when is an engineer not an engineer?

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  • when is an engineer not an engineer?
  • Premier Icon gofasterstripes
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    Sorry, I mean if that’s the case why did it roll away?

    maxtorque
    Member

    The issue, for those that might have forgotten is that nothing is 100% safe.

    Everything is designed to a level of risk. In this case a series of events meant that the design level was insufficient. However, how many trains have been shunted around the US rail system between every failure? I bet it’s hundreds of millions, so at what point do we call it safe???

    It is of course perfectly feisable to design a system that is 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% safe, for example, we could fit square wheels and weld the carriages to the tracks at EVERY stop, but unfortunately that would cause more disruption (and probably more deaths in the long run) than this accident.

    These days people seem to forget than a) they aren’t immortal and b) they are not infalible

    Premier Icon aracer
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    Precisely my points. The satisfaction of the job, the sense of accomplishment and the earnings should be plenty to be proud about. The post nominals tell everyone what they need to know. Hijacking the word “engineer” is just pathetic and elitist.

    So how would you feel about somebody who does sports massage calling themselves a doctor? Somebody who does filing calling themselves a lawyer? A teaching assistant calling themselves a teacher?

    Premier Icon wwaswas
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    I call my self a cyclist.

    Sorry everyone 🙁

    wrecker
    Member

    So how would you feel about somebody who does sports massage calling themselves a doctor? Somebody who does filing calling themselves a lawyer? A teaching assistant calling themselves a teacher?

    Well that’s a completely different scenario. The definition of the words clearly prevent anyone doing this. The definition is the word engineer is also very clear. Read the thread.
    You also suggest by the examples that hands on engineers are somehow less skilled or trained than graduates. I can assure you that this is not the case.

    Premier Icon aracer
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    You’re suggesting to me that a “gas heating engineer” has as much training as a professionally qualified engineer? You do presumably realise that there is a lot more to being professionally qualified than a BEng?

    Or are you suggesting that a sports masseur is less skilled than a doctor?

    wrecker
    Member

    A 4 year apprenticeship isn’t uncommon. That’ll be a minimum of a 40 hour week, too. No free periods.

    As you suggesting that someone who does filing is not less qualified than a lawyer?

    Premier Icon aracer
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    Yes, I have experience of what apprenticeships involve, and how they compare to professional engineering qualifications. Do you?

    I actually have a lot of respect for people who’ve done apprenticeships, but most of those don’t call themselves engineers. Do most people calling themselves engineers even do that much?

    As you suggesting that someone who does filing is not less qualified than a lawyer?

    er, yes, in the same way a “gas heating engineer” is a lot less qualified than a CEng.

    Premier Icon brassneck
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    I’m fairly sure that engineer is a protected term in Canada, as I thought this was where the stink was originally kicked up over Microsofts MCSE qualification in its original acromyn (MS Certified Systems Engineer) – the acronym is back but it stands for something different now.

    Beng but not engineer 🙂 – now I get called ‘architect’ which is even more perplexing to be honest.

    Premier Icon muddydwarf
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    The guys i work with in a busy tool room call themselves engineers, all timed served with decades of experience.

    You are welcome to come round and explain to them why they aren’t engineers.. 😉

    Premier Icon veedubba
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    I had a bit of a ding dong with someone on here a while back about the term “engineer” but I couldn’t find a link (in the 10 seconds I spent looking).

    I agree that letters after your name do not make you any more qualified than someone who has many years time-served, but that allowing the free use of the term devalues it to the point that the “tv engineer” that came to run a cable for me couldn’t explain how it worked or how to get it to work when it was broken.

    If it was a protected term, then at least there’d be some prevention of its devaluation.

    FWIW, I think that an engineer is in the most general term is a solver of problems and someone who understands fundamentally how things work (what those things are depends on what sort of engineer you are): you don’t need a degree for that, but you do need a brain that works in a certain way.

    And I also think that it was very suspect of the CEO to point the finger at the guy so early into an investigation.

    paulpalf
    Member

    Brassneck is right about the term “engineer” being protected in Canada, but I think it varies by province. Here is BC it is protected by APEGBC, the body who manage P.Eng, the equivalent of a charter in the UK(I’ve had both). However, it isn’t really enforced – I am the only “real” engineer in my department of about 10 people!

    I am curious about this idea of the brakes being held off my the air, and how cars could roll away if the air was shut off.

    wrecker
    Member

    er, yes, in the same way a “gas heating engineer” is a lot less qualified than a CEng.

    Not if it’s to do with gas or heating, he’s not.

    Yes, I have experience of what apprenticeships involve, and how they compare to professional engineering qualifications. Do you?

    FFS read the thread!

    Premier Icon igm
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    You also suggest by the examples that hands on engineers are somehow less skilled or trained than graduates. I can assure you that this is not the case.

    Wrecker – there is a difference between less skilled and differently skilled. There’s plenty of stuff that craftsmen, like the plumber you mentioned, have the skills for that engineers don’t.

    But to take another example, craftsmen (electricians) regularly design the wiring for people’s houses; however by follow standards (well they should do anyway) that were written by engineers (of the chartered variety normally) and published by the IET (a well known institution that offers a route to chartered status with he Engineering Council).

    Now, please don’t ask me to wire a house, I’d be a bad choice, but if the wiring regs need rewritten, I’m the sort of guy you need.

    Incidentally, IIRC there is nothing to stop you acquiring premises on Harley Street and calling yourself a doctor (though my view is doctors are people with doctorates – not MBChBs – if only to wind up certain people I know).

    Now, chips off shoulders everyone and go earn some money.

    PS I read your definition Wrecker – the especially applied one to the professional bit, not he qualified bit.

    Premier Icon Cougar
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    My job title is “Specialist Engineer” – not my choice, that’s what HR say I am.

    If “engineer” hypothetically became a protected term, what do I call myself? Technician? The people who pick up the phone and ask you if it’s plugged in and switched on are technicians.

    I don’t design computers or even really implementation systems to any great extent (or at least, it’s not my primary role), so I’m not really an engineer by some folks’ definition. And if I did I’d probably be an Architect, which is even more confusing.

    I think the problem in IT is it’s a relatively new industry and it’s borrowing existing words to cover new “similar” roles. Maybe we need some new words. In conventional engineering terms I’m probably closer to the IT equivalent of a mechanic.

    In the meantime, “Engineer” is probably the closest match to what I do. If you’re a ‘real’ engineer need a protected title, maybe “Professional Engineer” or “Chartered Engineer” (which already is IIRC) is what you seek there.

    Premier Icon wwaswas
    Subscriber

    As above, I think it’s what goes in front of the engineer bit that’s important.

    I wouldn’t expect a ‘proper’ engineer who’d spent their whole lives designing car engines to suddenly be able to do all the engineering required to build the Hoover Dam. It’s a different job that requires a different type of engineer.

    “to me an engineer is someone who physically builds stuff like steam trains or something. Machining stuff to designs, assembling, fixing. “

    This is the problem.

    My dad was a very good Precision machinist and mechanic. He would have made a very good Mechanical Engineer. I’m an Systems Engineer ( and chartered). The press refer to me as a scientist or simply a “Boffin” uurgh!

    The way I see it is that scientists work out the idealised theory. Engineers take that theory and work out how to apply it in the real world so that products can be designed. Draughtsman may do the drawings, machinists and technicians and mechanics or whole production lines etc may turn the engineers’ designs into physical items.

    A great engineer understands the whole process from theory to finished product and can do all the hands-on work too but the key role being able to design the item using their knowledge of engineering theory (and the great thing about engineering theory is that it is very practical because that’s the whole point of engineering!)

    I wouldn’t expect a great machinist or scientist or draughtsman to want to claim they’re an engineer because they understand the division of knowledge, skills and labour, and are proud that very few engineers can do what they do.

    In the B2C environment any old vaguely technical job seems to get labelled a “xxxx engineer” in the UK. I understand that this is not so much the case in the rest of Europe where the term “engineer” carries some more weight (and the salaries tend to be better too!)

    project
    Member

    will assume you are aware of (P)FMEA’s?
    I’m wondering if “driver forgets to apply brake” was included when they did (?) the FMEA on this system?!?

    translation required

    RichPenny
    Member

    FMEA is a process designed to consider how things can potentially go wrong and how these risks can be understood and averted. His point being that human error can be expected, so fail safe systems should be in place to prevent accidents where possible.

    Premier Icon footflaps
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    FMEA Failure Mode and Effect Analysis

    You basically sit down and go through all the known and all you can think off failure modes and work out what can happen and then, in theory, try and mitigate them by changing the design / operating procedures etc. Eg what if the power fails, what if the driver takes a leak in the cabin etc etc….

    My bike, in my parking space at work, with neither of its two independent braking systems applied.

    And can we go back to this bit, it’s quite important…

    “I though on trains the brakes were held off by the air, so in the event of a failure the thing STOPPED rolling? I cant check right now, maybe someone can explain?”

    “A big spring holds the pads against the disk, and air pressure is used to move the pads away from the fail safe position.”

    “Sorry, I mean if that’s the case why did it roll away?”

    Lorries and their trailers have got spring brakes and breakaway valves.
    If the lorry loses its trailer, the trailer brakes are immediately fully applied.

    Why don’t trains do that ?

    I think the CEO beggars belief, If what he does say is true is his company not negligent through employing someone not suitable for the task or not a suitable training regime in place for the employees.

    Premier Icon aracer
    Subscriber

    Not if it’s to do with gas or heating, he’s not.

    Ah, OK – can I change my answer to the previous question then?

    As you suggesting that someone who does filing is not less qualified than a lawyer?

    Not if it’s to do with filing, or probably typing.

    FFS read the thread!

    I did, including the bit where you appear to claim that 4 years working 40 hours a week, which couldn’t all really be described as “training”, is more training than that required for a professional engineering qualification, hence the question.

    jag61
    Member

    like my boss used to say ‘yesterday i couldnt spell engineer but today I are one’ not even funny 30 yrs ago. He was a ‘proper’ structural engineer btw not the mud and wire kind 😉

    Premier Icon convert
    Subscriber

    Fix or install stuff with moving parts – Mechanic

    Make stuff for one machine on another machine – Machinist

    Do sums and other clever things that makes stuff work – Engineer

    Colour stuff in – Designer!

    Proud to be(by qualification, although I now teach colouring in which is even worse!) a fully paid up member of the last category! I have secret envy of anyone who is good at the previous 3.

    Premier Icon bigblackshed
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    Well, by the definitions that some of the above are using, I’m not an Engineer. Apprentice time served electrical / mechanical ………… builder, maintainer, modifier of machinery. My certificates for my qualifications say Engineer.

    So that is what I am. 😉

    Premier Icon aracer
    Subscriber

    FWIW bigblackshed, I don’t actually have a big problem with people who do the sort of thing I presume you do calling themselves an engineer – seems a fairly reasonable description (though convert did a pretty good job of defining stuff and you may strictly speaking fall into the mechanic category). However “gas heating engineers” and the like are generally technicians and installers.

    Greybeard
    Member

    ‘Architect’ is a protected name in the UK (you can’t call yourself an Architect unless you’re registered with ARB) – because they wanted to make sure the people who designed buildings so that didn’t fall down were competent – and at the time the law was passed, structural engineering wasn’t distinct from architecture. It’s a bit ironic that Govt now refuse to protect ‘Engineer’ or even ‘Structural Engineer’.

    Re the big spring that holds the brakes on unless the air releases them – I also thought it was like that, but it’s more complicated:

    http://www.railway-technical.com/air-brakes.shtml

    Premier Icon footflaps
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    Great article!

    Premier Icon gofasterstripes
    Subscriber

    Yep – I’ll be reading the linked one next too. Ta.

    EDIT:From that article: “Thus if a train comes uncoupled or an air hose bursts, the brakes apply fully, automatically. The amount of braking relies on the amount the system is charged however.”

    So perhaps the train’s brakes were not yet fully charged as the firefighters turned the engine off that the Driver had left running to charge the brake system pressure up before that pressure was reached. Or it could be that the compressor/engine was holding the pressure against a slow discharge to atmosphere.

    If there are also hand-actuated mechanical brakes on the cars [which I am sure I’ve seen in the UK] then perhaps he made a judgement call regarding the current brakeline pressure, the time for the pressure to complete it’s rise and also the number of the mechanical brakes he was going to hand-apply on the connected cars to ensure they couldn’t roll on the incline.

    And in the end, it could be that his estimations did not include someone turning the engine off when they did.

    🙁

    As a truck mechanic, familiar with air brakes on trucks, trailers and buses, reading that article about train brakes, I was shocked to find the lack of what I would consider a fail safe mechanism.

    As the article says, “A problem with the design of the standard air brake is that it is possible to use up the air in the auxiliary reservoir more quickly than the brake pipe can recharge it. Many runaways have resulted from overuse of the air brake so that no auxiliary reservoir air is available for the much needed last application.”

    A simple spring brake, as used on all modern heavy vehicles, would solve that.
    If you’ve ever seen a bus or lorry driver sitting there revving the engine before moving off, it’s because the air pressure has dropped and the brakes are locked on.

    Premier Icon aracer
    Subscriber

    Indeed – they call it “fail-safe”, but it doesn’t in the normal meaning of that word – ie there are some possible failures which will cause it not to work (OK with a brake which is sprung on the spring or the brake pad could fail, but they’re rather more unlikely occurrences than the auxiliary reservoir running out of air or a failure in the air pipe between the auxiliary reservoir and the brake cylinder).

    Greybeard
    Member

    There’s a link (from the link I posted earlier) that’s specific to North American Freight Train brakes
    http://www.railway-technical.com/brake2.shtml
    This is more frightening than the first link – if you have leaks in the system and don’t top it up, you will reach a point where all the brakes release. Hence you have to use the handbrakes when parked (as is evident, you shouldn’t rely on keeping an engine running) but you can’t tell whether you have enough handbrakes, unless you release the air brakes – which takes time. It looks to me like a fundamentally flawed system that’s been patched and patched to try to make it more fail-safe, but every patch introduces more potential for errors.

    Premier Icon takisawa2
    Subscriber

    There’s more too it than simple engine on – brakes applied or not. Any manner of events could cause it to runaway, but given that fire I doubt anything survived. 🙁
    Very sad.
    I’m currently filling out my iMechE application to become a MEng, but reading through the sample application they sent for reference I’m tempted not to bother. If what I read is indicative of what they are looking for then I’d sooner save my money. 🙁

    Greybeard
    Member

    I’m currently filling out my iMechE application to become a MEng

    Do you mean CEng?

    …with a brake which is sprung on the spring or the brake pad could fail…

    Three axle trucks and trailers usually have two axles braked. It would take all four springs to fail at the same time to leave it with no parking brake at all.

    Any explanation of a braking system that includes the words “Many runaways have resulted from…” suggests there is a fault with the system.
    There are far more trucks in the world than trains, yet they are not regularly running away.

    Does CEng FInstMC count ?

    pdw
    Member

    There’s a link (from the link I posted earlier) that’s specific to North American Freight Train brakes
    http://www.railway-technical.com/brake2.shtml
    This is more frightening than the first link

    😯

    I’d always assumed that air pressure held the brakes off, and if that pressure went away the brakes were applied by a spring.

    What that article doesn’t seem to cover is why they are how they are. I assume it’s in order to achieve even application of brakes across all cars, which would be very hard to achieve with springs.

    Premier Icon aracer
    Subscriber

    What that article doesn’t seem to cover is why they are how they are. I assume it’s in order to achieve even application of brakes across all cars, which would be very hard to achieve with springs.

    Well it would be, but for the fact the air pressure still pushes against a spring to apply the brakes, hence there’s still going to be some variation. I’m struggling to see any advantage over having brakes simply applied by springs and held off by air pressure.

    pdw
    Member

    Yes, but the spring in that system can be trivially weak, as it’s simply to move the pad back when the brake is released, so variations in spring rates will have negligible effect on the braking force.

    With brakes applied by springs and held off by air pressure, I suspect that you could easily end up with some brakes being firmly applied with others not being applied at all, which would probably lead to the applied brakes overheating.

    Premier Icon gofasterstripes
    Subscriber

    ?Really? Why not just wind the springs the same or add some adjustment allowing for calibration in the factory?

    pdw
    Member

    Well, I’m guessing that the fact that a train may be made up of different cars from different factories makes that a harder problem. I don’t really know, but I’m trying to figure out why an entire industry would adopt such a complex approach if there’s a simpler and safer alternative. I’m sure there’s a good reason for it, and my best guess so far is brake balancing.

    Premier Icon gofasterstripes
    Subscriber

    Fair enough bru

    Thinking about this a bit more,from a truck mechanic’s point of view, I’m guessing that system is the best they could come up with using a single pipe between wagons.
    A basic two pipe system, as used on trucks since the 1930s would be an improvement.
    As would spring brakes, as used on trucks since the 1960s.
    Another problem that comes to mind, is that all wagons in the train are braking equally, whether they are loaded or empty. This means that either the empty ones will lock their wheels under braking, or the loaded ones will not be braking as hard as they could.
    A simple mechanical load sensing valve as used on trucks since the 1970s would solve this.
    As would ABS, as used on trucks since the 1980s.
    Better still, considering the length of a train and the time it takes for a variation in air pressure to travel from one end to the other, EBS, as used on trucks since the 1990s.

    As long as they stick to 100 year old technology, articles about train brakes are always going to have to explain what causes runaways, while articles about truck brakes don’t.

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