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That Red Line derailment caused by an old axle snapping

The State House News Service reports the T has figured out that the June derailment that caused problems for months started when a27-year-old axle on one car simply had enough and snapped, sending cars into those switching cabanas.

Free tagging: 



st patrick's day boston garden 1993

Voting closed 22

We have those new Red Line cars going into service any year now.

The details in the article scream negligence. I would LOVE to see a lawsuit or 5 from the person who was injured (I believe it was only one; albeit minor, thankfully) and those on board.

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Yeah, what could be better than taking even more money away from the T.


The only lawsuit I'd want to see is one requiring the state to increase funding of maintenance without cutting back on service.

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continuing to accept “we’re sorry, we made a mistake and we’ll do better” has totally worked, right? It’s not like we keep paying more and more for shittier, unsafe service.

Maybe something like this could set an actual precedent.

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There is always a lawsuit after anyone suffers any injury, however minor. They don't change anything.

The T needs more physical maintenance. Not lawsuits, not studies, and not managers.

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I don't really know anything about law, and this idea admittedly comes from a Parks and Rec episode so it could be complete nonsense, but couldn't they theoretically settle for an alternative settlement like "X amount of money must be spent on car maintenance in X amount of time" instead of "I want X amount of money for my pain and suffering."

Voting closed 3

You don't see it often, but in theory parties to a lawsuit can agree to anything as part of a settlement. Typically though the settlement value is in part based on the actual damage to the injured person in terms of whatever unpaid medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, future medical expenses, etc... so typically the person pretty much needs the money. Also, for most types of claims, the T's liability is capped by law at $100,000, and a lawyer's fee would typically be 1/3 of whatever settlement or judgement a person recovers.

Voting closed 1

Typical knee jerk reactions by people without the necessary basic understanding to make any type of relevant comments

Neither the reporter nor the reader apparently knows the rudiments of: [well you name it]:

  1. How a brush acts to complete an electrical circuit between a fixed an rotating or sliding contact
  2. How electricity flows in a circuit
  3. What an arc is and how it can heat things
  4. The effects of constant heating an cooling on a piece of steel
  5. etc

I listened and watched the presentation by the Assistant GM on the issue:
He was well briefed by his engineering team -- who seemed to have done a thorough job of investigating the accident

A few key points:

  1. First-- this was an unusual failure
  2. review of T's maintenance data going back decades showed no other instance of this electrically induced axle fracture
  3. The incipient cause seems to have been excessive pitting to the rotating component known as the contact ring upon which the brush bears to complete the electrical circuit
  4. this electrical contact failure [apparently intermittent failure of good contact] caused intermittent arcing between the brush assembly and the axle
  5. the intermittent arcing caused intermittent repetitive heating and cooling of the axle
  6. the cycling of the temperature caused embrittlement of the axle
  7. The best estimate was that about 6 months elapsed since the arcing began -- this would not have been caught by the regularly scheduled maintenance inspections -- since the current inspection process did not include detailed inspection of the contact ring [although routine inspection and replacement of the brush assembly is performed frequently]
  8. bi-annual inspection using ultrasound would have detected the crack forming in the axle
  9. poor timing -- the entire fleet of Red Line vehicles including the one which had the bad axle would have been inspected by ultrasound beginning in July this year
  10. as a consequence the T will begin to do full inspections including ultrasound on an annual basis
  11. the T will also add complete visual inspection of the contact rings to the regular inspections that look for problems with the brushes -- approximately every 3 months based on vehicle mileage
  12. the T will contact other Transit operations with similar technology used for the brushes and contact rings
  13. Finally -- the new Red and Orange Line trains use a more advanced electromechanical system with multiple brushes to insure reliable electrical conduction
Voting closed 13

Lack of proper inspections (which comes from the operating budget) seems to be the real cause (not the age of the equipment). All of those brand new cars will require the same type of inspection and could have this same type of incident happen if operating budgets are cut and inspections reduced again.

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The number of things that were ignored or missed is staggering.

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I had to read that twice. It sounds like some sort of euphamism for what Jerry Fallwell Jr. was up to with the pool boy or something.

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Who investigates the mishaps and dangers that lurk in the subways the company police or the safety officials who are suing the authority for not taking safety serious on the subway lines?

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As someone in a related biz with a good background in operations, it always amazes me that this kind of thing "crops up" on the MBTA.

You have 100 cars - assume a life of 25 years per car - you need 4 per year - with the understanding that you need to "batch" them efficiently. Instead, we wait until they are literally falling off the tracks, then order 100 and hold the old ones together with spit and duct tape for the 10 years it takes to build them.

There SHOULD be a master database with all capital items, broken down by component for when they need to be replaced, fixed etc. But we are the government, so why have good processes and procedures for this stuff like replacing the axles on a regular schedule (and while I don't know how old a train axle should be at replacement, I'm guessing it's not 27 years and God knows how many miles).

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This is the same agency that had scheduling and shifts handwritten in a binder. Same agency that tracks union seniority date by index cards. Same agency that performs benefit enrollment via paper forms and fax. The MBTA had the season pick performed by posting available jobs on paper in a room. You think they could have a database of equipment? Ha! If they do, it is in Dbase on an AppleIIe

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