Thursday, July 13, 2017

A moment of inattention

The Northwest Railway Museum operates a railroad with 13 public railroad crossings.  Some crossings see just a few hundred cars per day while others see thousands, which includes trucks and buses too.

As any driver can attest, just a moment of inattention while driving can have disastrous results.  Issues can be exacerbated at points of restriction such as bridges and railroad crossings. And so that was the result when a tractor-trailer combination from a local construction company was turning from SR 202 onto the Snoqualmie Parkway. It ended up mounting the center median just in advance of the Snoqualmie Parkway railroad crossing, and with disastrous results..

Two crossing signal masts and the accompanying signs and signals were instantly transformed into scrap metal.  The precipitous fall of the signal masts damaged a car traveling in the opposite direction, but there were no personal injuries.  One of two foundations was partially uprooted, and that metal fabrication was damaged beyond repair.

Crossing signals are regulated by the Federal government. Imperfect or otherwise non functional components can render the signals unusable, which means a flag person(s) has to protect the crossing .  To allow regular operation as soon as possible, temporary signals were assembled using spare parts from prior incidents.  Mismatched lights and cracked castings are common reasons for replacement, but for a short term application, they can and do meet regulatory requirements.  Thanks to Jon Beveridge for his many hours of extraordinary effort to get these lights in service just one week after the incident.

Incredibly, Siemens (successor to Safetran Systems) was able to generate a proposal and begin construction of replacement signals in just a few days. Thanks to David and Jeff at Siemens for making that happen!  The replacement signals were completed and shipped to Snoqualmie on a expedited basis, and arrived just one month after the accident. Normally, signals equipment might have a production date four months or more after receipt of order.

June and July are exceptionally busy months for the Northwest Railway Museum.  So the Museum looked to local electrical contractors MT Electric and Chapman Electric to perform the installation. Work included a new foundation, assembly of lights, erection of poles, and testing.  The entire installation took two days and proceeded without incident; great work was performed by Tom Judge and CJ Chapman.

Crossing signals are important safety devices and a timely repair is critical to maintaining a safe operation.  With everything back together, a responsible party paying for repairs, the Museum is all set for another visit from Thomas the Tank Engine, who will be operating over this railroad crossing during Day Out With Thomas.

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