Coast Starlight Derailment

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AlanB

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Amtrak transported passengers by bus from the derailed Coast Starlight, accompanied by a customer care team, to Sacramento early this morning.  The northbound Coast Starlight, train #14, derailed at approximately 10:10 p.m. P.D.T. outside Hayward California, approximately 20 miles south of Oakland.
Initial reports indicate that four passengers with minor injuries were treated at the scene.  Three passengers were transported to a local hospital, where two were treated and released.  One passenger was admitted.

The above from Amtrak's press release which you can read here.

Still no word on if there is any serious damage to the cars or the engine, although I'm sure that there is at least minimal damage to the trucks.
 

Miami Joe

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More bad news!!!! I feel bad for "The Gunn", he hasn't caught a break since he got here!

Hope the passengers are OK, and the media will give us a break. I know they won't , just wishful thinking.
 

AlanB

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I feel bad for "The Gunn", he hasn't caught a break since he got here!

Isn't that the truth. He's gone through running out of money a month after taking over, to the Capital derailment, to the Acela debacle, and now this. All the while he's still trying to figure out what he's stands and how to fix Amtrak as a whole.

Frankly, I'm shocked he hasn't thrown up his hands and said "I'm out of here". :eek: What a trial by fire for his first 3 months on the job. I just hope that people will give him some consideration for all he's been through.
 

Miami Joe

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That 's my biggest fear!!!

I still voice the opinion that the ARC antd the Bush administration are hell bent on destroying Amtrak. No money has been released in 6 months, no mention if we get $500 million or $1.2 billion and alot of bad press. As much as I love the guy, even he has a breaking point.

I'm not the religious type, but I pray everyday that Dave has the strength to ride out the storm and bring Amtrak to prosperity. But, with the derailments, Acela, lawsuits, etc., I question if we have a chance in hell of pulling off a miracle and get to keep our trains.

Quite frankly, if Dave gives up or is forced out, I can't think of anyone to replace him. Maybe that Thompson guy who is pro Amtrak, But I don't think anyone would take on such a horrible mess.
 

tp49

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I happened to be in the Sacramento Depot at 9AM buying a new 10 trip for the Capitols this morning with many of the people bussed up from Hayward from the derailment. I can say this much for them, they were very calm and orderly and in good spirits considering all they went through in the several hours preceding, and because they were at the depot since 6:30AM. Local television was there as well covering the story. The people in the depot left around 10:30AM when a train arrived to take the passengers north.

The derailment occurred a little over two miles from my girlfriend's house. The Starlight is the only passenger train that uses that particular stretch of track. The Capitols also go through Hayward but use tracks two to three miles east of the derailment site. This area is highly industrial and a magnet for vagrants. It is also a dumping ground for stolen vehicles. I never realized the Starilght used that particular track until last Saturday when I saw the SB cross the bridge near my girlfriend's house.
 

Viewliner

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Sorry to hear about the derailment, at least nobody was seriously injured. It doesn't seem to be a big story in the NY Metro Area.

How badly damaged is the equipment?
 

AlanB

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Maybe that Thompson guy who is pro Amtrak

Joe, if you mean Tommy Thompson then I wouldn't bet on it. He's a politician, not a railroad man. He was the former Governor of Wisconsin, till he took his current job in the White House as Secretary of Health.

He may love Amtrak and he might succeed on the political front, something that is important. However, he'd probably have to rely heavily on Stan "the man" Bagley, to actually run the RR.

Of course I suppose that it's possible that he railroaded a few people to get where he is politically. ;) However, I don't think that would qualify him to run Amtrak. :)
 

battalion51

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Not that I want to see David go or anything BUT I wouldn't mind seeing Sen Hollings of SC running the show if a politician is going to take over (which will most likely NEVER happen). But David doesn't seem like the type who gives up easily, I mean if you look at his other projects, he's had to overcome some pretty big challenges. Look at what he did for MTA (Subways) in New York. Now they're one of the best (if not THE) best in the US. I was relieved (in a way) to hear that only five cars had derailed in the Coast Starlight accident. But it's sort of freaky in a way, on tuesday I had this weird feeling that there was going to be a derailment somewhere, I guess it was true.
 

tp49

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The equipment does not seem to be too badly damaged, none of the cars overturned and the scene was cleared in a metter of a few hours.
 

battalion51

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Good to hear. I know after the AT accident it took them a while to clear and repair the tracks, to the tune of 4-5 days. All trains were rerouted via Ocala and Lakeland Subdivisions, but none went on the spur to Tampa. One other note, while I was wandering around the Sanford shops a few weeks ago I saw a few of the damage wrecked cars all lined up. I could be wrong but they might have been being prepared to go to Beech Grove for heavy repairs, as the brake indicator lights next to the doors were on. I also saw a Table car as well as 5 or 6 P-40's, but oddly enough no P-42's. But that's OK because all P-40's are in Phase IV, not the ugly Phase V like most P-42's. i would say at the sanford shops alone there were easily 30-40 Superliners there. :ph34r:
 
G

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My wife and I were on #14 when it derailed in Hayward, CA on 8/21 at about 10 p.m., so I can give you a first-person account of what went on. What has been printed in the Bay Area media is generally correct, however I would like to add some clarifications. The train consisted of three locomotive units [the lead unit was a California Amtrak unit, the others Amtrak Genesis units], one baggage car, four Superliner sleepers, the Pacific Parlor car, diner, sightseeing lounge and 5 Superliner coaches [in that order from front to rear].

The "unknown object" on the tracks that caused the derailment was apparently a drawbar that had been dropped between the rails. [i was told this privately by an Amtrak supervisor] There were three locomotives on the train. The first two units passed over the drawbar without incident, but the rear truck of the third unit caught it and derailed. The baggage car and the first [transition] sleeper also derailed and were jacknifed to the left. All other cars remained in line. The drawbar ripped out plumbing from underneath the sleeper and gouged a dent in the floor of the car. [Occupants of this car described a loud "scraping" noise and how the floor of the car heaved upwards. The two additional cars that derailed were the 3rd and 4th of the 5 coaches.

The incident took place in a industrial area of Hayward near a street crossing and adjacent to several other access points that could be reached by emergency personnel. Fire and police were on the scene within 10-15 minutes. Initially we were told to remain in our seats. However, the derailment had caused a loss of power to the train from the lead locomotive unit rearward. Ventilation fans quit and service lighting went out immediately. We were in the second coach and other than an abrupt stop and clouds of dust outside, we initially assumed it was just the most abrupt, unexplained stop of several we had experienced since leaving San Luis Obispo.

Emergency lighting began to fail as batteries were exhausted. We were told to leave the train and move outside onto the right of way [which was level and about 100 feet wide at that point. We milled around for well over an hour. Amtrak responded quite well, eventually dispatching about 7 buses to the scene and took all the passengers to the Oakland station at Jack London Square. Passengers to SF, Emeryville and Martinez were bused to their destinations. Most of us going farther were bused to Sacramento, however Amtrak was unable to secure enough buses to accomodate all those going that far. My wife and I spent the night in the Oakland station along with about 50 others and we took the first CalTrans commuter train of the morning to Sacramento.

In Sacramento southbound #11 was terminated. Passengers were put on San Joaquin trains for LA. The others going south of the Bay area were probably bused--although I don't know for sure. The equipment from #11 was cleaned, we were loaded. The train backed out of the Sacramento station about 10:45 a.m., turning on the wye where the line to Chico intersects the Overland Route that leads to Roseville and proceded northward without further incident. I noted that unlike our trip from San Luis Obispo to San Jose, UP put all the freights "in the hole", allowing us to avoid the interminable waits that too often plague this train's operation.

Returning to the "unknown object" that was on the tracks and caused the derailment: Several sources spoke of similar, but not so serious, incidents that had happened in the Bay area, apparently over the past several years. However, the Amtrak supervisor I spoke with put it this way. He said that a drawbar on the tracks can come from one of two sources. First, it could have fallen from a passing freight train. However, freight trains do not carry unsecured, spare drawbars on, say, a flatcar. If this had been the case, the drawbar would have ended up off the tracks, because if it had fallen between the rails it would have derailed the remainder of the freight. Next, assume the drawbar had been pulled out of its socket while a freight was in operation. Then the drawbar could have fallen between the rails, but the rear portion of the freight train would have been detached. There had been no reports of freight trains breaking in two that night. The second possible cause that he offered was that "unknown parties" had somehow secured a drawbar and deliberately put it on the tracks. This would have required more than the efforts of one individual. He concluded by saying: "you can draw your own conclusions".

In retrospect, this supervisor's reasoning, along with the alleged history of past vandalism in this area, leads me to believe that this was a deliberate intent to do damage to railroad property, whether UP's or Amtrak's. It is fortunate that there were only 7 relatively minor injuries and that damage to Amtrak equipment was minimized.
 

AlanB

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Thanks for that very detailed report, Guest. :) We appreciate it! :) :)

PS. I'm glad that neither you or your wife were hurt.
 

tp49

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Thank you for the report. I too am glad that you and your wife were not hurt. You also cleared up something for me as I was wondering if the Amtrak California loco was there possibly to tow equipment or if it was a part of the actual consit.

I wonder why they would have an Amtrak California loco leading the consit. The only logical rason I can come up with is that there are no locomotive servicing facilities in Oakland and they send them down to LA, and cut them off the consit either at Oakland or Emeryville.
 

gswager

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I'm glad that you are unhurt, so is your wife. Biggest life saver in the car is the material which it is very stiff. It prevents from crushing from behind or even front, like an aluminum can.

I rather take a train than car or airplane. Car has too many different shape like a tiny car vs. SUV.

Well, enough of it.
 

tp49

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The consit of the derailed Starlight is currently sitting at Amtrak's Oakland facility. I saw it last night from the Capitol, and today from BART.
 

tp49

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The media out here tonight is confirming what that guest poster stated regarding the probable cause of the derailment being that the train ran over a drawbar.
 
G

Guest

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This reply is from the "guest" who witnessed the accident and reported on it earlier.

The drawbar is the forged steel bar which ties a car's coupler to the car's frame. It is probably 4 to 6 inches square and 3-4 feet long. Its weight is in the range of 200-400 pounds--maybe more if it is not hollow.

The talk in the press about this "falling" from a passing freight is baloney. The only way it could have fallen from a passing freight is for two cars to become uncoupled. According to the Amtrak source I spoke with there was no record of such an occurrence happening that day. This was a deliberate act of vandalism, so UP and the law enforcement agencies have a job on their hands to find out who did it. As mentioned before, similar--but less severe--acts of vandalism have reportedly occurred in this area before. There was undoubtedly more than one person involved because of the weight of the drawbar.
 

AlanB

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Guest is correct; a drawbar is not something that you carry around in your back pocket for fun. I also read a similar account in one of the newspaper articles on this derailment.

Like he said the drawbar holds the coupler to the car. Now for those who don't understand the physics involved here, when a train starts to move the whole train doesn't start moving at once. First the engine start to move and once it's gone a inch or so the slack between its coupler and the car behind gets pulled out. This makes the first car start to move, which in turn just like above pulls out the slack between the first car and the second car. This continues so on and so on, until the whole train is moving. If it wasn’t for this slack, trains as we know them would be vastly different. It would be almost impossible for an engine to start pulling more than 10 to 15 cars all at the same time.

Now each time the slack goes out of one of those couplers, that drawbar sustains a tremendous tug as it pulls the car behind from a stopped condition to a rolling one. Remember that train cars, especially freight ones, can weigh several hundred thousand pounds. This is one reason you never want to find your hand in a coupler when a train starts moving, because it will quite simple and easily cut your hand right off. All this means that a drawbar must be very strong and sturdy, and able to withstand this tremendous force.

The only way that this fell off of a train, without the train breaking in two, would be if they were carrying it on a flatbed car and failed to secure it properly. Even then, unless it was on the very last car of the train, then it would have caused the freight train to derail. So my money is on sabotage.
 
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