NTSB Eyes Damaged Track in Chief Derailment

Tire tracks leading to the out of alignment rails at the derailment site of the Southwest Chief.

Tire tracks leading to the out of alignment rails at the derailment site of the Southwest Chief.

Damaged track is the preliminary cause of a March 14 derailment of the Southwest Chief that injured about 30 passengers.

The National Transportation Safety Board said a truck struck the rails near Cimarron, Kansas.

NTSB investigators said railroad ties and tracks were out of their normal positions and established the point of derailment 25 feet beyond that location.

Video from the lead locomotive of the Los Angeles to Chicago train showed abnormal track immediately before the derailment, NTSB officials said in the report.

Investigators also found fresh damage to the north ends of the ties and fresh tire tracks perpendicular to the tracks. Also at the scene were small amount of flaked corn, a type of cattle feed.

The tire tracks led to a feed lot owned by Cimarron Crossing Feeders, where the tread on a 2004 Kenworth International truck matched the tire track impressions at the scene, NTSB officials said.

The truck in question is used to haul flaked corn to feed bins. The truck’s left and right mounting brackets on the front bumper were broken.

The tracks where the derailment occurred are owned by BNSF.

Train No. 4 was traveling at 60 mph — the maximum speed limited in that area — when the engineer applied the  emergency brakes
Amtrak and BNSF have estimated that the track and equipment sustained $1.4 million in damage.

The NTSB said its preliminary findings will be “supplemented or corrected during the course of the investigation.”

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