al Qaeda's "chilling desire to derail a train"

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The Chief

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From a story released today 5 May 2011:

" A new bulletin issued tonight by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and obtained by ABC News shows shows that al Qaeda remained fixated on so-called soft targets like transportation, and describes the terror organization's chilling desire to derail a train.

"As of February 2010, al-Qa'ida was allegedly contemplating conducting an operation against trains at an unspecified location in the United States on the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001," the document reads, using an alternate spelling for bin Laden's terror group. "As one option, al-Qa'ida was looking into trying to tip a train by tampering with the rails so that the train would fall off the track at either a valley or a bridge." "

Full story here.

I'm guessing those pukes would want to strike at a PAX train.
 

Tumbleweed

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There needs to be a TSO at every bridge pulling guard duty....24 hours a day.....with a pre-duty inspection prior to pulling duty..... :ph34r:
 

jis

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There needs to be a TSO at every bridge pulling guard duty....24 hours a day.....with a pre-duty inspection prior to pulling duty..... :ph34r:
I have traveled in areas of the world where exactly such security is required to secure routes. So it is not beyond the realm of possibilities. But really, at present it does not appear that US has any such problems to justify such. Such has been done for example, during World War II on critical segments, e.g. the Horseshoe Curve.
 
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afigg

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Here come the patdowns.
But the patdowns for passengers don't do anything to protect against someone tampering with the rails on the tracks. You don't tamper with the rails while on the train.

One of the areas that the $1.3 billion of stimulus money that Amtrak received was for security improvements to stations, bridges, and tunnels. The items listed include CCTV surveillance cameras, alarm systems, and fencing for bridges and tunnels on the NEC. So this is not a new threat. I just hope the DHS does not use this as an excuse to expand airport type security, even at reduced level, to Amtrak trains. The problem is that we now have a security-industrial complex that makes a lot of money on providing security and selling expensive scanner equipment. Once they have sold all the scanners they can to airports, there is going to be this tendency to create new markets so they can sell scanners to train stations, sport arenas, museums, any public place. <sigh>
 

Traingeek

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I hope we don't get security theatre because of what Al Qaeda was planning. I love the freedom of traveling on Amtrak. It does disconcert me though as I am traveling to Kissimmee on the Silver Star in a month. I hope we are still vigilant and will always have to be. This is simply a reminder of it.
 

TVRM610

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So I really do take this thing seriously but I just have to laugh a little bit...

Is anyone really gonna notice a few more Amtrak derailments? I mean did that Slidell wreck even make national news?
 

Anderson

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Here come the patdowns.
But the patdowns for passengers don't do anything to protect against someone tampering with the rails on the tracks. You don't tamper with the rails while on the train.

One of the areas that the $1.3 billion of stimulus money that Amtrak received was for security improvements to stations, bridges, and tunnels. The items listed include CCTV surveillance cameras, alarm systems, and fencing for bridges and tunnels on the NEC. So this is not a new threat. I just hope the DHS does not use this as an excuse to expand airport type security, even at reduced level, to Amtrak trains. The problem is that we now have a security-industrial complex that makes a lot of money on providing security and selling expensive scanner equipment. Once they have sold all the scanners they can to airports, there is going to be this tendency to create new markets so they can sell scanners to train stations, sport arenas, museums, any public place. <sigh>
The utter uselessness of many of their actions has never stopped the Department of Homeland Stupidity from doing things.
 

MikefromCrete

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Derailing an Amtrak train by a terrorist group has already happened. Remember the Sunset Limited derailed west of Phoenix by some unknown group that was never solved.
 

BobWeaver

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George Harris

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I mean did that Slidell wreck even make national news?
It did.

Derailing an Amtrak train by a terrorist group has already happened. Remember the Sunset Limited derailed west of Phoenix by some unknown group that was never solved.
To call this the act of a terrorist group is a stretch. The "group" name on their threat has never been heard from either before or since. Also: To do what they did on a secondary main with rather boderline track condition in the middle of a desert was a lot easier than it would be to do on a line up to current standards in track conditions.
 

The Chief

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Thanks for the Reuter's link, Bob.

Interestingly (to me) in 2010 ©, I wrote an NCIS spec script© that contained this exact scenario.

Other actions were included, but this bridge derailment attempt was one of the climaxes.

An Excerpt: (copyright JPT 2010)

EXT. RAILROAD BRIDGE OVER RIVER COUNTRYSIDE -- DAY

The two accomplices begin BANGING the rails with the hammer-mauls. The rails shift slightly.

Marid Khan Khaldun watches their work and when he sees that each rail is misaligned,

he clinches his fist.

All three quickly collect their tools then rapidly start their exit from the bridge.

Marid Khan Khaldun looks at the track signals alongside and overhead on the bridge,

and all signals display green. ,,,

* * *

DISPATCH CENTER CHIEF (ON MONITOR)

So let me get this straight, Director Vance.

You hacked into our secure system and pulled

up a district traffic control display of the

Silver Meteor?

VANCE

We obtained a network data feed to check the

whereabouts of a train carrying our agents.

DISPATCH CENTER CHIEF (ON MONITOR)

Ah, yes, your agents, who shot up my train.

You people are just all over my railroad.

VANCE

Be that as it may, Chief, we need to stop

that train and examine that bridge.

DISPATCH CENTER CHIEF (ON MONITOR)

Oh, yes, because you saw something “hinky”

as you called it. I told you, we show every

display green, and we’ve got to get the

Meteor into Washington on time. If it

delays, that will cascade through our

Northeast Corridor, and dozens of other

trains will delay. Capisce?

(beat, waits for it to land)

That train’s coming in.

* * *

INT. SILVER METEOR LOCOMOTIVE CAB -- DAY

Tony looks forward as Eddie the engineer points ahead.

TONY

Wow, that’s tall.

EDDIE ENGINEER

It’s one of the taller spans east of

the Mississippi. Sometimes you can see

this bridge from five miles away.

We’re a bit closer than that now.

EXT. RAILROAD TRACK COUNTRYSIDE -- DAY

The Silver Meteor speeds ahead, nearing the bridge.

EXT. RAILROAD BRIDGE OVER RIVER COUNTRYSIDE -- DAY

The misaligned track looms.

©

* * *

Of course there's more in between, but these chronological excerpts line it up for you.Stay tuned!
 
E

Emberg

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Terrorists and terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda focus their resources on making as big of an emotional and/or economic impact as possible…..hence the “terror” in their purpose. Blowing up or derailing an Amtrak train, especially a long-distance train would not have the impact they desire. Efforts are usually concentrated on large commuter hubs where commerce and travel would be disabled and large numbers of people would be killed. But, their main focus would be to terrorize a large portion of the population. There are only a few places in the country where this could be accomplished by involving trains, and the government has already identified these spots for enhanced monitoring and security. It certainly cannot be ruled out, but it is not very likely given other opportunities.

The disruption of air travel not only terrorized the population in to reconsidering flying, but people on the ground were paranoid that an aircraft could be crashed into a building they were in. You really don’t have that with an attack on a train.

But, I do have to agree with the observation that this only gives more fuel to special interest groups such as security contractors.
 

Anderson

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The point about it not having the desired effect is a good one...as much as I hate to say it, a derailed CZ in the mountains of Colorado would get a one minute blurb on the evening news and be forgotten (nobody wants to have to helicopter their news team out four hours to get shots of the wreck and continue coverage)...and what's more, if it's not apparent what they did immediately, the story might get misreported as being down to sloppy maintenance. Somehow, I do not think Al Qaeda's objective in life is to increase UP's track maintenance budget.

There is also the fact that on a number of lines, they might aim to derail a passenger train and accidentally derail a freight train because they relied on a timetable to plan their attack. I'm reminded of a joke on here that you couldn't send a nuke on a timer into DC on the Capitol Limited because the train would probably be delayed and all you'd do is flatten Harper's Ferry.

This does have me wondering, though...are there any well-placed commuter lines that might be subject to something like this? If I was AQ, I'd try to blow up an El in Chicago or something like that, where there'd at least be good coverage.
 

Crescent ATN & TCL

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If there is an attack it will be along the NEC. I would be most worried about them blowing up a train in the one of the tunnels. They are going to try and get the most out of an attack that they can.
 

cirdan

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I agree that camera surveilance of critical places such as high bridges would be a good idea.

I am concerned this might lead to a lot of over zealous security measures though with innocent people such as railfans waiting by the tracks to take a picture will be unncessairly harrassed by security.

Having said that, ther ehave been next to no accidents involving passenger trains in which everybody was killed. On the contrary, even some of the most hairy accidents with large numbers of dead still had more survivors than victims. This shows the inherent safety of rail.

There have been attempts in the past involving criminals attempting to blackmail railroads by asking for money to stop derailing trains. The resulting accoidents were mostly minor. It isn't as easy to derail a train as many may think, and even once derailed, a train often stays upright and keeps going in a straight line so damage tends to be minor.
 

Dutchrailnut

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It seems to me. the average rail passenger should be more scared of US truckers.

They seem to derail and crash more trains than Al Queda ever can plan.
 

Green Maned Lion

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This whole Plot is dreamed up by Janet Bin Nepolitano of the terrible terror organization DHS to benefit the interests of their backer, security companies. Long live the jihad against innocent Americans to benefit the holy religion of The Profit..
 

dlagrua

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The only way to guard the American rail system is if "we the people" all become citizen observers. The government cannot guard 100's of thousands of miles of train track effectively 24/7. The freight railroads will need to ride the rails more often with track inspection equipment and the only thing that we need at the large RR stations are K-9 dogs. Those cute and friendly pooches can smell explosive devices 1/4 mile away. Its a far better and more effective method than what is used at the airports.
 

MikefromCrete

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I mean did that Slidell wreck even make national news?
It did.

Derailing an Amtrak train by a terrorist group has already happened. Remember the Sunset Limited derailed west of Phoenix by some unknown group that was never solved.
To call this the act of a terrorist group is a stretch. The "group" name on their threat has never been heard from either before or since. Also: To do what they did on a secondary main with rather boderline track condition in the middle of a desert was a lot easier than it would be to do on a line up to current standards in track conditions.
They derailed a train, What would you call them? A bunch of fun-loving kids?
 

rrdude

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I'm gonna chime in and say, "Were I a terrorist, looking to get the most 'bang for the buck', related to rail transportation, I'd find a bridge or a curve near a populated area, that had regular shipments of Hazmats." Kills or injures a lot of people, makes a spectacular wreck/news, and is not that difficult to 1) Do. 2) Find out info about. Especially if the train movement is at night, or early AM.

Loosen/remove a few bolts, tamper with a switch on a turnout. I gotta admit, with welded rail, it's not as easy as it used to be, but there is still plenty of stick rail around this country....... And that's about a 15 minute job.
 

fillyjonk

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Here come the patdowns.
But the patdowns for passengers don't do anything to protect against someone tampering with the rails on the tracks. You don't tamper with the rails while on the train.
This is my big concern. I would think a potentially-violent passenger on a train could be taken down by the other passengers and the attendants, but if someone planted a bomb on the rails in some remote location...scary.

If they up security, I hope it never gets to the extreme that the airlines use...where they confiscate 2" long embroidery scissors as weapons, won't allow you to carry food or water on, and (at times at least) had sharp restrictions on how much shampoo, etc. you could carry on.

If it gets to that point? I'll give up Amtrak just like I gave up flying. I don't like feeling like I'm a suspect every time I travel. Especially when the real danger probably isn't the people queuing up to get on the train...
 

Ryan

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I'm gonna chime in and say, "Were I a terrorist, looking to get the most 'bang for the buck', related to rail transportation, I'd find a bridge or a curve near a populated area, that had regular shipments of Hazmats." Kills or injures a lot of people, makes a spectacular wreck/news, and is not that difficult to 1) Do. 2) Find out info about. Especially if the train movement is at night, or early AM.

Loosen/remove a few bolts, tamper with a switch on a turnout. I gotta admit, with welded rail, it's not as easy as it used to be, but there is still plenty of stick rail around this country....... And that's about a 15 minute job.
Say hi to the nice man from the FBI when they visit you!
 

jis

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I'm gonna chime in and say, "Were I a terrorist, looking to get the most 'bang for the buck', related to rail transportation, I'd find a bridge or a curve near a populated area, that had regular shipments of Hazmats." Kills or injures a lot of people, makes a spectacular wreck/news, and is not that difficult to 1) Do. 2) Find out info about. Especially if the train movement is at night, or early AM.

Loosen/remove a few bolts, tamper with a switch on a turnout. I gotta admit, with welded rail, it's not as easy as it used to be, but there is still plenty of stick rail around this country....... And that's about a 15 minute job.
.... Or perhaps somehow get hold of a barge and crash it into a bridge pylon and see what happens. Afterall we already know that they like to crash transport vehicles into structures. :cool:
 
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