagons clean, not the value.
  petan Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting to see a zebra using a zebra crossing!
Just doing a devils advocate for a while; has anyone seen a report, assuming someone has ever done an investigation, into the effectiveness /quality of the view of signals from the guards position at the end of a fast moving lengthy train? If a periscope van, do the mirrors offer effective view over a fast moving rocking long train and how many seconds view of a signal was available for a guard? Also, a van with side lookouts only allows sighting of signals not blocked by a bend etc. Add in the added problems caused by train length from signal, compared to the view from the locomotive of the same signal and how about if on a vertical curve. Assuming we keep discussion to the guards era pre mid 1980s so we are discussing train lengths and wagon types, of that era.

There have been a number of crash inquiries where the guard has been fined etc, along with the loco crew who have better view of the signal that was passed in error and thus a smash. Not interested in a driver V's guard turf war or a debate about the removal of guards, but rather how long in actual quality time could the guard see signals, either semaphore or light, that he would later be punished for passing when he should have reacted and stopped the train using his brake valve.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Many tests were conducted after the Southern Aurora crash at Violet Town, and my memory says that one of them was the guard's view.
I'll look it up, and let you know the answer.
  petan Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting to see a zebra using a zebra crossing!
Many tests were conducted after the Southern Aurora crash at Violet Town, and my memory says that one of them was the guard's view.
I'll look it up, and let you know the answer.
Valvegear
Ok although I have that report and have checked that. But as the crash was a fine sunny day with good visibility, I was also wondering about guards expected to view signals at night times in wet or foggy conditions. By the way, thanks Valvegear for emailing that Violet Town report a year or so ago as I have been checking details lately.

The crash report also said when Guard Wyer saw the two red lights of the Home Departure Signal for No. l Road, he was not
sure whether this meant that the front portion of the train had passed the signal while it displayed a proceed indication, thus returning it to Stop, or that the train had passed the signal while it showed a Stop indication.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
I wasn't sure whether petan had the Aurora crash report, but for others who may be interested; here are the tests carried out to establish sighting distances.

To quote from the report:-

8.2 SIGHTINGS OF SIGNALS FROM THE BRAKE VAN AND LOCOMOTIVE.
On 19th February, the Board rode the brake van MHN 2364 on the "up" Southern Aurora.
Weather conditions and visibility were similar to those on the day of the collision.

No difficulty was experienced in viewing the signals from the side viewing mirror, and the distances in advance of them at which indications could be recognised are shown below for the signals at Violet Town Loop:

Automatic Signal ES. 5774 . . . . . . . . . 1 mile.      (1,609 metres)
'Up' Home Arrival Signal No. 27/8 . . . . 72 chains. (1,448 metres)
'Up' Home Departure Signal No. 27/4 . .42 chains. ( 845 metres)

The metric distances do not appear  in the Report - I have added them because not everyone is an old grey-beard like me who actually grew up with miles, yards, chains and thousandth's of an inch ( customarily referred to as so many "thou").


Now, petan has pursued the question into the area of less than ideal viewing conditions, and I have to bale out now.
  Jack Le Lievre Chief Train Controller

Location: Moolap Station, Vic
Something that I was thinking about today while trackside, are detonators allowed to be used on a Total Fire Ban Day?

I can see the pros and cons either way but thought that I would ask the question.
  seb2351 Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
Something that I was thinking about today while trackside, are detonators allowed to be used on a Total Fire Ban Day?

I can see the pros and cons either way but thought that I would ask the question.
Jack Le Lievre
Short answer: Yes

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