Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Cascades’

Orphan Wisconsin Talgos May Find Home in Pacific NW

December 11, 2019

The Talgo equipment built for but never used in Amtrak service in Wisconsin was moved last week to Milwaukee from the Beech Grove Shops near Indianapolis.

Trains magazine reported that the equipment might be poised to be sent west for use in the Pacific Northwest.

The magazine said a Talgo spokesman said the company is working with Amtrak to prepare the equipment for service in the Amtrak Cascades corridor.

This includes the installation of positive train control and “features to align with the service provided in the Amtrak Cascades Corridor.”

The Talgo Series 8 train sets were built in 2012 in Milwaukee for use in Wisconsin-funded service to Madison that never materialized.

Trains said Amtrak released a statement saying that the Talgo equipment in question is being considered by the carrier for use in the Pacific Northwest.

The Wisconsin-built Talgos have been sitting at Beech Grove since 2014.

They were moved to Chicago on Friday, Dec. 6 over the route of the Cardinal between Indianapolis and Chicago.

Trains reported that the ferry move was hindered by freight train interference.

The Wisconsin Talgo train sets include three cab cars, three bistro cafes, three baggage-coach end cars and 22 coaches.

Although Talgo equipment has been used in Cascades service for years, it became the subject of controversy after a Talgo Series VI trainset was involved in a Dec. 18, 2017, derailment in DuPont, Washington, that left three dead.

A National Transportation Safety Board report concluded, among other things, that the design of the Talgo equipment played a role in the consequences of the wreck.

Talgo has disputed that and asked the NTSB to reconsider that finding.

In the meantime the Washington State Department of Transportation has said it wants all Talgo VI equipment removed from service as soon as possible, citing the NTSB report.

Amtrak is responsible for providing replacement equipment for the service.

The Trains report noted that a contract between Amtrak and Talgo has yet to be finalized and that the “interim” nature of the equipment use might be a point of contention.

The equipment would also need a waiver of Federal Railroad Administration crashworthy rules.

The State of Oregon, which also funds Cascades Service, plans to keep in service its two Talgo Series 8 train sets that it purchased in 2013.

The Trains report speculated that the Wisconsin Talgos will be reconfigured into two train sets with some equipment being kept for backup service as needed.

Talgo Manager Takes Issue With NTSB Report

November 19, 2019

A Talgo manager said the National Transportation Safety Board that its report on the derailment of an Amtrak train in Washington State in December 2017 contains many errors and unsubstantiated statements.

The NTSB recommended that Amtrak and the Washington State Department of Transportation remove from service immediately the Talgo Series VI trainsets and replace them with equipment that meets current federal safety standards.

Talgo has asked the Board to reconsider its conclusions and recommendations in the case.

Talgo’s Director of Product Development and Compliance Joshua D. Coran told Railway Age that the recommendation to cease using Talgo equipment immediately was “unprecedented and nonsense.”

“I have researched every available NTSB report of passenger train derailments and collisions dating back to 1971,” he told the magazine. “I have found 33. None recommends the removal of an entire fleet of cars.”

The NTSB report concluded that because the Talgo Series VI equipment did not meet federal safety standards it poses an unnecessary risk to passenger safety.

Talgo Series VI equipment was being used on Cascades No. 501, which derailed due to going too fast on a curve.

The NTSB concluded that the Talgo equipment did not provide adequate passenger protection and was structurally vulnerable if involved in a high-energy derailment or collision due to its lack of crashworthiness protections.

The Talgo equipment, though, was in compliance with Federal Railroad Regulations having been “grandfathered” in on one FRA regulation.

In an editor’s note, Railway Age noted that Coran’s comments were his own and not necessarily reflective of the views of Talgo.

Coran said the NTSB’s recommendation “to replace compliant equipment with compliant equipment makes no sense, as it accomplishes nothing except negative commercial impact on the manufacturer of the criticized equipment, Talgo, and benefits manufacturers of potential replacements.

More of his comments can be found at https://www.railwayage.com/safety/ntsb-amtrak-501-report-errors-and-unsupported-statements/

Woman Awarded $4.5M in Cascades Lawsuit

November 14, 2019

A jury has awarded a woman injured in the December 2017 of an Amtrak Cascades train $4.5 million in damages.

The award was made in a Federal District Court in Tacoma, Washington, to Madeline Garza.

She was a passenger aboard the southbound train No. 501 when it derailed on a curve in DuPont, Washington.

A news release issued by Garza’s attorney said she was found lying on her back on the ceiling of an overturned passenger car.

The news release said Garza, who was 18 at the time of the crash, suffered a major injury to her pelvis and lower spine, as well as three fractured ribs and a lacerated liver.

Her case was the second to go to trial stemming from the derailment.

Three other plaintiffs who sued Amtrak were in September awarded nearly $17 million combined for pain and suffering.

The derailment had sent part of the train tumbling off a bridge onto Interstate 5. Three passengers were killed and more than 60 others injured.

A National Transportation Safety Board Investigation determined that the train was going faster than the posted speed limited for the curve when the derailment occurred.

The train was making the first revenue run on the Point Defiance Bypass at the time.

Amtrak immediately returned its Cascades Service trains to the previous route and has yet to resume using the Point Defiance route.

Talgo Challenging NTSB Cascades Derailment Report

November 2, 2019

Talgo is challenging a recommendation of the National Transportation Safety Board that its equipment be removed from service by Amtrak.

The NTSB made that recommendation in its report on the December 2018 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades Service train that left three dead.

The safety agency concluded that the design of the Talgo equipment used in Cascades Service contributed to the fatalities and injuries in the crash.

The agency also said the Talgo equipment was not in compliance with Federal Railroad Administration crashworthiness regulations.

Talgo is asking the NTSB to reconsider its conclusions, saying that evidence presented by the company to the agency and the participation of its representatives was not seen by NTSB members before they voted on the likely cause of the derailment.

The Spanish railroad equipment maker also called unprecedented the NTSB recommendation to remove Talgo Series VI trainsets from service “instead of recommending improvements or modification to or further research on the Talgo railcars.”

Talgo’s petition to the NTSB said the agency erroneously pointed to the FRA “grandfathering” provisions allowing the Series VI trainsets to begin operating in 1999 without complying with an 800,000-pound buff strength requirement.

However, Talgo said it has a letter from the FRA noting that lack of carbody integrity was not an issue, which was confirmed “by new finite element stress and collision dynamics analyses performed by independent engineering firm Simpson, Gumpertz, Heger.”

That report “establishes that the Talgo Series VI railcars meet the relevant federal safety standards and performed in the derailment as well or better than conventional cars would have under similar circumstances,” Talgo said.

Talgo wants the NTSB to review again its findings based on evidence either initially ignored or now submitted.

Citing the NTSB report, the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Rail Division, which funds Amtrak’s Cascades Service, has called for replacing all of the trainsets used in Cascades Service before service resumes on the Point Defiance Bypass.

Jury Awards $16.75M in Cascade Derailment Civil Trial

September 17, 2019

A jury has awarded $16.75 million in damages to two victims and the spouse of one of them stemming from the December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train.

The eight-member jury in a federal court in Tacoma, Washington, awarded Dale Skyllingstad $7.75 million, $7 million to Blaine Wilmotte and $2 million to Madison Wilmotte.

A case involving plaintiff Aaron Harris will be heard later.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle had declared a mistrial in the case involving Aaron Harris due to a dispute over testimony by an expert witness about injuries that Harris sustained in the derailment.

At the onset of the trial, Amtrak attorney Mark Landman conceded the passenger carrier had acted negligently and accepted responsibility.

The trial therefore focused on the severity of the injuries that the plaintiffs suffered and the extent of their recovery.

An attorney for Skyllingstad described him as a railroad enthusiast who suffered a traumatic brain injury that has left him with lasting emotional effects.

Testimony showed that he suffered a broken pelvis, a spinal fracture, a cranial fracture and lacerations on his liver and kidney after his was ejected from a Talgo coach during the derailment.

Blaine Wilmotte was in a pickup truck on Interstate 5 when the train derailed on a bridged and landed on his truck, trapping him there for 90 minutes.

Attorneys said he suffered multiple broken bones, personality and behavior changes, anxiety, and a diminished capacity to work.

Madison Wilmotte, who was pregnant at the time of the derailment, sought damages because of the impact of her husband’ injuries and the emotional toll on their marriage.

The train was southbound on the Point Defiance Bypass on the first day of revenue service on the route.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the train was speeding as it entered a 30 mph speed zone on curve.

More than 30 other plaintiffs have also sued in the wake of the derailment and those cases are set to be heard by Judge Settle.

County Wants all NTSB Recommendations Implemented Before Amtrak Returns to Point Defiance Bypass

September 14, 2019

A Washington state county has issued a list of actions that it wants to see implemented before rail passenger service resumed on the Point Defiance Bypass.

The Pierce County Council has asked Amtrak, Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation not to use the route until all of the recommendations issued by the National Transportation Board are in place.

The NTSB issued the recommendations in its report into the cause of a Dec. 18, 2017, derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train that left three dead and dozens injured.

The derailment occurred on the first day of revenue service for Amtrak on the route, which is located between Tacoma and Olympia, Washington.

Amtrak suspended use of the Point Defiance route following the derailment and has not said when it will resume using it.

Among the NTSB recommendations were implementation of positive train control on the route and ending the use of older Talgo Series VI trainsets. WSDOT has already said it plans to do the latter.

No date has been set for Amtrak to resume using the Point Defiance Bypass and the resolution by Pierce County has no legal effect because it has no regulatory powers over the rail line.

FRA Grants to Benefit Passenger Rail

August 27, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration has announced the awarding of more than $272 million in grant funding to 10 rail projects through its State of Good Repair Program.

Several of those projects will benefit passenger rail.

The Michigan Department of Transportation was awarded up to $23.3 million for a rehabilitation work on the state-owned line between Kalamazoo and Dearborn that is used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service and Blue Water trains.

The project entails rebuilding rail, crossties and track surfaces, and replacing two railroad bridges in Jackson.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation received $15.1 million to rehabilitate and upgrade an interlocking plant in Philadelphia at the junction of the Amtrak-owned Keystone Corridor and Northeast Corridor main lines.

Work will include slope stabilization and reconstruction of retaining walls, rehabilitation of an existing but underutilized track, and switch and signal reconfiguration.

Chicago commuter agency Metra will receive $17.8 million to construct a new grade-separated, double-tracked rail bridge over Milwaukee Avenue north of the Grayland Metra Station on Metra’s Milwaukee District-North Line in Chicago.

The city-owned New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal will receive $3.7 million to complete final design for upgrading station platforms and train service capabilities.

The platform modifications will bring the platforms into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, increase platform height to provide level boarding for Amtrak’s Sunset Limited and City of New Orleans, and improve the step height for boarding the Crescent.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation was awarded $41.2 million to replace and upgrade Tower I interlocking, a major rail network junction at the entrance to the Boston South Station terminal area.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation received $76.9 million for the Piedmont intercity fleet and infrastructure investments project.

The project involves the acquisition of 13 new passenger coaches for use in the Piedmont service and an expansion of the Charlotte Locomotive and Rail-car Maintenance Facility.

New Jersey Transit received $18.4 million for platform D improvements at Newark Penn Station. The project includes repairing and/or replacing Platform D slabs and joints, reconstructing platform edges, installing new tactile strips and timber rub rails, repairing the overhead canopy and upgrading lighting.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation was awarded $12.5 million for a major rehabilitation of the Amtrak station in Providence.

The Washington State Department of Transportation was awarded $37.5 million to procure three new consists for use in the Amtrak Cascades service.

The project will replace the three Washington state-owned Talgo VI trainsets: two used in current service and one damaged in the December 2017 derailment.

The loss of the damaged trainset reduced the Amtrak Cascades schedule from six to four daily round trips.

The project will enable WSDOT to meet existing and anticipated passenger demand, and allow Washington to retire its Talgo VI trainsets.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation was awarded $25.7 million to replace deteriorated, outdated passenger cab-baggage and coach cars used in the Chicago–Milwaukee Amtrak Hiawatha service with three single-level cab-coach cars and six single-level coach cars.

Track Work to Affect Some Cascades

August 15, 2019

On Aug. 20, Train 517, will operate between Seattle and Portland with alternate transportation provided, by Bus 3517 to missed stops at Seattle, Edmonds, Everett, Stanwood, Mount Vernon, Bellingham and Vancouver.

Trains  516 and 519 will be cancelled and alternate transportation will be provided on Bus 4519 to missed stops at Seattle, Edmonds, Everett, Stanwood, Mount Vernon, Bellingham and Vancouver.

Amtrak Will Match Oregon Grant Bid Effort

August 2, 2019

Amtrak will match a federal grant bid being made by the Oregon Department of Transportation that will be used to improve tracks used by Cascades and Coast Starlight trains.

The passenger carrier will chip in $750,000 toward the project that seeks to reduce delays in the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor.

Oregon’s share would be $1.6 million of the $7.83 million project.
If the $5 million federal grant is awarded it will be used to rebuild the out of service Oregon City industrial track located between Portland and Salem, Oregon. It will create a 5,000-foot siding.

The first phase of the project would include laying new track and ties, and equipping both ends with power-operated switches and switch heaters.
The second phase will involve laying additional track on an adjacent three-mile section between Oregon City and an existing siding to the south.
This will result in five miles of new double-track section between Portland and Salem.

The track in question is located on a seven-mile stretch of Union Pacific’s Brooklyn Subdivision.

ODOT is seeking a U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grants to help fund the work.

Oregon Rail and Public Transit Division Rail Planner Bob Melbo said that under current operations if an Amtrak train is late it must wait at existing passing tracks at Clackamas to the north or Coalca to the south. If a UP freight is already occupying one of those sidings that could further exacerbate the delay.

Melbo says the industrial track was never used as a passing track when Southern Pacific installed centralized traffic control on the line in the 1950s, but converting it to a siding is more cost effective than building a siding elsewhere.

A decision on the grant application is expected later this year.

Advocates Push to Establish Amtrak Stop in Blaine

July 19, 2019

The establishment of an Amtrak stop in Blaine, Washington, will hinge upon the willingness of that community along with Whatcom County and the British Columbia cities of South Surrey and White Rock to invest in the project.

Rail passenger advocates have been pushing for a stop for several years in Blaine, which is on Amtrak’s Cascades Service line between Seattle and Vancouver.

All Aboard Washington government affairs director Luis Moscoso said it will be up to the communities to determine how to move forward toward establishment of the station.

“There seems to be enough interest and energy to bring the matter of the Blaine stop, and also an additional midday train, up for consideration,” he said.

Moscoso, a former member of the Washington state legislature, said the Washington State Department of Transportation has “rigorous criteria” that must be met, including financial support from the communities served.

A public meeting about the proposed Blaine station was held last week that was attended by State Representative Luanne Van Werven and the mayor of Blaine.