Thursday, June 08, 2006

Further Analysis of Train/UFO Collision Case

Paintsville Train Case  Aerial View RN_Cabin_CMG41
By Robby Vaughn

     Any locomotive with structural damage in this area would go to HLS for repair. CSX only has three heavy repair facilities (I believe) at Cumberland, MD, Huntington, WV and Waycross, GA. Huntington is only 40 miles back north of where this took place. Here's my take and comments on the entire story as sent to me by a UFO investigator. From the picture I sent you, it would seem to me the unit was in the trail position since the metal roof looks to be bent and pushed "forward", however this does not jive with the statement that the trail unit was "crushed" and smoking. No.3 looks more like it was "clipped" but the metal is not pushed back.

1) The area reported is on trackage that belongs to CSX on their Big Sandy Subdivision near Richardson, KY. Double track extends for 6.1 miles starting at KX Cabin, CMG 37.4, passes RN Cabin at CMG 41.8 and ends at JB Cabin, CMG 43.5. You have the screenshot with labels added. There is a 90 degree curve around CMG 42.3 or so.

2) The tracks run next to the river near CMG 42 but there are no "cliffs' carved out for the tracks. There is a "hill" but there is also a road between the tracks and any elevated landscape. All is gentle, tree-covered private property with many houses in the area. Here's a picture of a southbound I shot running at speed passing the RN Cabin signal at MP 41.8.

3) Track speed limits are 30mph for trains over 14,000 tons and 35 for trains under 14,000 tons. The reported trailing tonnage of 16,000 tons makes this a loaded 95-car train of WV black gold. 9 out of 10 trains of this type use 2 GE AC4400 engines which have speed recorders that can be monitored by remote. Crews rarely speed on Big Sandy due to the curves, most of which have speed limits of 20-25mph. A 16,000 ton train just doesn't get up to speed that fast. As soon as an engineer could really get going, he has to be on the dynamics for a curve..

4) CSX requires crews to call all signal indications and report position every 10 minutes over the radio if stopped. A meet with a train in this area would have resulted in an "approach" signal at KX and RN or a "restricting" signal if they were required to stop at JB. Since they were running 30 mph at impact, I assume they would have had "Clear" signals at both location and had heard nothing on the radio to indicate a meet.

5) The Wild KIngdom area is generally considered to be the area near Ray and Whitehouse some 10 miles further south.

6) A light "around the way" could have been from a car since a state road runs next to the tracks at this location. Many locals in this area have big 4WDs with off-road lights they like to burn on the road whenever possible.

7) The crew would have been reacting quickly had they been running track speed and not expecting a meet. Without proper signal indication or radio contact, they had no idea what track an opposing train would be on. Although this is 6 miles of true double track, dispatchers will route trains on either track for various reasons. They would have dimmed the headlight but also been on the radio and off the throttle at the first notion they were meeting a train unannounced.

8) When the engines lost power due to the objects, the emergency brakes had applied as reported. Running at 30 mph (speed limit), a train in emergency rounding a curve is anything but silent. Wheel flanges are riding up on the outside rails and metal on metal sliding will wake the dead.

9) Impact was at 30mph? If making the speed limit before the sighting, a train in emergency, especially one rounding a curve with major frictional forces in play will slow quickly. Impact at 15 or 20mph would be more like it.

10) Stopped a mile and a half or two miles away? No. Maybe if they were running 50mph on level and straight tracks. Half mile to a mile would be more like it. Remember we had a tight curve (friction) and a slight uphill grade (gravity) along with full brake application.

11) CSX dispatcher (AO or BK dispatcher for this section of track) asked them if they could limp into Paintsville yard 20 miles away. I have a problem with this. They hit something that crushed two 100-ton locomotives and hammered two 150-ton coal hoppers. Coal would have been littered everywhere, perhaps blocking the tracks. There are public roads right next to the tracks accessable from US-23. The conductor would be required to walk the entire train and perform a brake test at the very least, a process that takes an hour or better. Remember, this was at night and a guy scared to death would need to hike almost a mile back to the rear while inspecting things with a flashlight. Ever walk on ballast? Not easy to do in the daytime, much less at night with an unknown lurking around. The train could not be moved per operating rules until a CSX trainmaster had arrived and given the all clear. If impact was at 2:47am, were up to at leat 4:00am now and probably 5:00am.

12) Lets say they did limp to Paintsville, 20 miles south. The train would need to run restricted speed or about 8-9 mph. Now we're arriving in Paintsville at 6:00am or latter at the very earliest. More like 7:00 knowing the way things operate.

13) Lets say CSX finally did get the crew and took them to Martin for drug testing. There is a hospital in Martin but I doubt they would do a drug screen quickly but maybe. The crew would have gone to Shelby and placed in the motel but it's doubtful they would be called for duty on their rest (8 hours later) with a drug test pending and probably a major investigation. You just don't crush a loaded coal train with nothing and not undergo an investigation. CSX runs by union rules remember.

See Also: Did This Train Collide With a UFO?



  1. Robby Vaughn Writes:

    I do agree with the engineer who responded to this, I have no experience behind the controls of any locomotive of any type nor have I ever claimed to have any experience running tonnage coal trains on Big Sandy. I have three engineering degrees but no "engineer" experience. I did previously work for Siemens Corporation as an electrical design engineer. Siemens makes many of the inverters and electrical components used in some of CSX's fleet.

    However, what portion of my response does this person dispute? Most of the speed limit, milepost, cabin locations etc are straight from published CSX timetables and rule books. I've spent years in the area on the ground observing the railroad's operation and I'm personal friends with many CSX employees including T&E crews. You've seen the photographs of the reported impact site, show me where the reported cliff is? I know several engineer's who have struck people, vehicles, damaged RR equipment, etc and are taken out of service (held out) upon arrival at the next terminal or taxied from the location. Please tell me he can honestly state that he could make a call to Jacksonville telling them he has just damaged two locomotives (one "smoking") and two coal cars that did obviously result in a sizable amount of spilled coal (per his observation) and they would be told to run on into Paintsville without walking the ! train or some on-site investigation by upper management. If they did this and a damaged car etc caused a later derailment resulting in serious property damage or injury, the crew and dispatcher would be lucky to get through the investigation with their jobs. One engineer I know who works for CSX tells me they are instructed not to exit the locomotive, or give their names or ID to emergency crews (police included) responding to train/vehicle impacts until a trainmaster, etc arrives on the scene. Most will not even depart a terminal if there is the slightest FRA violation concern with a locomotive such as a burned out headlight/ditchlight or expired paperwork. These guys live by the rule book. Tell your management you hit a UFO such that they feel you need drug tested and go back in service on your rest? Please contact a CSX trainmaster or road foreman and ask them if this would happen.

    Ask him about the cell phone, I know some of these guys, if this had happened they would have been calling everyone they knew even if it had been the wee hours of the morning chatting about what just took place. Taking his phone away several hours later would have been way too late. There is cell service in the Richardson area, I've made calls from RN cabin myself.

    I do agree with this person that "something" possibly took place. I have provided photo evidence of a roof damaged locomotive although I can not confirm if this is one of the units involved. There is also the possibility that they struck something suspended from the road bridge just south of RN cabin. However, I would assume that anyone with any time on Big Sandy would have known there was a bridge in that location and considered the possibility of a vehicle accident that had sent a car/truck over the edge. In which case I pray they would have asked for emergency support or used the cell phone to dial 911. I still don't believe this story is supported by enough facts. Please ask this person to comment on each point I have made and explain my errors. Possibly other than exact stopping distance of a train in emergency rounding a 90 degree curve on a slight grade running at something less than 30 mph, what are my mistakes? Al! so, if the engines were in total power failure, what powered the alarms that were sounding in the cab? I do have copies the GE operating guides and technical workbooks for AC4400's if there is some reference to a backup power supply for alarms only it should be identified in one of these.

    Robby Vaughn

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Good Day Spiritofwestvirginia !

    Thank you for your continuing input. Could you contact me privately?


  4. You didn't know rail-fans listen to scanners to follow operations?. I've using my scanner for years. The Northern sub is the "HD" dispatcher in Huntington, no longer Jacksonville DTC.

  5. What are the names of the alleged crew? Without basic, credible testimony, all this story is, is hearsay. Even the photo of the train is, admittedly, not verified to be from the incident. Given the lack of any first hand information, this is just a story

  6. What are the names of the crew? The photo is of a slightly damaged engine, with no proof that it is from the alleged incident. With no verifiable evidence, this is just a story, based on hearsay.


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