Hoboken Train Crash - Railroad Engineer Interviewed by Fox News Expert Article

Railroad Engineering Expert, Gus Ubaldi, P.E. was interviewed by Fox News shortly after the tragic crash that occurred in Hoboken on September 29, 2016. On the page below we provide the video from the interview along with a transcript.

The experts at Robson Forensic are frequently retained to investigate catastrophic incidents ranging from industrial mishaps, to vehicle crashes and the terrible incident that unfolded in Hoboken.

Railroad Engineering Expert Interviewed by Fox news

video courtesy of Fox News

Interview Transcript

Jon Scott: Joining us more on this, Augustine Ubaldi, airport and railroad engineering expert. Gus, we spoke to you yesterday, they had not at that time retrieved the event recorder from the engine. They do have that now, they’re still looking for another one and they’ll get to it eventually. What will the learn from that?

Augustine Ubaldi: The event recorder is going to record almost everything that goes on with that train. They will look at it, it will show you the throttle position, whether the throttle was engaged. The brake pipe pressure that activates the brakes, whether the brakes were applied, what the speed was. All those things, you can use those then to reconstruct what went on, how fast the train was stopping and how long it took to stop. It will even tell you if he was ringing the bell or blowing the horn.

Jon Scott:The human factor obviously is going to be a question here. Authorities are going to be interviewing the engineer today. Is there anything other than his own use of the throttle that would affect the speed that that train is going when it comes to up to the edge of the platform?

Augustine Ubaldi: Not that I know of. Just like when you’re driving, if you’re approaching some place where you need to slow down, you’ll take your foot off the gas. He will put the throttle into idle and then he will start applying the brakes. If you look at an aerial photograph of the Hoboken terminal, there are mainline tracks that widen out into all the station platform tracks. You’re going through a number of crossovers and turnouts and there’s a speed restriction on those. You start asking yourself, “If he was going so fast, would he not have derailed at that point?” Maybe that’s what he did and even if he did apply the brakes, well then there’s nothing to stop against.

Jon Scott: Well one passenger who was on the train and noticed that they were pulling into the platform and hadn’t slowed down, said the train even seemed to accelerate as it was heading toward that crush. What does that tell you?

Augustine Ubaldi: One person saying that, it could be an impression. Again, if the train was on the ground, who knows? Maybe it was accelerating. I’m not that familiar with what the grade is there. I know parts of that station can be below sea level and it will flood on occasion. It’s hard to say what it is, the event recorder is going to give us the best information, it will tell you if that train was speeding up or not.

Jon Scott: There was, apparently, at the rear of the train, this diesel locomotive but the engineer doesn’t sit in that rear locomotive. He sits in the front of the train and controls the locomotive through cables that run the length of the train. Certainly a disconnection, a short circuit, something like that, could have caused problems. Is that frequently an issue in incidents like these?

Augustine Ubaldi: No. Usually these things are fail safe. For example, I think I may have mentioned the braking system yesterday. Unlike your automobile, if you cut the line and the fluid runs out, you have no brakes. Here the fluid is air, and if it breaks and the “fluid”, meaning the air, runs out, the brakes automatically set. If it’s not getting a command, it should not be simply responding and thinking that, “I’m not going to work.” He still has the ability to dump the air and put it into emergency.

Jon Scott: Many questions yet to be investigated.

Augustine Ubaldi: Exactly.

Jon Scott: Gus Ubaldi, we appreciate your insights, thank you.

Augustine Ubaldi: Same here.

Heather Childers: Yeah, the bottom line being either the brakes failed to work or the engineer failed to activate the brake for some reason.

Jon Scott: Yeah, they’ll know more obviously when they get both of those event recorders and they’ll have a pretty clear idea of what happened. Right now, so strange and so sad.

Heather Childers: Yeah, very.

Railroad Engineering Investigations

The railroad experts at Robson Forensic bring decades of experience in railroad engineering from the perspectives of both designer and user. As construction engineers and maintenance-of-way supervisors, our experts are uniquely qualified to provide accurate and realistic assessments of planning, design, construction, and inspection of railroads. For more information visit our Railroad Engineering practice page.

Featured Expert

Augustine F. Ubaldi, Airport & Railroad Engineering Expert

Augustine F. Ubaldi, P.E.

Airport & Railroad Engineering Expert
Gus brings more than 20 years of work in aviation and 20 years of work in railroad engineering from the perspectives of designer and user. As a pilot, construction engineer, and maintenance-of-way… read more.


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