Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Position Regarding Functioning Dynamic Brarkes.—The Safety Board received conflicting testimony from SP personnel regarding the company’s interpretation of FRA requirements for functioning dynamic brakes. The general road foreman of engines stated that he believed, based on his interpretation of FRA regulations, that if a locomotive unit is equipped with dynamic brakes, they "must operate." The chief mechanical officer stated that he believed there were no FRA requirements regarding functioning dynamic brakes. The Safety Board requested the FRA to provide in writing its position on functioning dynamic brakes. In a letter to the Safety Board dated October 18, 1989 (see appendix G), the FRA stated:
The Railroad Power Brake and Drawbars Regulations does [sic] not require the presence of a dynamic brake. However, dynamic brakes are referred to the in the Locomotive Safety Standards, which states in part "If a dynamic brake or regenerative brake system is in use, that portion of the system in use shall respond to control from the cab of the controlling locomotive."
This part makes clear that both the equipping and the use of dynamic brake is optional. The FRA will not take exception if a dynamic brake is found inoperative or operates at less than maximum designed capacity.
Southern Pacific’s Method of Operation
Air Brake Rules and Timetable Instructions.—Trains operating on the double main track over the Mojave Subdivision are controlled by the train dispatcher using Direct Traffic Control between Mojave and East Mojave. Between Ansel and West Colton, trains are operated in accordance with signal indications of an automatic block and traffic control system.
Timetable No. 2, effective October 25, 1987, was current at the time of the accident. Maximum allowable speed on the line between East Mojave and West Colton was 65 mph for freight trains. Exceptions to the maximum allowable speed for eastward freight trains between East Mojave and West Colton were as follows:
|between MP 463.8 and MP 487.4||30 mph|
|between MP 487.4 and MP 491||40 mph|
|between MP 491 and 491.9||30 mph|
|between MP 491.9 and 492.7||15 mph|
The SP had adopted the General Code of Operating Rules, which became effective on October 28, 1985. The SP’s Air Brake Rules and Train Handling Instructions, last revised on November 1, 1985, were also in effect. Pertinent excerpts from the Air Brake Rules and Train Handling Instructions follow: