Special Report: Coffin cars
In the morning, when you're rushing to catch the commuter train - you're
Probably thinking about a lot of things.
Most likely, you're not thinking about which seat could save your life.
This is just a crash test.
When it really happens, it can be deadly.
Ann Ormiston, a wife of a railroader, says, "he was always concerned about the safety issues riding in that car."
Ann's husband, Tom, was a conductor on duty during this massive wreck in California.
Tom was one of eleven people killed, 180 others were hurt.
Most of the fatalities occurred in the front car.
"He and other railroaders called them coffin cars."
Why would the front of the train be called a coffin car?
Well it depends on which way you’re going -
Commuter trains in the boston area don't turn around:
They have a locomotive - like this - that pulls them one way and a smaller car - what's called a cab car - that leads them the other way.
Locomotives weigh 280,000 lbs- and can push almost anything out of their way.
But the smaller cab cars only weigh 112,000 lbs with passengers on board - and are more likely to derail if they crash into something big.
Attorney Ed Pfiester who specializes in railroads says, "Its the most dangerous, deadly place to be on a train if it's being pushed."
In this 1981 train wreck in Beverly more than 20 riders were hurt.
After that crash - and a few others around the country - rail safety experts concluded that people riding in cab cars leading the train, are at a "significantly higher risk of serious injury" .
George Newman, Union Chairman of B.L.E.T. Division 57, says "There's no question that control cars do not withstand collisions as well as the locomotive."
But the *T* is convinced their cab cars are safe. In part, because they haven't had a serious accident in twenty years.
MBTA spokesperson, Joe Pesaturo says, "We have a great safety record here at the MBTA, and we would recommend people use all of the coaches."
But our experts disagree, they say if you're riding an MBTA commuter train heading into the city, don't sit in the front car.
If you're riding the train out of the city, you can sit anywhere, because all those cars are being pulled by a locomotive.
To make sure trains heading into the city are safer, the feds are now testing crash bumpers for cab cars to absorb heavy impact. Ann wishes something like this had been done a long time ago.
Ann Ormiston says "(The crash) was avoidable. It was hard most of the year to realize it really happened."
So every seat can be safer on a train, and no one has to be afraid of sitting in the coffin car. Byron Barnett, 7News.
FRA - Emergency Order #20
Federal Rail Administration
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