Empire Builder accident (9/25/21)

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jis

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Wasn’t there some telescoping in that wreck? Or has my memory failed yet again.
None. The first car of the train hit a catenary pole broadside at over 100mph and essentially wrapped around it and was flung off as essentially a ball of metal. Amazingly a few people did survive in it. Almost any car will do that since they do not really have much buff strength on the side walls. PRR built their catenary poles like brick shithouses apparently.

Even in the Chase collision at some speed above 120mph, the only Amfleet that was destroyed was the one that was broadsided. The rest of the train just jackknifed. There was no telescoping. Of course, the lead AEM-7 was demolished down to its floor frame and tossed off the track into the bushes. They had to go looking for it.
 

brianpmcdonnell17

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This may very well change the number of cars in the consist and possibly the frequency of daily operation of the EB
and the Portland section trains 27 & 28 change to a different consist requiring a train change at Spokane
There is only one SSL per EB train set consist with the 3 Portland cars - no SSL car on the SEA - Spokane segment.
I don't think that the frequency of the route can change due to the requirement for daily service in the aid bill.

As far as the consist of the EB, not much can change there either. As I previously mentioned, the Portland section can not have less than two coaches as long as it retains baggage service (unless a second baggage car was added). The Seattle section has often been running with only one coach as it is. The SSL could be theoretically replaced with another food service car on one consist, but I don't think it's likely that a route that long would run without some sort of lounge. As to sleepers, the Portland section only has one sleeper, although it may be possible to remove a sleeper from the Seattle section. However, given that the cars are not specialized to the route and the various complexities of the EB consist I just listed, if consists need to be shortened somewhere I think it's more likely to occur on another route.
 

west point

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How fast and how far the train went from 79.2 MPH to zero is very important. Since the locos are only a few hundred feet west of the signals / turnout that will determine if a switch was picked or not. If the train already started to slow before the turnout that is one answer. The distance beyond switch that train slowed will determine position of each car.. If after that is another different answer.

Why is the track east of the rear car appears to be out alignment will need the answer to how far the loco went before starting to slow. Where east does the first track damage show ?. then you have to determine if derailment actually caused track east of incident to buckle. Examination of the cross ties for damage will show where the accident actually started. That will be some calculation that rear cars started to derail after a leading car actually derailed and cars behind started before reaching that point. Trucks may show which car started the derailment as well. Too early to say a picked switch until the above information is found.

All in all the whole dynamics of this incident are going to be very complicated.
 

crescent-zephyr

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None. The first car of the train hit a catenary pole broadside at over 100mph and essentially wrapped around it and was flung off as essentially a ball of metal. Amazingly a few people did survive in it. Almost any car will do that since they do not really have much buff strength on the side walls. PRR built their catenary poles like brick shithouses apparently.

Even in the Chase collision at some speed above 120mph, the only Amfleet that was destroyed was the one that was broadsided. The rest of the train just jackknifed. There was no telescoping. Of course, the lead AEM-7 was demolished down to its floor frame and tossed off the track into the bushes. They had to go looking for it.
Yeah, what happened with the first car doesn’t count. That was... extreme. You can’t build a car to withstand that!

Good to know the amfleets didn’t telescope, I must have been confusing them with another, non-Amtrak wreck.
 

Rover

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Trevor Fossen was first on the scene. The Joplin resident was on a dirt road near the tracks Saturday when he saw “a wall of dust” hundreds of feet high. “I started looking at that, wondering what it was and then I saw the train had tipped over and derailed,” said Fossen, who called 911 and started trying to get people out. He called his brother to bring ladders for people who couldn’t get down after exiting through the windows of cars resting on their sides.

Passenger Jacob Cordeiro from Rhode Island was traveling with his father to Seattle to celebrate his college graduation. “I was in one of the front cars and we got badly jostled, thrown from one side of the train to the other,” he told MSNBC. He said the train car left the tracks near a switch where two tracks narrow to one but did not fall over.


I hope that I never come across such a scene in my life. But if I did, I hope that I could be of some help.
 

dgvrengineer

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How fast and how far the train went from 79.2 MPH to zero is very important. Since the locos are only a few hundred feet west of the signals / turnout that will determine if a switch was picked or not. If the train already started to slow before the turnout that is one answer. The distance beyond switch that train slowed will determine position of each car.. If after that is another different answer.

Why is the track east of the rear car appears to be out alignment will need the answer to how far the loco went before starting to slow. Where east does the first track damage show ?. then you have to determine if derailment actually caused track east of incident to buckle. Examination of the cross ties for damage will show where the accident actually started. That will be some calculation that rear cars started to derail after a leading car actually derailed and cars behind started before reaching that point. Trucks may show which car started the derailment as well. Too early to say a picked switch until the above information is found.

All in all the whole dynamics of this incident are going to be very complicated.
You are right. It could have been a heat kink. It was over 90 degrees the day of the derailment after having been very cold for several days. The engineer may have seen the kink and tried to stop. Got slowed down but couldn't stop. This is potentially another cause.
 

VentureForth

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48 hours in, and I'm really late to this party, and no, I haven't (yet) gone through all previous 211 posts.

My 2 cents. I highly doubt that the point was picked. Based on the Aerial photo in this Daily Mail article, there is significant track damage and toppled rail cars BEFORE the switch. I can't see how the momentum of the train would have been able to derail and topple three cars several hundred feet before the switch. The rail is also bowed out before the switch.

That being said, one car is shown completely disconnected from the rest of the train, upright on the siding.

There is a signal at the entry to that switch, and a soft curve leading up to it. Could it have been red and the engineer slammed on the brakes at the last moment? Still, emergency in itself wouldn't be strong enough for trailing cars to be jack knifed off the rails. Maybe a combination of issues surrounding that siding entrance.

The report will be compelling reading, for sure.

I'm just happy that the Daily Mail corrected their articles stating that the NTSB owned the tracks.
 

Ziv

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If you have to be stuck somewhere, Shelby is a pleasant little city. In any season other than November through April! ;-)
Seriously, though, Shelby is nice. It is no Whitefish with a larger assortment of cafes, brewpubs and shops, but it is a nice place for a 1 or 2 day layover. A longer stay would probably get boring unless you rent a car and go to Glacier Park. Going to the Sun Highway doesn't usually close until the second or third week of October so the drive would be beautiful!

And the folks traveling by next day’s train are stuck in Shelby and Minot or some such too. What a mess!
 

AmtrakBlue

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That being said, one car is shown completely disconnected from the rest of the train, upright on the siding.
I believe you are referring to a picture that was taken after the crews began moving the cars around. Since the front of the train was on a different track the the rest, it makes sense that a car was disconnected by the recovery crew and moved along on the adjourning track.
 

cocojacoby

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There are reports on other sites that the train had a deadheading Superliner Lounge on the rear at one point. That would mean the possible loss of two SLLs in this incident. Still not sure about this however.
 

AmtrakBlue

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There are reports on other sites that the train had a deadheading Superliner Lounge on the rear at one point. That would mean the possible loss of two SLLs in this incident. Still not sure about this however.
The deadhead SSL was taken off in either WI or MN for, ironically, emergency response training.

1632749316252.jpeg
 

frequentflyer

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None. The first car of the train hit a catenary pole broadside at over 100mph and essentially wrapped around it and was flung off as essentially a ball of metal. Amazingly a few people did survive in it. Almost any car will do that since they do not really have much buff strength on the side walls. PRR built their catenary poles like brick shithouses apparently.

Even in the Chase collision at some speed above 120mph, the only Amfleet that was destroyed was the one that was broadsided. The rest of the train just jackknifed. There was no telescoping. Of course, the lead AEM-7 was demolished down to its floor frame and tossed off the track into the bushes. They had to go looking for it.
Thanks for the info. I remember that day.

In the Chase incident, lets be thankful that first Amfleet coach was empty. As regards it crumpling like an empty coke can, Decelerating from 120 mph to 0 mph in an instant may have something to do with it. Much respect to the Budd engineers who designed the cars on a drafting board and t squares.

Remember seeing pictures of the lead AEM7, the energy dissipated is beyond human comprehension.
 

frequentflyer

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I think this story hits so many of us, because of the fatalities. There have been many Amtrak derailments that looked worse, yet no fatalities.

The EB derailed in the area back in the late 80s or early 90s when it hit a dump truck at speed. I do not call recall if there were fatalities.

Many of us have ridden Superliners and have been jostled left and right, up and down, hearing loud banging noises and screeches as the wheels interacts with the track, and the cars with each other. Derailment is in the back of our minds, but it stays back there. Incidents like this brings that thought to the forefront of our minds for a while the next time we are on a train. We hope that thought fades soon.
 

Dave Van

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Riding coast to coast often until the COVID thing hit.......I have ridden lots of rough track. One trip on the SWC was really rough in the New Mexico region. While I was in the dining car we had LOTS of swaying and loud rail noise....but most just ignored it. Then we had the hardest bump, sway and bang I have ever been part of in 60 years of train riding. What scared me was the CREW yelled and a few dropped to the floor. I figured we were on the ground..but we kept going at the 35 or so we were going. I know I don't want to do it again!!!

Prayers to all involved in the accident. Passengers, crew and all those, many volunteers, that responded in such a rural area. A sad event and I hope they find the reason.
 

AmtrakMaineiac

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There is a signal at the entry to that switch, and a soft curve leading up to it. Could it have been red and the engineer slammed on the brakes at the last moment? Still, emergency in itself wouldn't be strong enough for trailing cars to be jack knifed off the rails. Maybe a combination of issues surrounding that siding
If there was a red signal at the beginning of the siding then there would have been at least one if not two approach signals preceding it so the engineer would have had ample time to slow the train down, I think in most cases you have to be down to at least 30 mph at the signal before the stop signal. So if is unlikely that a red suddenly appeared.
 

joelkfla

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If there was a red signal at the beginning of the siding then there would have been at least one if not two approach signals preceding it so the engineer would have had ample time to slow the train down, I think in most cases you have to be down to at least 30 mph at the signal before the stop signal. So if is unlikely that a red suddenly appeared.
Does PTC force a slowdown when approaching a red signal?
 
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If you have to be stuck somewhere, Shelby is a pleasant little city. In any season other than November through April! ;-)
Seriously, though, Shelby is nice. It is no Whitefish with a larger assortment of cafes, brewpubs and shops, but it is a nice place for a 1 or 2 day layover. A longer stay would probably get boring unless you rent a car and go to Glacier Park. Going to the Sun Highway doesn't usually close until the second or third week of October so the drive would be beautiful!
I spent all day yesterday getting flights, etc. I was due to ride the train on Tuesday from Pasco, WA to Toldeo, OH to see family. I am very nervous flying with COVID everywhere.
 
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