I have been patiently observing Amtrak cry poor mouth about putting a speed control system on its trains going through Philadelphia and elsewhere. Though many of its trains are electric, I believe Amtrak is blowing a lot of smoke.

I worked as a signal maintainer 45 or so years ago for Philadelphia Transportation Co. and South East Pennsylvania Transit Authority. As a signal maintainer, I specialized in train signals and track-train controls. Both subway and local commuter trains operated on a block signal system. Basically, this block section signal system would automatically stop trains if a train lay on the track ahead, a track switch was set to a conflicting position, if the train were speeding — particularly if the train approached a curve going too fast — and many other safety features.

These safety devices would stop any endangered train even if the motorman was dead on the floor.

Even then, there was talk of upgrading the electromechanical system to a pure electronic system. There was no need for a computer to be involved, even if there had been computers.

It is apparent that Amtrak could have had a working safety system in place for very little cost. Of course, like any other system, one has to hire people to maintain that system. It is about time that these companies are held accountable for their gross neglect of safety measures.

Train safety should be at least as important as the quantity of air in a football.

Peter P. Sirois


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