Empire Builder accident (9/25/21)

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Willbridge

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At 10 p.m. Pacific Time, AP and Reuters still had no mention of Portland. Reuters listed past Amtrak and U.S. commuter train wrecks in the past decade. Due to the Oregonian's horribly early press time it is possible that on Sunday morning there will be people expecting Train 27 to arrive in Portland, Vancouver, Bingen-White Salmon, etc, Television news won't catch on unless the AP or a daily newspaper covers a story like this.

On Sunday I'm due to participate in a Zoom discussion of social media issues and this will be a constructive example of citizen reporting (both AP and Reuters were using social media photos).
 

Acela150

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Honestly looks like the switch got picked given the location and how the train derailed.
This is pure speculation, but given my experiences recently working for a Class I, I would be willing to bet that the switch was slightly gapped (meaning the point wasn’t totally flush with the rail) and then a car with a thin flange picked it.

Prayers for the three families who lost their loved ones today.
I'm going to be real honest here and I'm going to sound like a jerk.. But it needs to be said. You used one word. Speculation. Do everyone a favor and keep that to yourself. I don't care what your experience is with a Class I, II, or III. And if you really do have "experience" with any railroad you wouldn't have said any of that.

This is personal to me for several reasons. You can understand why.

With that being said... I'm going to request the Mods and Admins remove any speculation posts or at the very least keep a very close eye on the potential posts. No one here was on the train, no one knows what happened, no one knows what the head end crew saw or didn't see, and the actions they took. That is for the NTSB to investigate, NOT Railfans who use Facebook pictures as their evidence. The speculation makes it a lot worse.
 

danasgoodstuff

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KGW, Channel 8 in Portland is now reporting Portland as a destination but they don't appear to get that it was the Portland part of the train that derailed.
 

Cal

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There are always at least 2 Portland coaches, since one needs to have lower level ADA seating and one needs to have checked baggage. Assuming the consist was in the normal configuration, that would mean 4 cars (including the SSL) ended up on their side.
Yes, however all the photos that I saw have the SSL directly behind the main consist, still connected on it's side. And it's the last car that stayed with the man section. And then only two other cars that broke off ,where is the other?
 

NW cannonball

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Yes, the Hi-line is thinly populated, but the Builder does run parallel to US Hwy. 2 and they should be set up for dealing with wrecks on it. There are places on the Builder's route that are less accessible.
Agree that there's less accessible places on the Hi-line, like in the Rockies and Cascades.
US Hwy 2 is drive-able at 90 mph most of the way from Duluth to Everett, BUT many places along US Hwy 2, if your car breaks down, you might have to walk a few miles to get in range of the nearest cell tower. Just sayin.
 

WWW

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Some of the above posters have tried to do a good job explaining what might have caused the derailment, but for someone like me who doesn't know anything about railroad tracks and some of the jargon that goes with them, can someone try to totally illustrate what's being talked about when such things as 'switches' and 'picked' are mentioned?

First of all, what exactly does a switch do, and are they for some reason easily susceptible to being misaligned to the extent that no onboard crew member - or dispatcher - would notice?

And what does it mean to say 'a switch got picked?'

Are things called switches installed every few miles all the way up and down on mainlines and are they typical danger points?

Thanks!
LINK to pictures of switches:

railroad switches pictures - Bing

Switches are needed when tracks diverge or merge - - -

This accident occurred (near) where there is a siding where switches switch the movement off of the main line to a siding and back on.

Something caused the end (4) cars of the EB to leave the tracks - derailing - an investigation will determine just what that was.

I will let the gandy dancer experts take it from here to explain that "picked" term
 

Cal

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I'm going to be real honest here and I'm going to sound like a jerk.. But it needs to be said. You used one word. Speculation. Do everyone a favor and keep that to yourself. I don't care what your experience is with a Class I, II, or III. And if you really do have "experience" with any railroad you wouldn't have said any of that.

This is personal to me for several reasons. You can understand why.

With that being said... I'm going to request the Mods and Admins remove any speculation posts or at the very least keep a very close eye on the potential posts. No one here was on the train, no one knows what happened, no one knows what the head end crew saw or didn't see, and the actions they took. That is for the NTSB to investigate, NOT Railfans who use Facebook pictures as their evidence. The speculation makes it a lot worse.
Isn't a lot of this forum speculation in general? There has been a lot of speculation about a lot of things we have very little proper knowledge on. The member was just giving an idea about the cause (as to how realistic it is, I don't know), and there are always a lot of ideas that vary in realism hovering around this forum. And I think that speculation would be a normal thing to do when things happen.
 

NW cannonball

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Yes, however all the photos that I saw have the SSL directly behind the main consist, still connected on it's side. And it's the last car that stayed with the man section. And then only two other cars that broke off ,where is the other?
Amtrak says 7 cars derailed. The SSL, 2 coaches, and the Portland Sleeper are visible in most of the photos online. What are the other 3 cars that derailed?
I sure dunno. Forward of the SSL in the Seattle section of the train, if typical consist (which I watch 3 out of 7 nights going west) there's one coach for Seattle, then the Dining Car, then two Seattle sleeping cars, the transition-dorm-roomette car, a baggage car, and the two motors.
All the new photos I've seen so far have focused on the back end of the train, the Portland section.
Where in the train the derailment started -- No se. No clue. No photos. No idea.
 

WWW

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Yes, however all the photos that I saw have the SSL directly behind the main consist, still connected on it's side. And it's the last car that stayed with the man section. And then only two other cars that broke off ,where is the other?
The consist of the EB when it leaves MSP is 2 locomotives - a baggage car - a transdorm car - 2 sleepers - a diner - a coach - the sight seeing lounge -
and three cars destined for Portland at the Spokane split. This is the usual customary consist going both east train #8 and west train #7.
It appears that the last 4 cars derailed and are laying on their side.
 

Willbridge

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KGW, Channel 8 in Portland is now reporting Portland as a destination but they don't appear to get that it was the Portland part of the train that derailed.
Right. The story is still coming from their Seattle station (KING) and being relayed by KGW and KREM (Spokane). Amtrak should also get a pat on the back for promptly getting word out of the number to call to check on family members, etc. It's hard to do these things in any case and it's harder to do on weekends.

KPTV - Fox updated their material in time for their 11 pm PDT newscast, including the incredibly simple task of looking at the Amtrak website and getting the Portland section explained fairly well. However, they didn't get the Amtrak hot line phone number. KOIN still hasn't done a local story.
 
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WWW

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Amtrak says 7 cars derailed. The SSL, 2 coaches, and the Portland Sleeper are visible in most of the photos online. What are the other 3 cars that derailed?
I sure dunno. Forward of the SSL in the Seattle section of the train, if typical consist (which I watch 3 out of 7 nights going west) there's one coach for Seattle, then the Dining Car, then two Seattle sleeping cars, the transition-dorm-roomette car, a baggage car, and the two motors.
All the new photos I've seen so far have focused on the back end of the train, the Portland section.
Where in the train the derailment started -- No se. No clue. No photos. No idea.
Viewing the photos and video feeds the cars still on the tracks - 2 locos - bag car - transdorm - and 1 or 2 sleepers - The diner and coach car are off
the rails still standing upright - the SSL and the 3 Portland cars laying on their sides.
 

NSC1109

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I'm going to be real honest here and I'm going to sound like a jerk.. But it needs to be said. You used one word. Speculation. Do everyone a favor and keep that to yourself. I don't care what your experience is with a Class I, II, or III. And if you really do have "experience" with any railroad you wouldn't have said any of that.

This is personal to me for several reasons. You can understand why.

With that being said... I'm going to request the Mods and Admins remove any speculation posts or at the very least keep a very close eye on the potential posts. No one here was on the train, no one knows what happened, no one knows what the head end crew saw or didn't see, and the actions they took. That is for the NTSB to investigate, NOT Railfans who use Facebook pictures as their evidence. The speculation makes it a lot worse.
I understand it’s personal to you. It’s personal to everyone who knew the crew involved. And you have my sympathies if you knew anyone on board who was injured or god forbid killed.

That being said, I’m not a “railfan”. I do work for a western Class I in their Transportation department. The NTSB will investigate as usual and we will eventually know what happened. I can tell you from my experiences working derailments, including a picked switch, this looks exactly like what happened. I haven’t placed blame on anyone. It would be inappropriate to do so with the evidence at hand. I simply said it looks like the train picked the switch based on the emerging photos, and that’s based on my work experience.

Cal is correct, this forum is based on a lot of speculation anyway. That’s sort of the point of it, being a discussion forum after all. I would agree that truly uninformed comments have no place here. But informed opinions should be included in the debate. Perhaps speculation was not the right word for me to choose.
 

roadman3313

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I'm going to be real honest here and I'm going to sound like a jerk.. But it needs to be said. You used one word. Speculation. Do everyone a favor and keep that to yourself. I don't care what your experience is with a Class I, II, or III. And if you really do have "experience" with any railroad you wouldn't have said any of that.

This is personal to me for several reasons. You can understand why.

With that being said... I'm going to request the Mods and Admins remove any speculation posts or at the very least keep a very close eye on the potential posts. No one here was on the train, no one knows what happened, no one knows what the head end crew saw or didn't see, and the actions they took. That is for the NTSB to investigate, NOT Railfans who use Facebook pictures as their evidence. The speculation makes it a lot worse.
I do not post often here as of recent but I need to respond to something on this post that may sound like being a jerk as well, though that is not my intention. I believe in speaking up when something needs to be said and this is really bothering me so I need to say it. I first want to highlight that I respect your experience and can see from my understanding of that experience why this is personal to you. I also want to say that there are many out there right now who are going through a flood of emotions when incidents like this happen who may have varying levels of involvement that we may or may not know. Some here know my ties to the transportation sector and the railroad both through my volunteer work and professionally and that I am also a rail incident investigator in the transportation sector, but I do not generally comment on that here. I have seen my share of fatal incidents. Speculation can be very dangerous, however I also understand that I have colleagues and friends who express their emotions regarding incidents I have worked in different ways. Some try to rationalize what has occurred to try to put some perspective to it to try to get some semblance of peace of mind. Maybe they have an upcoming train trip and are now in fear of traveling and are trying to get some sort of self-assurance that it will be ok. I have also dealt with my hand of "backseat" investigators who feel they have the explanation of what happened before I even get on the scene. I do not condone making assumptions, but I also understand that people will and that I can not sensor them for doing so as they are free to speak their mind so long as it is in a respectful manner and within the rules. I will admit also that I have found some truth or at least useful leads sometimes in what has been said while other times I have wish they would have just kept quiet as it made a bad situation worse. Does it bother me in the moment - yes it does to a certain degree, but I also see why boards like this exist as well. Sometimes people need an outlet to express the questions they have to those who may have the knowledge or least will listen and try to understand or be able to share and contribute as well.

I can't say if anyone here can say for a fact if anyone who posts or sees this board was on the train or knew someone on the train or not. That would also be making an assumption. I was on another board where they were posting about a train that was involved in a trespasser incident three weeks ago. People were making assumptions or speculating where it was and how it happened. Even as to why the incident took so long. When I went in to say one small comment on how it was handled well by the crew despite the circumstances, I was immediately corrected as to what I knew or didn't know as I "wasn't there." Well sorry to say I was. But people made an assumption and berated me for saying something. That lack of respect I find sometimes is why I do not post as much anymore.

With all that said, I would hope this may serve as a healthy reminder that we all need to be respectful of the dialog that we have here as members and guests of this group. There are many people who are personally affected by this and do not need the added speculation that comes with any discussion regarding an incident. This group also has a wealth of experienced individuals with different backgrounds who may afford some perspective and education on reasons incidents like this may occur. Is it solid fact in this case, most likely not, but it may help other members to understand what the process is like in incidents like this and tone down some of the theories that come out of the woodwork. This is a forum and discussion is expected. We may all have different beliefs and varying levels of comfort in this discussion, however we are all people and should treat each other as such. We also need to remember that people just like us were involved in the unfortunate events that occurred. We all would like answers but the only facts that are going to come are going to come out over time and they will come from an official source (the NTSB in this case). I am not a moderator or admin of this forum, however I am a member and I hope that is respected by the leadership of this group as I am stating my open and honest opinions. All the views described above (and anytime I post here) are my own personally and not representative of any agency or entity.

Emotions are understandably high right now. Let's keep that in mind and be respectful when we discuss and learn more about this unfortunate incident. Thank you.
 

nendee

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When I was on the LSL there was a violent “bump” during the later evening. Was that possibly a switch gap? Do you think their might be a callout for suspension and track inspections?
 

NSC1109

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When I was on the LSL there was a violent “bump” during the later evening. Was that possibly a switch gap? Do you think their might be a callout for suspension and track inspections?
There are many things that can be a “violent bump”. Minor track misalignment, a switch at speed, etc. There’s really no way to tell just from a “violent bump”.

It only took 4 pages for outright catfighting to begin. Let's get back to talking about the derailment and stash all the fussing!
I’m not sure where you see cat-fighting…Amtrak150 voiced their opinion as someone who has personal ties to the incident. It is a valid opinion. I responded stating that I am basing my theory on what happened on my experience with freight railroads and previous derailments including a picked switch. If you look at the railroading subreddit on Reddit, you’ll see more than a few people over there who share the same idea based on the location of the derailment and the way the cars derailed. There wasn’t any intention to be truly offensive on either side as far as I am aware.
 
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I don't post on forum much, but I've been reading the last pages with great interest. I seen a interview from KRTV, Great falls , talking with a rider by the name of Wayne ??, Anyway there are some photos from the top or the side of the train as the interview proceeds, and if you look at the video at around 1:14 it shows pictures from the three Portland cars and what I find interesting is these cars are on their sides and before the facing points, I assumed then something happened to something before the train hit the switch points? Would anyone theorize then if a switch was picked, why are the last three cars not near the points? Would the thrashing around of the lounge or any other car cause the last three cars to derail and topple that far away from switch? Please know I am NOT an expert and NOT trying to cause trouble but would like to hear from someone with knowledge of railroading, I believe something happened before the train hit the switch, broken axle or wheel or even a bad rail?
 

Exvalley

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It only took 4 pages for outright catfighting to begin. Let's get back to talking about the derailment and stash all the fussing!
Actually, it’s been the opposite of cat fighting. The differences in opinion have been expressed extremely respectfully. I’m very proud of the discussion in this thread, especially when a tragedy such as this brings up such strong emotions.
 

lordsigma

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I guess the first hope now is that there are no additional fatalities and that all who are injured make a full recovery and that the families that lost or have injured love ones are justly accommodated and taken care of.

Secondly hope that the NTSB investigation can uncover the root cause and make recommendations to FRA that result in regulations to reduce the chances of a future similar accident. Obviously there is no way to prevent all accidents in any mode of transportation but traditionally we have always responded to tragic accidents with a push to identify areas we can improve the safety and prevent repeat occurrences and hopefully that will again occur here.
 

AmtrakBlue

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Some of the above posters have tried to do a good job explaining what might have caused the derailment, but for someone like me who doesn't know anything about railroad tracks and some of the jargon that goes with them, can someone try to totally illustrate what's being talked about when such things as 'switches' and 'picked' are mentioned?

First of all, what exactly does a switch do, and are they for some reason easily susceptible to being misaligned to the extent that no onboard crew member - or dispatcher - would notice?

And what does it mean to say 'a switch got picked?'

Are things called switches installed every few miles all the way up and down on mainlines and are they typical danger points?

Thanks!
This may, or may not, help to explain switches and how they can cause derailments.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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Picture of the local fire department cut open the roof of a Superliner coach to gain access is online.


That going to be a major fix to bring it back to service. If they don’t just scrap it on site.
 

WWW

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Picture of the local fire department cut open the roof of a Superliner coach to gain access is online.


That going to be a major fix to bring it back to service. If they don’t just scrap it on site.
YES it is going to be a major fix to the 4 cars laying on their side - - -

But - - - the guys in the scratch and dent shop are going to have their hands full

With the limited number of train sets Amtrak has and the current government budget not likely.
Put them back on the rails spiff it up clean up the mess and perhaps make a new SSL skylight window.
Maybe on light traffic load days the consist will operate one or two cars less until they are back in service.
 

AmtrakBlue

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CNN now includes Portland in its reporting.
Eight cars from Amtrak's Empire Builder train 7/27 headed westbound from Chicago to Seattle/Portland derailed near Joplin, Montana, around 4 p.m. local time, injuring an undisclosed number of passengers, Amtrak said in a statement. The train consisted of two locomotives and 10 cars.
 
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