The Chicago train crash which took place yesterday injured dozens of passengers after a stationary train loaded with passengers was hit in the rear by an empty train moving at about 20 miles per hour. New reports suggest that the moving train was indeed totally empty – not even a driver was onboard. The train moved along empty for about half a mile unnoticed, before plunging into the back of another train.
President of the CTA rail workers union, Robert Kelly, said he couldn’t believe this was a technological malfunction because the train needs to have a universal key for the cab door to be opened, then a second key to operate the master controller. Without a driver the train has the friction brakes activated which keeps it stationary and even if the power to the train’s engine is turned on a human operator is required to release the brakes.
The CTA say that to prevent a runaway train “dead man controls” are equipped as a fail safe. The dead man controls essentially require the driver to always have his hand pulling down the handle on the master controller which allows the breaks the remain released and the dead man switch to remain off. As soon as that handle is released (e.g it would be if there was no driver) then the engine shuts off and breaks are applied. However, in this case it appears that did not happen. Officials remain unsure whether the incident was a result of a mechanical failure or a crime.
Officials have also questioned why additional fail-safes, such as automatic break application for speeding or being on the wrong track/route, did not work. A preliminary review says there are no signs of an operator in control or signs of forced entry or vandalism.
Read more at the Chicago Tribune.
Image courtesy of the IBTimes