Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak derailments’

Passengers Describe Being in Illini Derailment

August 7, 2019

Passengers who experienced a derailment of Amtrak’s southbound Illini on Sunday afternoon described themselves as shaken but otherwise all right.

Five cars of the train derailed after striking a truck at a grade crossing in University Heights, Illinois, that killed the truck driver, Richard E. Millette, 77, of Frankfort, Illinois.

Two passengers suffered minor injuries. The derailed cars remained upright.

“They were up to 70 mph and there was a loud bang. There was metal scraping. You could see metal parts flying by our window – a truck hood, tires and things like that,” said Scott Mayer of Windsor, Illinois.

“The cafe car looked like a tornado went through there,” said Mayer who along with his wife were seated in the business class section. “Everything in the cafe car was on the floor. People who were standing in the cafe car ended up on the floor on impact.

“The (train’s) cars started going into the rocks and we stopped pretty fast,” said Mayer. “The gates were down. I don’t know what happened, but (the driver of the box truck) pulled out in front of the train just before it got there at that crossing. There was nothing the engineer could do. He set the brakes and that was all he could do.”

The train was carrying 300 and they were evacuated shortly after the derailment.

Mayer said most passengers handled the incident but some were panicked and upset.

“A lot of people came together and helped one another,” Mayer said.

Jim Myers of St. Elmo, Illinois, said it was difficult to describe the experience.

“It’s hard to explain, but we could feel the train derailing,” he said. “You could feel every tie that we ran across. The car rocked back and forth a little bit. I never wanted something to stop so fast in my life. It felt like an eternity, but it was like only a minute.”

Myers said he could smell diesel and saw a lot of dust floating in the air.

“There was terror in people’s eyes,” Myers said. “People were panicked, but at the same time, they were calm. It was two emotions mixed into one. It was like something you only see in the movies.”

Myers said Amtrak personnel told passengers to leave their things behind during the invacuation, but he said he grabbed a bag.

On the ground the passengers were instructed to move swiftly and walk to a nearby gas station about a half-mile away where they would wait for buses to take them to Governor’s State University.

“Survival mode kicked in,” Myers said. “We made sure all the kids and women got off first.

“I used to ride the train a lot. But I’m not planning to ride anytime soon.”

Megan Sherman, 24, of Bourbonnais, Illinois, said an Amtrak crew member had just stopped by their seats before the train collided with the box truck about 5 p.m.

“It felt like a lot longer, but it was probably just minutes before this all went down,” she said.

Sherman said she felt their train car shudder and saw plywood fly past their window.

She then felt a second shudder as she realized the train was derailing into gravel.

Sherman said the passengers exited the train calmly and in an orderly fashion.

Some passengers were crying but were checking on the well-being of others. Sherman and her husband helped an elderly woman seated in front of them with her bags and helped her get off the train.

Grade Crossing Crash Derails Amtrak’s Illini

July 30, 2019

A truck driver was killed and Amtrak’s southbound Illini derailed after a grade crossing collision Sunday afternoon in University Park, Illinois.

Two passengers aboard Amtrak Train 393 were taken to a hospital and treated for minor injuries.

The train was reported to be traveling at 70 mph when it struck the truck at 5 p.m.

The lead Charger locomotive and five cars derailed. The train had 300 passengers and five crew members.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the crossing gates appeared to be working at the time of the crash.

The derailment blocked the Canadian National mainline and Amtrak’s southbound City of New Orleans was canceled as was the Monday morning departure of the southbound Saluki.

The northbound City terminated in Carbondale, Illinois, on Monday and passengers were taken by bus to Chicago or their intermediate stations.

The City departed as scheduled on Monday night. Also operating as scheduled on Monday were the southbound Saluki and northbound Illini.

NTSB to Announce Silver Star Collision Cause

July 2, 2019

A July 23 hearing has been set by the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the probable cause of a February 2018 collision between Amtrak’s Silver Star and a parked CSX auto rack train.

A preliminary investigation has already determined that a switch left lined from the main into a siding routed the Miami-bound passenger train into the path of the auto rack train near Cayce, South Carolina.

The board will meet at 9:30 a.m. to issue its findings in a proceeding that will be webcast.

Following the collision, the NTSB asked the Federal Railroad Administration to issue an emergency order regarding operations in territory in which the signal system has been turned off for maintenance or an upgrade.

The signals governing the CSX tracks used by the Star were out of service so workers could install positive train control equipment.

The collision killed the conductor and locomotive engineer of the Amtrak train and left 90 others onboard injured.

Some Talgo Equipment to be Removed From Cascades

May 27, 2019

In the wake of a National Transportation Safety Board report on the December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train, the Washington State Department of Transportation said it will remove Talgo Series 6 trainsets from service “as soon as possible.”

In a statement, WSDOT said it is working with Amtrak to determine the timing of the equipment removal and equipment replacement.

The NTSB recommended that the Talgo Series 6 equipment be removed from service due to safety issues.

WSDOT said it had planned to remove that equipment from service in the mid 2020s, but the NTSB report has advanced that timetable.

Talgo equipment is used in Cascades service between Eugene, Oregon, and Vancouver, British Columbia. WSDOT and the Oregon Department of Transportation fund that service, which is operated by Amtrak.

In its report about the Dec. 18, 2017, derailment near DuPont, Washington, that left three dead, the NTSB determined that the wheels of the Spanish-built trains became detached during the derailment.

NTSB Investigators described them as “projectiles” that crushed passenger car compartments and highway vehicles.

“Had the rolling assembly not detached we may not have had fatal injuries,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.

The derailment occurred on a 30-mph curve. Train 501 was en route to Portland, Oregon, from Seattle and entered the curve traveling 78 mph.

It was the first day of operation for Amtrak on the Point Defiance Bypass, which is owned in part by commuter agency Sound Transit.

The NTSB said the lightweight design of the Talgo trains was a factor in the severity of the crash.

Manufacturer Talgo has contended that its equipment is safe and performed as expected.

In announcing the conclusions of its accident investigation report, one NTSB member noted that the Talgo Series 6 equipment was “grandfathered” into safety standards of the Federal Railroad Administration because the equipment couldn’t meet updated crashworthiness standards.

The state of Washington owns two Series 6 trainsets and Amtrak owns two others. Oregon owns two Series 8 Talgo sets.

WSDOT spokeswoman Janet Matkin said the agency will be challenged to find funding to buy new equipment.

However, WSDOT is part of a multi-state compact that is acquiring new single-level cars for use on corridor routes operated by Amtrak.

Matkin noted that her agency is seeking federal funds to purchase new equipment and is awaiting a decision by the FRA on those grant applications.

WSDOT has thus far not taken Talgo up on an offer of 31 cars that would make up two or three trainsets depending on capacity, said Talgo spokeswoman Nora Friend.

Friend said the Series 8 cars were offered to WSDOT at less than that list price. The cars are new, but had originally been built for service in Wisconsin before Gov. Scott Walker canceled a planned rail expansion project.

Friend said Talgo 6 cars have a usable life of 30 years. The Series 6 cars owned by WSDOT and Amtrak are 21 years old and some Series 6 equipment is older and still in operation all over the world.

Sound Transit, which came in for criticism in the NTSB report, said it will hire an outside consultant to review the agency’s safety procedures.

“I completely agree with the NTSB that we have a confusing and troubling regulatory regime here where four different agencies plus BNSF have a very convoluted distribution of roles and responsibilities,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff.

The NTSB had recommended that Sounder Transit undertake a review of its safety certification process “top to bottom, when it comes to our role as a track owner.”

Although Sound owns the track where the Cascades 501 derailment occurred, it doesn’t plan to operate rail service there.

“It was our responsibility to not only determine safety protocols but to oversee that Amtrak implemented all of them,” Rogoff said. “That clearly didn’t happen when it comes to whether Amtrak included curve safety protocols in the general orders to its crews, or verifying the level of training Amtrak provided to its train crews.

Amtrak has yet to resume using the Point Defiance Bypass, which it sought as an alternative to the BNSF route it now uses between Tacoma, Washington, and Portland.

Neither Amtrak, WSDOT, nor Sound Transit have said when Amtrak’s Cascades and Coast Starlight might begin using the Point Defiance route.

WSDOT spokeswoman Matkin said her agency needs time to review the NTSB report in detail.

The agency has said previously it would not permit passenger service to resume on the Point Defiance Bypass until the NTSB report is released and installation of a positive train control system is completed.

The NTSB report said the engineer on Amtrak Cascades 501 said he missed the first trackside sign that a curve was ahead. The report said the engineer’s lack of familiarity with the route played a role in the derailment.

NTSB to Determine Cause of Cascades Crash

March 17, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board plans to meet on May 21 to determine the probable cause of an Amtrak derailment that killed three people in December 2017 in Washington state.

The NTSB has made a preliminary determination that Cascades Service No. 501 was speeding when it derailed near DuPont, Washington, on Dec. 18, 2017.

The train was operating on the first day of revenue service on new route south of Tacoma.

Sixty-five people including passengers crew members and occupants of motor vehicles on Interstate Highway 5 were injured in the crash. Portions of the train fell onto the highway from a bridge.

Investigators have said the train was traveling at 78 mph in a 30 mph zone when the derailment occurred.

Kansas Firm Admits Negligence in SW. Chief Wreck

November 29, 2018

A court trail over the 2016 derailment of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief in Kansas has been canceled after an agriculture company conceded that one of its truck was maintained negligently, causing it to runaway and damage the BNSF tracks used by the train.

Cimarron Crossing Feeders admitted one of its trucks caused the derailment because an employee was negligent in not setting its brakes.

The truck, which was unattended when it broke loose, rolled downhill and struck the rails. The incident occurred near Cimarron, Kansas.

In a previous ruling, a federal judge determined that there was no legal fault on the part of Amtrak or BNSF for the March 14, 2016, derailment.

The train was traveling 60 mph when it hit a kink in the track. The derailment resulted in injuries to 28 passengers and crew members.

Amtrak and BNSF said the derailment caused $1.4 in damage.

NTSB Looking at Talgo Safety

July 24, 2018

The National Transportation Safety Board probe into the December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train that killed three and injured more than 60 is focusing on the safety of the Talgo equipment involved in the incident.

“Now that we have evidence of how the Talgo trainset performs in a crash, does the [Federal Railroad Administration] have any concerns that would cause you to re-examine your decision to grandfather this equipment?” NTSB investigator Michael Hiller asked an FRA during a recent hearing.

In response, the FRA’s Gary Fairbanks said, “I didn’t see anything as the way the cars performed that would cause us to go back and reconsider the grandfathering petition because the items that were covered in the grandfathering petition performed adequately.”

The Talgo equipment involved in the derailment had been operating under a FRA waiver.

During the hearings, the NTSB also zeroed in on the training of Amtrak locomotive engineers.

The derailment occurred on the first day of revenue service on the Point Defiance Bypass between Tacoma and Nisqually, Washington.

NTSB investigators are also questioning if Amtrak did enough to identify a potentially dangerous curve at DuPont, Washington, where Cascades No. 501 derailed.

At issue was whether Amtrak operating personnel received a sufficient number of familiarization trips over the route before revenue service began.

Most of the training runs were made at night to avoid interfering with Sounder commuter trains during the day.

Testimony at the NTSB hearing showed that one training run had seven people in the cab, exceeding the number considered safe by Amtrak standards.

Locomotive engineers were not only learning a new route, but a new locomotive, the SC-44 Charger.

In interviews with NTSB investigators, the engineer of Cascades No. 501 said the curve at milepost 19.8 was on his mind, but that his limited familiarity with the lines of sight from the Charger locomotive may have hindered his ability to see the wayside warning signs until it was too late.

As Cascades No. 501 entered a 30 mph curve, it was traveling at 78 mph.

Mike DeCataldo, Amtrak’s senior director for system safety and customer satisfaction, said  Amtrak will only begin a new service or route “once all safety precautions and mitigations are in place.”

DeCataldo said Amtrak will require a minimum of four round-trips over the entirety of the new route, up from the previous minimum of one, before an engineer or conductor is qualified to operate over it.

Amtrak has said it will not use the Point Defiance Bypass until positive train control train is installed, which is not expected until the end of this year.

In a related development, an Amtrak mechanic has filed a federal whistleblower complaint in connection with the Cascades derailment, saying carrier ignored his safety concerns on the day of the accident.

Michael McClure said in the complaint that he told his superiors that there was a mechanical failure in the trainset that later derailed.

“They were more primarily concerned about getting it out in time for the inaugural run than looking at the safety aspect of it,” McClure said.

He contends that the fault dealt with the train’s braking system. However, it has not been formally established if that played a part in the derailment.

McClure’s complaint alleges that Amtrak has “an ongoing pattern and practice of violating the Federal Railroad Safety Act.”

Attorney Says Cascade Trainset Was Defective

June 8, 2018

An attorney representing a passenger injured in the December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades Service train is claiming that the trainset involved in the crash had electrical problems that prevented it from braking properly.

Attorney Jim Vucinovik said he learned of the problem from a whistleblower.

“Amtrak knew that there was an electrical failure of that trainset before it was put into service that morning,” Vuconovik said. “There was a shutdown between the head-end locomotive and the rear locomotive, which are normally linked electronically. Rather than fix that, or get to the root cause of that problem, they de-linked that rear unit which then meant that the rear locomotive unit was not available for braking and/or throttle effect.”

Three passengers were killed in the derailment near DuPont, Washington, and more than 60 others were injured.

A preliminary findings of the National Transportation Safety Board was that the train was traveling at more than twice the posted speed limit just before reaching the curve where it derailed.

NTSB Sets Hearings in 2 Amtrak Crashes

May 25, 2018

The National Transportation Safety Board will hold hearings on July 10-11 into two Amtrak crashes that resulted in multiple fatalities.

The hearing will be held in Washington and may be watched live via webcast.

Testimony will be taken from the Federal Railroad Administration; the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers; the Brotherhood of Locomotives Engineers and Trainmen; the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; CSX; Sound Transit; Amtrak; the Washington State Department of Transportation; and the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission.

One of the derailments involved a Cascades train going off the rails on Dec. 18, 2017, in DuPont, Washington, killing three passengers.

The other crash occurred on Feb. 4 near Cayce, South Carolina, when the southbound Silver Star collided head-on with a CSX auto rack train in a siding. That crash killed two Amtrak crew members.

NTSB Releases More Info on Silver Star Crash

March 1, 2018

The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday released a preliminary report on Feb. 4 head-on collision between Amtrak’s southbound Silver Star and a CSX auto rack train in South Carolina that provides additional details about the crash that caused an estimated $25 million in damage and claimed the lives of two Amtrak crew members. At least 92 passengers and crew members aboard Amtrak No. 91 were injured.

The report reviews the CSX dispatching system at the time of the accident and reveals how two CSX crew members of the parked auto rack train that Amtrak struck managed to escape injury.

The report said the CSX engineer had gotten off his train before the Silver Star entered the siding due to a misaligned switch. He was able to run to safety.

The CSX conductor was thrown off the locomotive of his train by the impact of the collision and suffered minor injuries.

The three-page NTSB report does not seek to assess blame for the accident, but reiterates earlier released information that a misaligned switch led to the collision.

A more detailed report that states a probable cause along with recommendations will be issued several months later.

In the meantime, the NTSB has recommended that the Federal Railroad Administration issue an emergency order providing instructions for instances in which a signal system has been turned off and a switch has been reported as relined for a main track.

Other information contained in the preliminary NTSB report includes:

Amtrak Train No. 91 reached a top speed of 57 mph after leaving its station stop in nearby Columbia, South Carolina. This was below the 59 mph limit allowed under signal suspension rules.

Information taken from the Amtrak locomotive’s event recorder indicated that before it stopped recording the engineer had activated the locomotive horn for three seconds and brake pipe pressure began decreasing two seconds later.

The engineer then moved the throttle from full throttle to idle as the train slowed to 54 mph.

A second later, the train’s emergency brakes were applied, by which time its speed had fallen to 53 mph.

The recording ended as the air brakes were approaching maximum braking effort and train speed was 50 mph.

The forward-facing video camera of the Amtrak P42DC was recovered from the wreckage and sent to the NTSB laboratory in Washington for analysis.

It stopped recording shortly before the collision, but NTSB engineers are attempting forensic efforts to recover further information.

Investigators have also recovered the forward-facing video camera and event recorder of the lead CSX locomotive.

The engineer and conductor of the Amtrak train died as a result of the collision and at least 92 passengers and crew members of the Amtrak train were transported to local medical facilities.