Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak derailments’

Amtrak Wants Cascade Route PTC Turned On ASAP

January 15, 2018

Amtrak has told the departments of transportation in Oregon and Washington that that it wants positive train control tested and implemented on the Seattle-Portland route “as soon as possible.”

During a legislative hearing in Washington state last week, Amtrak Senior Government Affairs Manager Rob Eaton said sensors and radio links trackside, on locomotives and on a central server still need to be integrated.

“The testing and interaction of all three of these elements will take place during the second and third quarters of the year, after which PTC will be placed into operation,” he said.

Many believe that had PTC been in operation that derailment of a southbound Cascades Service train could have been avoided.

Three passengers died in the wreck, which authority had linked to the train going 78 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone near Olympia, Washington.

The train was traveling on the first day of revenue service on the Point Defiance bypass route.

Eaton said implementing PTC is complicated by the fact that three different railroads own sections of the route, including BNSF, Union Pacific and Sound Transit.

During the hearing Amtrak officials said PTC is not in operation on any Amtrak route west of the Mississippi River.

Washington state Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar testified that there was not undue pressure to launch high speed rail service before Amtrak locomotive engineers and crews had become qualified on the Point Defiance Bypass route.

“There was no deadline for initiating service,” Millar said, but did say there had been deadlines for completing construction on track and signal upgrades

Millar said those were not a factor in the December derailment.


NTSB Issues Preliminary Cascade Accident Report

January 5, 2018

A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board avoids seeking to pin point the cause of the Dec. 18 Amtrak derailment near DuPont, Washington, that left three passengers dead and 62 crew members and passengers injured.

The Board expects its investigation to take at least a year.

The report said that investigators have not yet been able to interview the engineer or conductor involved in the derailment due to their injuries.

Other information in the preliminary report indicates that not only was the train speeding at the time of the derailment, but the train, Cascades Service No. 501 from Seattle to Portland, Oregon, did not slow prior to the accident.

The train was traveling 78 mph at the time of the derailment in a zone where the top speed was 30 mph.

The report said the authorized track speed north of the accident site is 79 mph and decreases to 30 mph before a curve over Interstate 5.

A 30 mph speed sign was posted 2 miles before the curve on the engineer’s side of the track. Another 30 mph sign was on the wayside at the start of the curve on the engineer’s side.

About six seconds before the accident, the locomotive engineer commented on an over speed condition to an Amtrak conductor who was also in the cab learning the route.

The NTSB said inward facing cameras showed that neither crew member was observed using personal electronic devices in the cab.

The derailment caused $40.4 million in damage. Aside from those injured aboard the train, eight people in vehicles on Interstate 5 were injured when train cars landed on the highway after going off a bridge.

The train had a leading and trailing locomotive, a power car, 10 passenger cars and a luggage car.

A positive train control system was not in operation on the route at the time of the accident.

“In this accident, PTC would have notified the engineer of train 501 about the speed reduction for the curve; if the engineer did not take appropriate action to control the train’s speed, PTC would have applied the train brakes to maintain compliance with the speed restriction and to stop the train,” the report states.

The 55-year-old engineer had worked for Amtrak since May 2004 and had been promoted to engineer in August 2013. The 48-year-old qualifying conductor had been working for Amtrak since June 2010.

No Injuries in Silver Meteor Derailment in Georgia

January 4, 2018

No injuries were reported on Wednesday when the northbound Silver Meteor derailed at slow speed at the Savannah Amtrak Station.

Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said train No. 98 was backing into the station at about 10 p.m. when two Viewliner sleepers and a baggage car derailed about 1,000 feet from the station.

All of the cars remained upright. The train was carrying  311 people.

The incident occurred during a severe winter storm that dumped more than an inch of snow on Savannah for the first time in 28 years.

One passenger was quoted in news media accounts as saying that as the train approached the Savannah station, an announcement was made that a switch was frozen.

The backup move was done in order to reach the depot.  Abrams said the cars remaining on the rails would continue northward although some sleeping car passengers had to be put on board a different train.

WSDOT Says Point Defiance Bypass Won’t Be Put Back Into Service Until PTC System is Operational

December 22, 2017

Passenger trains won’t use the Point Defiance Bypass in Washington State until positive train control is activated on the line.

The Washington State Department of Transportation made the announcement in the wake of an Amtrak derailment near Olympia, Washington, last Monday that left three dead.

Investigators have said the train was running at 80 miles per house in a 30 mph zone when it derailed.

The accident occurred on the first day of revenue service on the 14.5-mile line, which is owned by Sound Transit.

No timetable has been set for finishing the installation of PTC on the route. Amtrak’s Cascades Service and Coast Starlight trains will use the Point Defiance route, which runs along Puget Sound and also lacks PTC.

In the meantime, the National Transportation Safety Board said the engineer of Cascades Service Train No. 501 began applying the brakes just before the train derailed.

The NTSB said that an initial review of an in-cab camera in the lead unit of train 501 showed that about six seconds before the accident the engineer made a comment regarding an “over speed condition” and began applying the locomotive brakes.

Aside from the engineer, an Amtrak conductor training to work on the route was in the cab of the locomotive.

Neither crew members was using a personal cell phone in the minutes before the derailment and the video showed both bracing for impact in the final frame of the video.

The locomotive’s event recorder showed the train traveling at 78 mph as its final recorded speed.

NTSB officials said the investigation of the accident may take up to two years to complete.

Amtrak will continue to operate its expanded schedule of Cascades Service despite an equipment shortage caused by the derailment.

Even before the derailment occurred, equipment had been in short supply because a Talgo trainset owned by the State or Oregon was out of service for repairs.

A set of Superliner equipment had been sent to the Pacific Northwest to cover one of two daily Seattle-Vancouver, British Columbia, trains.

The Oregon-owned Talgo set was involved in an accident last July 2 and had to be sent to the Talgo factory in Milwaukee for repairs. It is expected to return to service in March 2018.

To meet schedules, Amtrak is now turning all Talgo trainsets at Portland, Oregon, rather than in Eugene, Oregon.

Amfleet equipment has been assigned to trains operated between Eugene and Portland with passengers making connections in Portland for points north.

Anderson Promises to Improve Safety

December 21, 2017

Amtrak co-CEO Richard Anderson has promised to improve safety at the carrier and implement any recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board after it concludes its investigation into a derailment in Washington state that left three dead about 100 injured.

“This is a wakeup call and it is not acceptable to have these types of accidents,” Anderson said during a news conference in Tacoma, Washington.  “We must get to the bottom of this, figure out what happened and make it sure it never happens again.”

Thus far investigations have determined that Amtrak Cascades train No. 501 was traveling more than twice the posted the speed limit moments before it derailed near Olympia on Monday morning.

Investigations are probing if the engineer was distracted just before the crash by the presence of a conductor trainee in the cab.

The train was making the first revenue run on a new route known as the Point Defiance Bypass that is owned by Sounder Transit and had recently been rebuilt.

Thirteen of the 14 cars on the train left the tracks on a curve that crosses over Interstate 5. The train was carrying 86 people, including the crew members.

At least five vehicles on the interstate highway was struck by falling train cars, but none of those killed were in those vehicles. On Wednesday night, authorities said 24 people were still hospitalized.

The locomotives and passengers have been removed from the cash site to a nearby military base where the NTSB will continue its investigation.

Amtrak has resumed service between Seattle and Portland, Oregon, using the Point Defiance route.

However, due to equipment shortages, Cascades Service between Eugene, Oregon, and Portland will have substitute equipment.

There will be no food service, checked baggage service, business class or bikes.

Nos. 505 and 508, which were scheduled to operate between Eugene and Seattle, will operate only between Seattle and Portland.

New trains Nos. 515 and 510 will be introduced on the segment between Portland and Eugene with a cross platform connection at Portland for passengers traveling north of there.

These schedules are expected to be in place through at least Jan. 2.

Investigators Eye Whether Cascades Engineer Was Distracted Just Before Derailment that Killed 3

December 20, 2017

The engineer of an Amtrak Cascades Service train that derailed on Monday near Olympia, Washington, may have been distracted shortly before that accident that left three passengers dead.

Federal investigators have said the train was traveling 80 mph in a 30 mph zone and left the tracks where the route curves to cross Interstate 5.

The distraction may have been caused by the presence of an employee in the lead locomotive who was being trained.

Investigators are focusing on why the engineer lost situational awareness.

National Transportation Safety Board member Bella Dinh-Zarr said that the train’s emergency brakes were activated automatically and not manually set off by the engineer

Dihn-Zarr said that skid marks from the train’s wheels show where it left the tracks.

However, Dinh-Zarr said investigators still have not concluded why the train derailed or why it was going too fast.

Investigators plan to interview the engineer and other crew members as well as review the event data record from the lead locomotive and an engine on the rear of the train. They also will seek to get images from two on-board cameras that were damaged in the crash.

The second person in the cab of the Charger locomotive was described as a conductor trainee making a trip to become familiar with the route.

Cascades Service No. 501 was making Amtrak’s first revenue service trip over the Point Defiance Bypass.

Officials have not identified the engineer, but he was bleeding from the head after the crash and his eyes were swollen shut.

No. 501, which was traveling from Seattle to Portland, Oregon, had 85 passengers and crew members aboard at the time of the crash. More than 70 people were injured in the derailment of which 35 were hospitalized, 21 of them in critical or serious condition.

Dinh-Zarr said Amtrak crew members had been making test runs over the route for two weeks before scheduled service on it began. The route is owned by Sound Transit and had recently been rebuilt.

Two of the victims were identified as passenger rail advocates Jim Hamre, a retired civil engineer with the Washington State Transportation Department; and Zack Willhoite, a transit agency customer service employee. Both were members of All Aboard Washington.

In the meantime, Amtrak has resumed operating between Seattle and Portland over its previous route.

Cascades No. 502, the morning run from Portland to Seattle, was canceled but trains were to run as scheduled.

It is now known how long it will be before Amtrak can resume using the Port Definance Bypass. In the interim, Amtrak will also use is former station in Tacoma at 1001 Puyallup Ave.

At Least 3 Dead in Cascades Derailment

December 19, 2017

Investigators say an Amtrak train that derailed on Monday near Olympia, Washington, was traveling 80 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone.

The derailment of a southbound Cascades Service train from Seattle to Portland, Oregon, left at least three people dead. Authorities said dozens were injured, including 10 who suffered serious injuries.

The Associated Press quoted unnamed officials as saying six had died in the accident.

Thirteen of the 14 cars on the train left the rails, with one coach landing on Interstate 5 and two others were dangling from a bridge over the freeway.

NTSB board member Bella Dinh-Zarr said at a late Monday news conference that the speed of the train at the time of the accident had been determined by downloading the Event Data Recorder from the rear P42DC locomotive.

Train No. 501 was being pulled at the time of the crash by a new Siemens diesel locomotive that is owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

She said it was too early to know why the train was traveling so fast at the time of the crash.

However, it was the first day that Amtrak was using a new route known as the Point Defiance Bypass.

The route is owned by Sounder Transit and has been billed a more direct and faster route. The previous route had followed the shore of Puget Sound.

The WSDOT had rebuilt the Point Defiance line in a $181 million project in which much of the funding came from the Federal Railroad Administration.

On Monday night cranes were brought to the scene of the crash to stabilize the wreckage.

Trucker Blamed for 2016 S.W. Chief Derailment

November 24, 2017

The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that a truck driver’s failure to properly secure an unattended truck led to the March 2016 derailment of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief near Cimarron, Kansas.

The derailment resulted in 28 people being injured and caused $1.4 million in damage to the tracks of the BNSF La Junta Subdivision.

The NTSB said that the day before the incident, the unattended truck rolled downhill and damaged the BSNF tracks.

The Chicago-bound Southwest Chief derailed when it crossed the misaligned tracks.

In its report, the NTSB said neither the truck driver or his supervisor reported the incident to local authorities.

“Railroads are not required to post emergency contact numbers other than at grade crossings,” NTSB said in its report. “In situations such as this one, the correct approach is to call 911 and report the concern. Using this approach, local emergency officials can notify the railroad about any potential issue with its equipment.”

The Southwest Chief was operating at the time with two locomotives and 10 cars.

No Injuries in LSL Chicago Derailment

March 29, 2017

No injuries were reported when the inbound Lake Shore Limited derailed at slow speed just outside of Chicago Union Station on Monday.

No. 49/449 was arriving at the station at 11:50 a.m. when three cars on the 11-car train left the rails.

Passengers in the three cars were helped into the cars that remained on the tracks.

The cause of the derailment is still being investigated, but the mishap occurred as the train was moving through a switch.

There were 197 passengers and nine crew members aboard. Damage to the passenger cars was minimal.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said there were no delays to Amtrak or Metra trains. However, a couple of Amtrak trains were held in the station to allow extra time for connecting passengers to transfer their luggage.

Texas Eagle Suffers Minor Derailment in Arkansas

May 10, 2016

Amtrak’s Texas Eagle suffered a minor derailment in Southern Arkansas on Tuesday when the wheels of a sleeper came off the track.

Amtrak Texas EagleAmtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says the accident occurred about 12:30 p.m. in Hot Spring County just east of Malvern.

There were no injuries. The train was carrying 81 passengers and a crew of nine.

Magliari said the accident occurred where two sets of Union Pacific tracks converge. The train was bound for San Antonio.