Southwest Chief derailment

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billosborn

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 6, 2022
Messages
55
I just read that today's (6/28) #3 SWC will depart from Kansas City, not Chicago. I know that Amtrak is busy trying to get all the passengers on the derailed train to their final destinations - but in cases like this, are the folks who are booked from Chicago on the #3 on their own as far as getting to KCY by 10.30 pm tonight to catch the #3 to Los Angeles?
Answered my own question. Amtrak tweeted that they will provide alternate transportation for passengers on today's #3 that will originate in Kansas City instead of Chicago.
 

Brian_tampa

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Sep 5, 2012
Messages
369
While I was working for Oregon DOT, a Southern Pacific freight hit a school bus at 20 mph on the secondary West Side line. The school bus driver had stopped, then pulled in front of the train. As a result, outraged public demanded and got crossing gates on the access to a mobile home park. The state and railroad money came by deleting a crossing project with a more likely chance of an accident.

In this case, a 79 mph speed limit -- it appears -- would have made little difference. And the public share of crossing improvements might have been better used at a higher traffic volume location.

Added note: I see that this crossing was on the list for improvements. Some states have engineering units that work on crossing improvements and federal funds may be available. Oregon was doing this in the 70's, some other states had other priorities through the years.
I agree with you in that 90 mph versus 79 mph would make no difference in this crash. The point I am trying to make is that this is a very busy double track railroad, 60 to 80 trains per day, that is being run with very little supporting safety infrastructure along it at certain grade crossings. People can point to the railroad being there first and how that means the railroad is not responsible for improving the safety devices along its route. At the end of the day, the railroad does have a moral or ethical duty to operate in a safe manner.

To me, for BNSF to run 80 trains a day on the busiest railroad route in the country and not provide any modern safety protection at certain public road crossings is borderline reckless. It all comes down to money and greed. BNSF has taken a risk and lost here. In what other country would this situation be acceptable?
 

NorthShore

Conductor
Joined
Sep 3, 2013
Messages
1,250
Location
Chicago
Mighty steep crossing. Raises even more questions about sightlines, distance seen, and even acceleration of certain vehicles from stop/go versus rolling speed.
 

NSC1109

OBS Chief
Joined
Aug 14, 2016
Messages
530
Location
MI
I agree with you in that 90 mph versus 79 mph would make no difference in this crash. The point I am trying to make is that this is a very busy double track railroad, 60 to 80 trains per day, that is being run with very little supporting safety infrastructure along it at certain grade crossings. People can point to the railroad being there first and how that means the railroad is not responsible for improving the safety devices along its route. At the end of the day, the railroad does have a moral or ethical duty to operate in a safe manner.

To me, for BNSF to run 80 trains a day on the busiest railroad route in the country and not provide any modern safety protection at certain public road crossings is borderline reckless. It all comes down to money and greed. BNSF has taken a risk and lost here. In what other country would this situation be acceptable?
You’re ignoring the fact that the driver of the dump truck broke the law and killed himself and two others by doing so. That is the only question here. You can put all the lights and gates up that you want to, and people will STILL run right through them.

Enough with the blame game. There comes a time when people need to help responsible for their actions and the consequences. The crossing had a stop sign. You are required to STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN. There is ZERO wiggle room there. The railroad has the right of way. Failing to stop to make sure there’s no train coming or trying to beat it is the fault of the driver and the driver alone. Not Amtrak’s, not BNSF’s, not the FRA.
 

Devil's Advocate

🚂〰️〰️〰️〰️
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A few decades ago, the first big personal-injury case my husband's law firm won involved an ungated (and with unlighted cross-buck signs) freight crossing on the N side of town, with 4 teenagers in a car with the radio going who couldn't hear the train horn being killed.
Over coffee almost any functioning adult can admit those kids took their lives in their own hands and suffered the consequences of invincible thinking, but put the same people on a jury with emotional testimony under the gaze of weeping mothers and the concept of personal responsibility evaporates.

Multiple air ambulances en route.



What a tragedy. Unfortunately, my train evangelism doesn't work to well when your chances of losing your life on a train are worse than in an airplane.
Short of falling off a bridge or impacting another train this looks to be among the worst collisions possible and still kept the vast majority of passengers alive and unharmed. Incidents like this remind me how safe trains are compared to many other risks. I grew up with bottle rockets and lawn darts so the idea of never doing anything with a slight chance of harm seems excessively careful.
 
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Cal

Engineer
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
3,955
Location
Socal
I've seen many people saying that, due to the steep incline, the garbage truck was stuck. One person said that they tried to move it which begs the question why didn't they get out when they saw the Chief coming.


However, this is all from YouTube comments, so take it however you please.
 

NSC1109

OBS Chief
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I've seen many people saying that, due to the steep incline, the garbage truck was stuck. One person said that they tried to move it which begs the question why didn't they get out when they saw the Chief coming.


However, this is all from YouTube comments, so take it however you please.

If it truly was stuck, then the driver should have 1) gotten OUT OF THE TRUCK and 2) called the number on the blue emergency sign on every crossing with the crossing’s unique identifier and this may have been prevented, if there was time.
 

Cal

Engineer
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Jan 23, 2021
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If it truly was stuck, then the driver should have 1) gotten OUT OF THE TRUCK and 2) called the number on the blue emergency sign on every crossing with the crossing’s unique identifier and this may have been prevented, if there was time.
1. Again, maybe they tried to move it and thought they had it.

2. So many people don't do that, it's sad.
 

Brian_tampa

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Sep 5, 2012
Messages
369
You’re ignoring the fact that the driver of the dump truck broke the law and killed himself and two others by doing so. That is the only question here. You can put all the lights and gates up that you want to, and people will STILL run right through them.

Enough with the blame game. There comes a time when people need to help responsible for their actions and the consequences. The crossing had a stop sign. You are required to STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN. There is ZERO wiggle room there. The railroad has the right of way. Failing to stop to make sure there’s no train coming or trying to beat it is the fault of the driver and the driver alone. Not Amtrak’s, not BNSF’s, not the FRA.
It is not a blame game. It is a matter of what is a reasonable action to protect the public. Who has the right of way does not matter. It is like I was taught in school for driving on the road. No one really has the right of way - so the presence of a piece of metal stop sign is the minimum protection the railroad should do? Again I ask, in what other country would this be considered acceptable?

The driver here was clearly at fault. But does that mean that we should accept that a stop sign is the only meaningful protection available? The driver at fault paid the ultimate penalty. Did the passengers in the train deserve to pay the same penalty through no fault of their own, especially since it has been proven that warning lights and gates do save lives? Then why not have stop signs at all grade crossings if the law says to stop, look, listen. That should be good enough then, right?
 

MccfamschoolMom

Lead Service Attendant
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Feb 28, 2020
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352
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Dwight, IL
Over coffee almost any functioning adult can admit those kids took their lives in their own hands and suffered the consequences of invincible thinking, but put the same people on a jury with emotional testimony under the gaze of weeping mothers and the concept of personal responsibility evaporates.
The brush along the tracks had never been cut back by the railroad, so even if the teenage driver had looked, it would have been extremely difficult to see the train coming.
 

cirdan

Engineer
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Mar 30, 2011
Messages
3,022
The brush along the tracks had never been cut back by the railroad, so even if the teenage driver had looked, it would have been extremely difficult to see the train coming.
When I took driving lessons my driving instructor always repeated its my job to look and double check, never to assume or trust.

If you can't see very far, then that is a reason to be really super careful, not an excuse to ignore the danger.
 

MccfamschoolMom

Lead Service Attendant
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Messages
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Dwight, IL
If BNSF has a crossing they deem too dangerous, and local authorities do nothing about it, they have the option of closing the crossing.
Closing crossings can be extremely disruptive to local communities, however. The original plan for upgrading the Lincoln Service/Texas Eagle tracks for high-speed rail called for closing all but one crossing in each town, which would have nearly cut each town in half and caused a great increase in traffic congestion at the one remaining crossing (like "Checkpoint Charlie" at the Berlin Wall). The compromise solution in my town was to modify the two crossings which had two roads going through them at an intersection, so that only 1 road would actually be in the crossing.
 

Maverickstation

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 2, 2017
Messages
333
Location
Boston, MA (Eastie)
In 2016 there was another derailment on the Southwest Chief, in this case it was blamed on track damage caused by a farm truck.

In these very rural areas you are never going to have full control at grade crossings as in many of these spots you can just drive around them.

 

John819

Service Attendant
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 29, 2021
Messages
105
Location
New York
In 2016 there was another derailment on the Southwest Chief, in this case it was blamed on track damage caused by a farm truck.

In these very rural areas you are never going to have full control at grade crossings as in many of these spots you can just drive around them.

Nothing can be made idiot proof.

When I learned to drive 50 years ago in eastern Colorado it was drummed into me that when you come to a railroad crossing you:
Stop
Turn the radio off (if you had one)
Open the driver's side and passenger side windows (if not already open)
Listen carefully
Look up and down the track
Cross the track completely

As my uncle said, in every collision it was Missouri Pacific 1, car 0.
 

MccfamschoolMom

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Feb 28, 2020
Messages
352
Location
Dwight, IL
Nothing can be made idiot proof.

When I learned to drive 50 years ago in eastern Colorado it was drummed into me that when you come to a railroad crossing you:
Stop
Turn the radio off (if you had one)
Open the driver's side and passenger side windows (if not already open)
Listen carefully
Look up and down the track
Cross the track completely

As my uncle said, in every collision it was Missouri Pacific 1, car 0.
To quote Sancho Panza in "Man of La Mancha," "Whether the stone hits the pitcher, or the pitcher hits the stone -- it's going to be bad for the pitcher."
 

NSC1109

OBS Chief
Joined
Aug 14, 2016
Messages
530
Location
MI
It is not a blame game. It is a matter of what is a reasonable action to protect the public. Who has the right of way does not matter. It is like I was taught in school for driving on the road. No one really has the right of way - so the presence of a piece of metal stop sign is the minimum protection the railroad should do? Again I ask, in what other country would this be considered acceptable?

The driver here was clearly at fault. But does that mean that we should accept that a stop sign is the only meaningful protection available? The driver at fault paid the ultimate penalty. Did the passengers in the train deserve to pay the same penalty through no fault of their own, especially since it has been proven that warning lights and gates do save lives? Then why not have stop signs at all grade crossings if the law says to stop, look, listen. That should be good enough then, right?
The passengers died in a tragic accident caused by someone who either was too inexperienced to be driving a vehicle of that type alone (or at all) or who was reckless and ignored a traffic control device for who knows what reason.

Under your logic, every road intersection should have a stoplight vs a stop sign. The road in question is not used by a lot of traffic. What the farmer was talking about in that video that was linked doesn’t match up with what you can see behind both the reporter and the farmer. It’s straight track, doesn’t appear to be a lot of brush in the way affecting sight lines. There are laws about minimum sight lines at crossings. Equipment has to be at least 200’ away from the crossing itself. I believe brush has a similar requirement.

Other countries have lights and gates everywhere and still have accidents at them. It doesn’t matter the type of warning device; what matters is the actions and responsibilities of the driver. Automatic gates can malfunction easily. It is up to the driver to approach each crossing expecting a train any time in any direction and to take action to determine if it is safe to cross. That is the bottom line.
 
Joined
Dec 18, 2007
Messages
995
Location
suburban Chicago (Deerfield)
Kansas City Star article with local farmers explaining how the crossing was #1-too steep (9 foot drop from the tracks to where the grade begins), and #2-views obstructed by brush

A useful article for its description of the circumstances and lay of the land, but IMHO the reporter uncritically relayed the farmer's layman's opinion that "the railroad" is at fault.

Which, curiously, the article managed to not identify. It repeatedly says "the railroad" without ever saying BNSF or any combination of Burlington, Northern, Santa, or Fe. Or the word freight even. The only railroad name mentioned in the article is Amtrak, as in the derailed train. If I didn't know there was only one Amtrak round-trip on that line, I could read that as if Amtrak owns and operates a frequent 90mph corridor CHI-KCY. As if!
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
1,726
Undoubtedly some drivers ignore crossing lights and gates and are totally at fault when they do. But this interview definitely calls the safety of this particular crossing and the others like it into question. Undoubtedly BNSF is going to get some heat for dragging their feet on improving these crossings.
 
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