Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How To Stop a Runaway Train

You've seen it in the movies — a runaway train filled with terrified passengers. But this isn't a scenario that happens only in the movies. It actually does happen in real life. And if you happen to be on a train when the crew is disabled for some reason, and it's up to you to stop the train from running away out of control, here is the procedure to follow.
  • Locate the emergency brake in your car. 

 What you're looking for is a lightweight rope that runs along the wall near the ceiling. 
  • Pull the cord and brace yourself for the jerking action when the brakes are actuated and the cars slam together at their couplings.
If the train does not begin to slow down, something might be amiss with the emergency brake system  in your car. If that's the case, you might be able to stop the train from the cab car. Ask a conductor or some other crew member if there is a cab car on your train. If so, go to it and look for the instructions about activating the brake system as if you were in the locomotive. If there is no cab car, proceed directly to the locomotive. 

  • As you move toward either the cab car or the locomotive, apply the hand brake in the vestibule between cars. This is done by either pumping a brake activation lever  or by turning a brake wheel. Do this for as many cars as possible. 
  • Once you arrive at either the cab car or the locomotive, search for a button marked E-Brake or Emergency Brake. Activate that button. 
If you can't locate the E-Brake or Emergency Brake button, find the throttle. It might be marked as Throttle, Power Throttle, or Combined Power Handle (color green). Move the throttle to the position that slows the engine. 
Look for a Dynamic Brake handle (color orange). Move it to the setup position, wait 5 seconds and then move the handle to the highest position. 
Search for the Air Brake control, sometimes labeled Brake or Automatic Brake (color Red). Move that control to 100%. 
  • Find the horn, a vertical handle or a button labeled Horn. Sound the horn continually, to serve as a warning to everyone ahead of the path of the train.
  • Use the train's radio to alert the dispatcher of the emergency situation.  Depress the button on the microphone and say something like this: "EMERGENCY, EMERGENCY, EMERGENCY. TRAIN NUMBER (announce your train number) IS A RUNAWAY. WE ARE HEADING (tell the direction of travel) AND ARE AT MILE POST (give the location of the train if you know it). CLEAR THE TRACKS. I AM A CIVILIAN, AND THE EMERGENCY BRAKE HAS BEEN ACTIVATED." After making your call, release the microphone button to allow the dispatcher to contact you. Don't worry if the dispatcher doesn't respond — the tracks may be cleared anyway. 
  • Even with all you have done to try to stop the train, prepare yourself for the possibility for a derailment. Position yourself where loose items won't fly in your direction if the train comes to a sudden stop. This is assuming you intend to stay aboard the train. If you decide to jump from a moving train, that's another subject for another time. I'll cover that technique in a future post. 

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