Posts Tagged ‘National Transportation Saftey Board’

NTSB Issues Early Report on SW Chief Crash

July 27, 2022

A preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety board into the June derailment of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief in Missouri does not draw any conclusions but sets out some of the facts about the event uncovered thus far by investigators.

Investigators continue to focus on the grade crossing where a collision between Amtrak Train 4 and a dump truck triggered the derailment.

Three Amtrak passengers and the truck driver were killed as a result of the June 27 derailment near Mendon, Missouri. The NTSB report said 150 aboard the train were treated at 10 area hospitals for injuries that ranged from minor to serious.

In particular, the NTSB probe is focusing on the approach to the crossing of the BNSF Marceline Subdivision and County Road 113, also known as Porche Prairie Avenue.

Many of the facts reported in the NTSB preliminary report mirror those in news stories about the derailment.

The derailment occurred at 12:42 p.m. CDT. The Southwest Chief had 270 passengers and 12 crew members on board at the time of the derailment.

Amtrak and BNSF estimated the derailment caused damage of about $4 million.

Train 4 had two locomotives and eight cars. The crossing where the collision occurred had crossbucks and a stop sign, but no gates or flashing lights.

Investigators said the positive train control system in use was enabled and working at the time of the collision.

Train speed was 89 mph when the emergency brakes were activated. The weather was clear with no precipitation at the time of the crash.

“Future investigative activity will focus on highway railroad grade crossing design specifications, railcar design, survival factors, and passenger railcar crashworthiness,” the report said.

4th Person Dies in SW Chief Derailment

June 30, 2022

A fourth person has died following the derailment on Monday afternoon of Amtrak’s eastbound Southwest Chief in Missouri.

Three of the fatalities were Amtrak passengers while the fourth fatality was the driver of the dump truck that the train struck at a grade crossing in Mendon, Missouri, at a crossing lacking flashing lights and gates.

The incident left 150 people injured. They were treated at 10 area hospitals and officials said the injuries ranged from minor to serious.

Mendon is located about 85 miles northeast of Kansas City, Missouri.

National Transportation Safety Board officials released more information on Wednesday about the collision and derailment.

The truck involved in the incident was owned by MS Contracting LLC of Missouri and was transporting materials to a nearby Army Corps of Engineers’ project when it was struck.

Amtrak Train 4 had a consist of two P42DC locomotives and eight cars, all of which derailed.

The train was carrying 275 passengers and had a crew of 12. It was traveling on track owned by BNSF.

Trains are authorized a top speed of 90 miles per hour in the area where the derailment occurred and investigators determined that Train 4 was traveling at 87 mph at the time of the derailment.

It had slowed from 89 mph a quarter mile from the collision site. NTSB officials said the locomotive engine was sounding the horn at the time of the collision.

“We do not have concerns about mechanical issues,” said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy during a news conference. “We tested the brakes and there are no issues with the brakes,” she said.

Homendy said the steep grade to the grade crossing is of concern: “We have to look at the approach of this crossing. It’s very steep. There’s a lot resting on a driver to see a train at these crossings, particularly when there’s such a steep incline.”

She also indicated that the investigation would require the tracks at the derailment site to remain closed for “a number of days.”

3 Killed, 50 Injured in Southwest Chief Derailment in Missouri After Hitting Truck

June 28, 2022

Three people were killed and at least 50 injured after Amtrak’s Chicago-bound Southwest Chief struck a dump truck in Missouri on Monday afternoon.

The dead included two aboard the train and the driver of the truck.

The incident occurred in Mendon, Missouri, a town of 160 located located about 85 miles northeast of Kansas City and 12 miles southwest of Marceline, Missouri.

Authorities said the collision occurred at a grade crossing with a stop sign but no flashing lights or gates.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were expected to arrive on the scene Tuesday morning.

Amtrak said Train No. 4 was carrying 275 passengers and 12 crew members when it collided with the truck at 12:45 p.m. (CDT).

NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy said investigators are requesting speed data on the route as well as data recorder information and camera footage from Amtrak. 

The train had two locomotives and eight cars, including a baggage car. Seven of those cars derailed with many turning over onto their sides.

Among those reported onboard two Boy Scout troops headed home to Wisconsin after spending a week at the Philmont Boy Scout ranch near Cimmaron, New Mexico.

A news report said the Scouts broke windows of the train after it derailed and helped passengers evacuate.

The Scouts used their first aid training to provide assistance to injured passengers until first-responders arrived at the site.

One Scout was reported to have sought to comfort the driver of the truck before he died.

Two of the troop leaders were injured in the derailment and taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of broken bones, broken ribs and a punctured lung. One Scout also was injured.

The Boy Scout troops are from Appleton, Wisconsin.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers aboard Train 4 that departed Los Angeles on Sunday, June 26, will be re accommodated as quickly as possible on other trains or buses as available.

Train 3 that is scheduled to depart Chicago on Tuesday, June 28, will now originate at Kansas City.

The Missouri incident was the second in the past two days involving an Amtrak train striking a vehicle at a grade crossing that resulted in fatalities.

On Sunday a train in Brentwood, California, struck a passenger vehicle, killing three people and injuring two others. All five were inside the vehicle. That collision also occurred at a grade crossing with only stop sign and no flashers or gates.

Tonti: Site of Amtrak’s First Fatal Derailment

February 5, 2022

Looking north on the CN Champaign Subdivision at Tonti, Illinois. The June 10, 1971 derailment began just beyond that switch.
A battered sign identifies Tonti, Illinois. Shown is the crossing of CN and County Road 20

Tonti, Illinois, is a mere wide spot in the road with a few houses, a business catering to agriculture, and a grade crossing on the Champaign Subdivision of Canadian National.

On June 10, 1971, Tonti briefly occupied the national spotlight as the location of Amtrak’s first fatal train derailment, which left 11 dead and 163 injured.

That was the most fatalities in a derailment involving an Amtrak train until the Jan. 4, 1987, derailment of the northbound Colonial at Chase, Maryland, which collided with three Conrail locomotives that had failed to stop for a red signal. The Chase collision left 16 dead.

I was reminded of the Tonti derailment this week when the first quarter 2022 issue of Passenger Train Journal arrived in my mailbox.

It contains a story written by Robert P. Schmidt about what caused Amtrak’s first fatal derailment with the author describing it as the culmination of a series of events that if any one of them had occurred in isolation would not have led to a serious accident.

Accompanying the story are photographs, some of which I’ve never seen before.

Reading that story reminded me that I visited Tonti in early August 2012 while railfanning the former Illinois Central mainline from Effingham to Centralia.

That prompted me to dig into a digital folder to find photographs I had almost forgotten that I had made.

The story of the Tonti derailment has been told many times although as usually happens with such events they tend to get forgotten or relegated to footnote status.

The train was the southbound City of New Orleans, which at the time was operating as Illinois Central Train 1. The operating crew was employed by the IC, which also owned the four locomotives and the train’s 15 passenger cars.

It was a transition era. The passenger equipment carried no Amtrak markings or heralds. The IC herald on the nose of the lead locomotive have been painted over.

That was typical in Amtrak’s early weeks when the newly-formed company had a skeletal staff and its host railroads operated, staffed and maintained equipment and trains that these companies had, by and large,operated before Amtrak began on May 1, 1971.

Train 1 had departed Chicago Central Station at 8 a.m. and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans at 1:30 a.m. the next day. It had left its scheduled stop in Effingham at 11:53 a.m., nearly a half hour late.

The IC operator at Edgewood reported No. 1 past at 12:05 p.m. Unknown to the crew or any of the railroad employees who inspected the train as it passed them, the axles of two wheels in the trailing tuck of lead engine E8A No. 4031 had locked and slid along the rails for 27 miles after No. 1 departed Effingham. One of those wheels developed a 10-inch flat spot and a false flange.

Twenty-miles south of Edgewood, No. 1 came to a crossover at Tonti. Just beyond the crossover switch was a turnout for a business track to a grain elevator that diverged from the southbound mainline track.

This section of the IC had an automatic train stop system and passenger trains were authorized speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour. No. 1 averaged 97 mph between Effingham and Tonti.

Engineer Lacy Haney would say later he felt a bump as the 4031 passed over the south crossover switch and then noticed his locomotive start to derail. The locomotive turned over on its right side and slid on the ground nearly 400 feet.

Haney and his fireman survived the crash and crawled out the side of the engine facing upward.

Six passenger cars and the baggage car also turned over on their sides. The remaining eight cars remained upright but most had jackknifed.

Six of those killed were ejected through broken windows and trapped beneath the side of their coach.

Many of the injured were taken to a hospital in nearby Salem. Most of the first responders came from there and the IC presented the town with a plaque recognizing the townspeople for their help. Some even took passengers from the train into their homes until they could continue their journey or return home.

The plaque, which is now in the Salem Area Historical Museum, has attached to it a silver plated bent spike from the derailment site.

One passenger who was killed in the derailment was never identified and is buried in the Salem cemetery. A headstone was donated by a local funeral home director.

Accidents are part of any transportation company’s history. Amtrak’s deadliest crash occurred Sept. 22, 1993, when the Sunset Limited struck an out-of-alignment bridge at Big Bayou Canot in Alabama, leaving 47 dead.

The City of New Orleans would be involved in a derailment on March 15, 1999, that left 11 dead. The southbound train, by now numbered No. 59, struck a truck at a grade crossing in Bourbonnais, Illinois.

* * * * *

Aug. 4, 2012, was a warm sunny day in south central Illinois as I set out to follow the former IC mainline. I had planned to stop in Tonti to see the location of a derailment I had read about many times.

Much has changed since 1971, including Amtrak operations. Five months after the derailment of IC No. 1, Amtrak renumbered all of its trains.

The Chicago-New Orleans trains were numbered 58 and 59, placed on an overnight schedules and renamed the Panama Limited. The CONO name was revived on Feb. 1, 1981.

Amtrak didn’t want much of IC’s passenger locomotives and cars and by middle to late summer 1971, they were being replaced with equipment with different railroad heritages. It wasn’t long before that equipment had taken on an Amtrak identity.

Starting in May 1989, IC began single tracking its mainline between Chicago and Memphis in favor of passing sidings and centralized traffic control.

In Tonti, that meant removing the southbound mainline track and the crossover that had figured in the 1971 derailment.

Although the business track in Tonti was retained, by the time I got there in 2012 the grain elevator had been razed and the business track made into a stub-end track that ends before County Road 20 (a.k.a Tonti Road).

A farm-oriented business still exists on the site and perhaps it gets occasional bulk shipments such as fertilizer.

Also gone is the grade crossing of County Road 900. Aerial photographs of the derailment show overturned cars on their sides blocking that road.

My stay in Tonti was brief.  I snapped a few photographs and continued southward. It was quiet and no CN or Amtrak trains were nearby. In fact, I would not see a CN train the rest of the day.

Nor did I find a historical marker or monument commemorating the 1971 derailment.

I did discover while conducting research for this article that in 2003 a band known as the Chicago Kingsnakes released a song titled Tonti Train Wreck.

You can also find some YouTube programs containing photos made of the derailment.

As for what the site looks like today, the top two photographs are looking north toward the derailment site.

In the distance is the bridge carrying Interstate 57 over the tracks. At least two drivers on that highway that day saw the derailment unfolding below them.

One of them got off at the next exit and found a gas station from which to call for help.

I presume the switch to the business siding is still where it was in 1971. The crossover switches would have been just beyond that.

The derailed train came to rest in the area between the I-57 bridge and the area you can see closest to the camera.

Photographs from 1971 show the property on both sides of the tracks to have been an open area then. Trees have since grown up along both sides of the tracks.

I wouldn’t say the Tonti derailment has been forgotten. But like any historical event, it takes on lesser importance as the population comes to be dominated by those who did not live through it.

In a sidebar article in the aforementioned issue of Passenger Train Journal, Preston Cook wrote that the legacy of the Tonti derailment was the development of training programs for first responders as to how to best respond to a passenger train derailment.

That has included planned coordination of responses to railroad accidents and training of first responders to educate them on the unique qualities of rail transportation.

The National Transportation Safety Board had recommended such improvements in its report on the Tonti derailment.

* * * * *

I’m thinking of going back to Tonti this year, perhaps in late spring or early summer to photograph Amtrak’s southbound Saluki passing through at about the same time as IC No. 1 did 50 years ago.

Amtrak No. 391 operates on a schedule similar to what IC’s City of New Orleans followed for many years.

It’s doubtful that many Amtrak passengers riding through Tonti today know about what happened there 50 years ago.

I wonder how many of the Amtrak operating personnel know about it or ever think about that wreck as they rush through.

Some disasters are the subject of books and inspire movies. Others may be remembered by the occasional magazine or newspaper article, particularly on an anniversary of the disaster.

Eventually, they all wind up occupying only a distant part of our collective consciousness.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Talgos Sent to Beech Grove Shops

September 2, 2020

Two Talgo VI trainsets have been moved to Amtrak’s Beech Grove shops for storage.

Amtrak has not said what it plans to do with trainsets Mt. Hood and Mt. Olympus, which were removed from service following a December 2017 fatal derailment in DuPont, Washington.

The Talgos are owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation and were used for several years in Cascades Service between Vancouver, Washington, and Eugene Oregon.

The agency owns two other Talgo trainsets that remain in Washington State.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the 2017 derailment was critical of the design of the Talgos but manufacturer Talgo has disputed that portion of the conclusions of the NTSB report.

Amtrak Adopts NTSB Safety Recommendation

April 22, 2020

Amtrak has implemented a recommendation made by the National Transportation Safety Board following an April 2016 incident in which two maintenance of way workers were killed by a passing train in Pennsylvania.

NTSB recommended that train dispatchers not be allowed to participate in potentially distracting activities, including making phone calls, while directing train operations.

Amtrak adopted that recommendation, the NTSB said this week in a news release.

The news release said that 230 safety recommendations made by the Board in 2019-2020 remain unaddressed.

The Amtrak workers were at a job site near Chester, Pennsylvania, when they were struck by a train.

Flynn Scrutinized for Atlas Safety Record

March 6, 2020

Amtrak President select William J. Flynn is being scrutinized for the safety records of the airlines that he oversaw during his time at Atlas Air Worldwide.

Pilots for Atlas, which is a freight and charter operation comprised of three carriers, have suggested that safety has not been among Flynn’s priorities.

Business Insider reported that the pilots contend Atlas has hired inexperienced and inadequately qualified pilots.

The BI report also said union leaders and pilots have been concerned about “shoddy training standards, fatigue and overwork, poor morale, and below-industry pay.”

These conditions, the pilots said, have reduced the level of safety at Atlas.

Atlas has for the past three years been locked in contentious contract negotiations with its pilots.

In February 2019 an Atlas Boeing 767 flying under contract for Amazon crashed while approaching Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport, killing both pilots and a pilot from another airline who was riding in the flight deck jump seat.

Although the National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the crash, it did release a statement agreeing in part with concerns raised by pilots about what they termed a lack of emphasis on safety and training standards.

Following that crash Flynn said in a prepared statement that some concerns that had been raised about safety at Atlas were “misleading and inaccurate, and inappropriately connect the Flight 3591 tragedy with ongoing contract negotiations.”

Flynn’s statement said Atlas has worked hard since its founding more than 25 years ago “to earn and maintain a record of safety and compliance.”

Flynn is scheduled to become Amtrak’s next president and CEO on April 15.

Cascades 501 Engineer Sues Amtrak for Negligence

January 25, 2020

The Amtrak locomotive engineer who was involved in a December 2017 derailment in Washington State has sued his employer, claiming that he was not properly trained.

Steven Brown filed the lawsuit in Pierce County District Court seeking compensation for physical and mental injuries suffered in the derailment of Cascades No. 501 near DuPont, Washington.

“As a consequence of the Defendant’s negligence and carelessness in violation of laws and regulations, the Plaintiff has suffered hearing impairment, hearing loss, pain, anxiety, general and special damages, diminishment of earning capacity, loss of enjoyment of life, and general damages yet to be determined,” the lawsuit says.

Brown alleges that Amtrak acted negligently when it failed to properly train locomotive engineer on a new route and that he and others were not given a sufficient number of familiarization runs on the Port Defiance Bypass.

Fifty other unnamed individuals are also named in the suit and Brown’s attorneys said they would file amended complaints as those individuals are identified.

Cascades 501 was determined by the National Transportation Safety Board to be traveling 78 miles per hour as it entered a 30-mph curve on the Point Defiance Bypass.

The resulting derailment resulted in the deaths of three people with dozens more injured. Some wreckage fell from a bridge onto Interstate 5.

The incident occurred on the first day of revenue service on the route.

Amtrak immediately suspended service on the Point Defiance route and has yet to say when it will be restored.

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/