Southwest Chief derailment

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Joined
Jun 28, 2022
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11
Location
Nashville, TN
Unlike with Nº 5
I agree. I love the Superliners, but they do seem to be a bigger tipping risk.
I also agree. Having traveled many times in Superliner consists since 1987, doing so has become a challenge for me during recent runs ─ with even a modest-sized single piece of luggage ─ in negotiating the "3-quarter" stair sets to and from the upper level. Age (mine) has begun to take its toll, particularly since around mid-2020. "California" cars and the Surfliners are much easier for me, since their stairs are straight and have no quarter landings in the middle.
 

frequentflyer

Conductor
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Jun 10, 2008
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It does seem that the Bi Level versus Single level safety factor is something to study in detail when ordering new equipment for the western trains. The laws of physics would seem to indicate that single level cars would be less likely to topple over on their sides. Other advantages to replacing Superliners with single level equipment would be ease of complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and flexibility of using any equipment anywhere on the system. I say all this reluctantly as I have loved traveling in Superliners, but now is the time to look at safety.

Superliners actually have very low center of gravities. They connect to the trucks at wheel axle level.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
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Superliners actually have very low center of gravities. They connect to the trucks at wheel axle level.
Also, their sowbelly design and major mechanicals (HVAC and vacuum system) and water and sewage tanks on the lower level in the spaces above the trucks contribute to a lower center of gravity than one would expect just looking at them.
 

frequentflyer

Conductor
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Jun 10, 2008
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Everyone seems so fixated on the fact the Superliners were on their sides. There embankments on either side of the right of way. A car traveling straight on rails, and then no rails will follow the terrain, hence why they are on their side. At 90 mph, this could have been much much worse. Willing to bet the semi permanent Siemens cars would have done something similar.

My question is did the windows shatter on the side of the Superliner that hit the ground. Mr. Pullman, you designed and built (Alstom copied the plans on SIIs) one heck of a product as your swan song.
 

Amtrak709

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Columbus, GA
Looking at the helicopter video again today, it's amazing to me how much force was actually stopped when the train hit the truck. Some of those railroad ties are angled away from the track, which I can't imagine is easy to do. The train basically hit the truck and almost immediately toppled over.

I'm also very glad to see the woman from the NTSB saying at the press conference how much she loves traveling on Amtrak and that it's one of the safest forms of travel. That's so nice to hear.
I did NOT see the press conference, but if it was Jennifer Homendy--the current chairman--it seems she has always been known as a great fan as well as a very fair critic of Amtrak under the predecessor chairman Robert Zumwalt.
 
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1. With these cars on their sides, considering the bathrooms, is there a danger of contamination?

2. Regarding the angled approach to the rail line... How about considering requiring the road to, so many yards out, take a turn, so that crossing the tracks is a perpendicular affair?? This for safety, and to hell with the property owner's gripes about some lost acreage...

3. It bothered me that the helo camera operator/ pilot, did not give close-up head on footage of the lead engine, in all of their filming...
 

zephyr17

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Well, toilet contents are sucked into a sealed tank when flushed. It isn't a gravity dependent system, so the cars being on their sides, in and of itself, would have much effect as long as the tanks remained intact.

With that said, I have encountered situations fairly frequently where a previous user of facilities hadn't fully disposed of their deposit. That could definitely cause some contamination.
 
Joined
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Frisco, TX


1. With these cars on their sides, considering the bathrooms, is there a danger of contamination?

2. Regarding the angled approach to the rail line... How about considering requiring the road to, so many yards out, take a turn, so that crossing the tracks is a perpendicular affair?? This for safety, and to hell with the property owner's gripes about some lost acreage...

3. It bothered me that the helo camera operator/ pilot, did not give close-up head on footage of the lead engine, in all of their filming...

1. The toilets are operated on a vacuum system and the waste is stored/located in a heavy duty tank above the truck on one end of the car. So contamination risks are quite low.

2. Possible, but with the cost of imminent domain and rebuilding the crossing, I would think that making the crossing “active” with at least lights would be much cheaper. Personally, I feel all crossings with passenger service should be “active” with at least lights and probably gates that cover the entire roadway.

3. Although there isn’t a “close up”, I did see a few views and the front of 133 was pretty messed up, but to me it is not as bad as 9 after hitting the farm sprayer tractor in Montana on the Empire Builder.
 

NorthShore

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https://www.kansascity.com/news/state/missouri/article262950423.html

The farmer interviewed on the video with this newspaper link also said he has had multiple discussions with BNSF, MoDOT, and others regarding the safety of this crossing over the last several years. So BNSF clearly knew about the hazards with this crossing. MoDOT also knew, yet they put this upgrade project on hold from last year according to the farmer.

An eyewitness account said the truck stalled going up or at the top of the steep approach and then got hit by the train once it started going again across the tracks. That makes sense as a dump truck that has to stop at the crossing (due to the stop sign), would not be able to speed up and clear the tracks very fast if it was also on an incline. Same situation for the farm equipment that uses the road I suppose, which is why the farmer was concerned. This is why warning lights and gates would have helped to give early warning to a fast 90 mph train approaching the crossing. As the farmer said, so much could have been done to avoid this.

This rings true to what my grandfather (a gas truck driver for 30 years) often related. Just like a train can't stop on a dime, neither can a truck. He often had to make decisions just when approaching road intersections on flat pavement significantly in advance. Am I going for it? Speed up, even if I risk running the light. Am I not? Slow down, knowing I might not get it into high enough gear to make the light, even if it turns out I can.

Add other circumstances like ice...and, more stories.

He, once, sat at a railroad crossing behind another truck which stalled on the tracks. The lights and bells came on. He knew there was one (dangeous) choice. And one only. Push the other truck over the tracks. Otherwise, major disaster (and likely death) came to all. So he risked it. They cleared and everyone survived.

It's just to note that everything isn't always so clear cut in these situations. As rail advocates, we rightly get frustrated at how the train seems to get blamed for accidents. When, usually, it is careless (or even suicidal) drivers who are really at fault. But, in our rush to lay blame and clear reputations, let's understand that it is quite possible the truck driver here was just as much of a victim as everyone else, and just stuck in an impossible situation which wasn't easy to resolve.
 
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Fenway

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Feb 25, 2022
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Boston, MA
Grade crossings are what they are. In a rural town like Mendon, MO you know trains will pass by but you don't know when.

We all grew up with Stop, Look, and Listen - maybe the dump truck driver just ignored the warning but we will never know as he died. It is also possible he looked and saw no headlight in the bright afternoon sun.

I offer as evidence comparing the Acela flying through Mansfield, MA with an MBTA commuter train behind it - you could look but never see the Acela coming.

 
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I was on a westbound Southwest Chief three years ago when the train struck a tractor-trailer truck at an unguarded crossing in Southwest Kansas. Fortunately, the truck driver and his nine-year-old son were not injured. We were delayed for six hours and arrived at LAX late. We were able to take our connecting train (#14) the following day to Emeryville.
 

Barb Stout

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I was on a westbound Southwest Chief three years ago when the train struck a tractor-trailer truck at an unguarded crossing in Southwest Kansas. Fortunately, the truck driver and his nine-year-old son were not injured. We were delayed for six hours and arrived at LAX late. We were able to take our connecting train (#14) the following day to Emeryville.
May I assume they had gotten out of their vehicle?
 

Barb Stout

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One thing I don't understand and perhaps I have some wrong information, but I believe I read on this thread somewhere that this line has 90 trains passing per day. If you subtract the 2 daily SWCs, then there are 88 freight trains going by here every day. So dividing 24 hours by 88, we get 0.27 which means there is a train that goes by here every 15 minutes or so. And we know that some (many, most?) of these freight trains are very long. And a lot/most of the vehicles that cross here are heavy-duty vehicles carrying big loads. Seems like a tough situation.

Also, I suppose there must be a reason why railroads have so much buildup to make them ride on a ridge above the landscape, but I don't know what it is. Can someone share the reasoning behind that?
 

MccfamschoolMom

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As to having tracks built up above the surrounding landscape, it might be for a reason similar to highway construction, where the trackbed needs to be strong enough to support the weight of the trains passing by on it. It would also reduce the risk of the tracks flooding. Maybe it would also reduce the risk of causing erosion damage to surrounding agricultural land. All this is just my guessing as a very non-expert laywoman, however, so I'm sure we'd all appreciate some input from someone who does have some expertise on this subject.
 
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Also, I suppose there must be a reason why railroads have so much buildup to make them ride on a ridge above the landscape, but I don't know what it is. Can someone share the reasoning behind that?
I would surmise that may be related to drainage. Also, an effort to maintain a level track (minimize any grades), like having a "fill" over low areas and "cuts" through higher areas.
Just a guess on my part.
 
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mitako

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May 21, 2018
Messages
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I was on a westbound Southwest Chief three years ago when the train struck a tractor-trailer truck at an unguarded crossing in Southwest Kansas. Fortunately, the truck driver and his nine-year-old son were not injured. We were delayed for six hours and arrived at LAX late. We were able to take our connecting train (#14) the following day to Emeryville.
Hubby and I were on the CA Zephyr last year when a driver of an SUV ran around the gate at a crossing and drove right into the side of the train, actually hit the sleeper car we were in. In this case, the train didn't hit the car; the car literally drove right into the side of the train, which was fortunately moving fairly slowly at the time. It tore the entire bumper and part of the side off the car, which sat there for a moment and then rapidly reversed and drove away! We were delayed for a couple of hours while the train was inspected and then continued on our way.
 
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I agree with Brian_tampa. Until you have been in the shoes (or vehicle) at that crossing, you have no idea what the situation was. Place all the legal blame you want on the truck driver, just don't let BNSF off the hook by not having done what they should have done years ago. Right-of-Way does not mean deferred maintenance.
 
Joined
Mar 10, 2016
Messages
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Hubby and I were on the CA Zephyr last year when a driver of an SUV ran around the gate at a crossing and drove right into the side of the train, actually hit the sleeper car we were in. In this case, the train didn't hit the car; the car literally drove right into the side of the train, which was fortunately moving fairly slowly at the time. It tore the entire bumper and part of the side off the car, which sat there for a moment and then rapidly reversed and drove away! We were delayed for a couple of hours while the train was inspected and then continued on our way.
There's a great video of an older gentleman driving into a moving train at a heritage RR in the Carolina's. He stopped and then started iirc (it was a Country Squire wagon too I think). Of course, if one goes on YouTube there are tons of "idiot driver" videos (especially in Russian apparently) with people cutting it too close to trains, going around them or running into moving trains, streetcars, etc., etc...
 
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This rings true to what my grandfather (a gas truck driver for 30 years) often related. Just like a train can't stop on a dime, neither can a truck. He often had to make decisions just when approaching road intersections on flat pavement significantly in advance. Am I going for it? Speed up, even if I risk running the light. Am I not? Slow down, knowing I might not get it into high enough gear to make the light, even if it turns out I can.

Add other circumstances like ice...and, more stories.

He, once, sat at a railroad crossing behind another truck which stalled on the tracks. The lights and bells came on. He knew there was one (dangeous) choice. And one only. Push the other truck over the tracks. Otherwise, major disaster (and likely death) came to all. So he risked it. They cleared and everyone survived.

It's just to note that everything isn't always so clear cut in these situations. As rail advocates, we rightly get frustrated at how the train seems to get blamed for accidents. When, usually, it is careless (or even suicidal) drivers who are really at fault. But, in our rush to lay blame and clear reputations, let's understand that it is quite possible the truck driver here was just as much of a victim as everyone else, and just stuck in an impossible situation which wasn't easy to resolve.
My thoughts exactly (the last paragraph).
 
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