Amtrak, after taking the blame for the crash that injured over a hundred people at Penn Station, says that it was engineer error that caused an Amtrak train to rear-end a LIRR train. Some speculate that the engineer, who has been placed on upaid leave, was distracted and applied the brakes too late when coasting into one of the station's platforms. Gothamist has always wondered about gauging when to apply the brakes to trains, namely because subway trains go at different speeds and some engingeers are able to stop the trains smoothly while others not so much.
The Times gives a tantalizing description of the train traffic control center, Penn Station Control Center:
[A] space-age amphitheater...kept secret for security reasons. But Long Island Rail Road officials provided a tour yesterday...Across a huge bank of screens that stretches across two walls, a computerized, multicolored schematic of Penn Station and the rail lines it serves is displayed. It shows the locations of all trains, along with the status of the all-important signals and switches that direct traffic on the tracks. Spread throughout the room are 63 control consoles.
And to give some context to the magnitude of the Control Center, LIRR president James Dermody, noting it was same computer as the New York Stock Exchange's, is quoted saying, "Does that give you an idea of how powerful it is?" Hmm. Even though human error was cited, Gothamist has these two words: HAL 2000.