Amtrak 501 crash

Thread Starter

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
7,594
https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/12/18/571654675/amtrak-train-derails-on-overpass-in-washington-causing-multiple-fatalities

On the very first day, the very first ride, the train derailed. :(
https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/eagle-scout-rushed-to-help-comfort-victims-of-washington-amtrak-crash/
Konzelman went to attend to the people who were pinned.

“There’s not a lot you can do with somebody pinned beneath the train. I talked to them and tried to to calm them down and comfort them,” he said.

“I just told him, man, you’re looking so good … you’re doing great, just relax. You might be here for a little while. Make yourself comfortable. … I rubbed his back and held his hand. I asked him what his kids’ names were and what his wife’s name was.”
...
Rodriguez praised the combined work of bystanders who left their cars and emergency workers who quickly began helping people out of train cars and assisting the injured. He cited the efforts of a detective and sergeant from his department who also responded.

“This is not my typical Monday,” said Rodriguez, 46, who served 24 years in the Army and Army and Coast Guard reserves before joining the Steilacoom department in 2003 and working his way up the ranks. He has been chief for two years.

The tail engine.


Front engine.

Looks like that engine took out a few trees before stopping on the road.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/train-derails-from-bridge-onto-interstate-5-near-olympia/
"...In this stretch of track, a train engineer faces the challenge of decelerating in a short space, when approaching the curve and bypass, said John Hiatt, a longtime private investigator in train safety disputes. A downward grade coming into that curve, you’ve got that working against you. You’ve got to make a pretty good estimate of how to get that down from 81 to 30,” Hiatt said of the track, located near Mounts Road outside of DuPont. “From what I’ve heard, there were several complaints by engineers about this.”

From the Amtrak speed tracking site.
 
Last edited:

tcmtech

Joined Nov 4, 2013
2,867
A few years ago, when I worked in the local rail yard as a Locomotive Fuel Tech, AmTrak had a derailment at the local depot. Odd thing was it apparently happened sitting still or just as the train started to move.

The rail yard guys who handled the situation said the track had rolled over due to, as they claimed, not having been serviced to any degree since sometime around the 1930's or 40's! The ties had simply rotted out so far that they let go of the track spikes and the rail simply pushed out and over.

A few years before that a buddy of mine had a similar incident in his scrap yard rail spur where a track rolled over due to the same problem. As he recounted the CP engineers who had came out to see what had happened (planning on blaming them for the damage) it was reported that that track spur had no documented service done to it since it was installed for the adjacent to their property grain elevator in the 1920's!
 

spinnaker

Joined Oct 29, 2009
7,835
How is it that we can hurdle tons of metal through the air thousands of times a day, across mountain and oceans, in all kinds of weather without incident and Amtrak can't do something simple like keep a train on its tracks?
 

BR-549

Joined Sep 22, 2013
4,938
That is a puzzling crash. The tail engine and a fair amount of cars rode track up to bridge. But the front engine and some cars had to leave track.......before where the tail engine stopped. One heavy engine went thru.....but the first engine didn't. AND it looks like engine left track before sharp part of turn.
 

Glenn Holland

Joined Dec 26, 2014
705
As a former employee of a major urban transit agency, I can tell you that mass transit is the most dangerous mode of travel. First, there are buses packed full of people standing in the aisles like sardines with no restraint in case of an accident.

How come the police will cite you if anyone in your private auto isn't wearing a seat belt, yet buses can go down the streets and freeways with 50 people standing and just holding on to grab rails? The excuse is "If everyone had to wear a seat belt, we couldn't carry 1000s of people everyday". Tough turkey -a safety issue is a safety issue and it doesn't matter if you can't carry everyone. My former agency pays out over $20 Million/year in settlements for personal injuries on transit and last week, a street car rammed a bus sending 10 people to the emergency room. Despite that safety rules require rail vehicles to keep back 150 feet from another vehicle, rear end collisions are too common.

The solution is we need more private mass transit agencies that can provide safe and comfortable transportation - at an increased price of course. But the government keeps throwing obstacles in the way of private transit in the name of some illusory idea of "Social Equality" in which everyone should have to "Experience the plight of the impoverished" and not allowed to buy a better life.

As for the wreck on Amtrak, what kind of train control system does that agency use? Railroads have been using block signal systems for nearly 100 years and all modern transit railroads use automatic train control (ATC) which eliminates the possibility of an accident due to human error. Was this Amtrak train running in manual or automatic?
 

Glenn Holland

Joined Dec 26, 2014
705
That is a puzzling crash. The tail engine and a fair amount of cars rode track up to bridge. But the front engine and some cars had to leave track.......before where the tail engine stopped. One heavy engine went thru.....but the first engine didn't. AND it looks like engine left track before sharp part of turn.
So called "Pusher" locomotives are extremely dangerous and it shouldn't be allowed. Basic physics tells you that pushing a multi-car train is an unstable situation and prone to jack knifing. Most two-section buses have the engine on the rearmost axle and they are very prone to jack knifing. So why is it allowed for trains???
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
26,156
As a former employee of a major urban transit agency, I can tell you that mass transit is the most dangerous mode of travel. First, there are buses packed full of people standing in the aisles like sardines with no restraint in case of an accident.
Can you back up that claim?

What is the fatality rate for these packed buses full of unrestrained sardines compared to, say, private cabs, general aviation, or motorcycles?
 

Thread Starter

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
7,594
That is a puzzling crash. The tail engine and a fair amount of cars rode track up to bridge. But the front engine and some cars had to leave track.......before where the tail engine stopped. One heavy engine went thru.....but the first engine didn't. AND it looks like engine left track before sharp part of turn.
To a layman's eye it looks like excessive speed for that curve.
The one car behind the front engine (next to the semi) looks really badly damaged.
 

Glenn Holland

Joined Dec 26, 2014
705
Can you back up that claim?

What is the fatality rate for these packed buses full of unrestrained sardines compared to, say, private cabs, general aviation, or motorcycles?
As I mentioned in my previous post, our agency spends at least $20 Million/year in settlements for personal injuries due to falls on board transit vehicles. In fact, I was on a bus that rammed another vehicle and I saw how that pesky law of inertia sent 20 bodies toppling like dominoes. I was sitting in a back seat and even I got thrown in the lap of the passenger sitting 3 feet ahead of me.

That was a "low impact" collision between a bus and another rubber tired vehicle and you outta see what happens when a bus gets rear ended by a rail car (like what happened last week). People landed on the floor of the bus about 15 feet from where they were standing and some of the injuries were quite severe. In fact, on a given day there are more injury accidents involving transit vehicles than private autos.

However the lower rate of fatalities on transit is because they are heavy vehicles (GVWR of 25,000 Lbs. and larger) and they're the gorillas on the road and usually don't get crushed in like a car. Never-the-less, the statistics (based on accidents per mile) show that public (government run) transit is still very risky and public agencies cannot get private insurance coverage.
 
Last edited:

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
26,156
So now it's no longer "the most dangerous", it's now "very risky".

So what are the accidents per mile statistics for public transit, particularly those buses with all those unrestrained sardines and what is it for the other forms?

And why is now "accidents per mile" that determines what mode of transportation is most dangerous? Wouldn't something more like "fatalities per passenger mile" be a much better metric?

At the very least, back up the claim that on a given day there are more injury accidents involving transit vehicles than private autos.
 

Glenn Holland

Joined Dec 26, 2014
705
So now it's no longer "the most dangerous", it's now "very risky".

So what are the accidents per mile statistics for public transit, particularly those buses with all those unrestrained sardines and what is it for the other forms?

And why is now "accidents per mile" that determines what mode of transportation is most dangerous? Wouldn't something more like "fatalities per passenger mile" be a much better metric?

At the very least, back up the claim that on a given day there are more injury accidents involving transit vehicles than private autos.
I used to work in the transit business so I know the facts that are not normally publicized in the media.

If you want the hard facts, I can refer you to the Claims Department at several transit agencies here in the San Francisco Bay Area (and also refer you to the traffic department at city police departments). You can then issue a request for public records regarding the number and severity of accidents on mass transit.

It's am matter of "fact and law" that the daily number of injuries (minor, moderate, or fatal) on transit are a lot more common than riding in a private auto. I also did most of my commuting to and from work by transit so I've seen first hand what goes on and it's a wonder there aren't even more injury claims even with all the lawyers who make big $$$ off traffic accidents.

By the way, here in California, the police do not investigate or issue citations for accidents on transit so you won't get a true picture of what's actually happening "off the record".
 
Last edited:

BR-549

Joined Sep 22, 2013
4,938
I see what you mean.....that was the sharp part. Maybe the front engine tried to slow and back engine pushed it off.
 

BR-549

Joined Sep 22, 2013
4,938
That photo explaining the trees.........I bet the guy driving the semi pooped his pants when he saw that locomotive jump out of the bushes.
 

tcmtech

Joined Nov 4, 2013
2,867
How is it that we can hurdle tons of metal through the air thousands of times a day, across mountain and oceans, in all kinds of weather without incident and Amtrak can't do something simple like keep a train on its tracks?
Odds are they aren't Amtraks own tracks but some other rail company who owns them. Amtrak just rents other rail companies track space. Around here it's primarily BNSF tracks they run on which makes BNSF liable for any rail related issues Amtrak encounters.
So called "Pusher" locomotives are extremely dangerous and it shouldn't be allowed. Basic physics tells you that pushing a multi-car train is an unstable situation and prone to jack knifing.
The reality is it's standard practice on railways and has been in play since the early days of transcontinental rail. In fact its the most practical way to run a train that is more than a 40 - 50 rail cars long. Out here in the prairies it's normal to run trains of 100 - 110 cars and use two head units and one or two pushers depending on what sort of train it is.

As for Amtrak despite being rather short trains they have to run an engine each end so that if one shuts down for any roads they have a second one to keep it moving being they rent time space on others tracks and can't afford to break down and block a major rail line route until their malfunctioning engine gets fixed. Also given they run rather odd routes that require frequent reversals of travel they need an active locomotive on each end since they don't really have a front or back when in service.

Also and interestingly Amtrak also gets to run some of the highest rail speeds (as I understand it special military transport is the fastest and gets to go whatever speed they deem necessary) as well just because they have very narrow windows of open track between meeting on coming primary freight trains that they have to share the rails with. Some years ago I took the train to Iowa to visit my mom and due to a freight train that had broke down earlier and blocked a major rail route we got put on alternate side rail route. To make up time the conductor said we were going to be running about 110 MPH to make up for the delay and added distance while enroute between a few of the stops. :cool:
 

Glenn Holland

Joined Dec 26, 2014
705
How is it that we can hurdle tons of metal through the air thousands of times a day, across mountain and oceans, in all kinds of weather without incident and Amtrak can't do something simple like keep a train on its tracks?
The mechanics and dynamics of aircraft greatly differ from railroads- mainly:
  • Larger three dimensional separation between planes (horizontal and vertical) and buildings and less chance of a collision.
  • The atmosphere (for a planned flight) is a lot more uniform than road or track conditions which can be very deteriorated. Planes in flight use aerodynamics for support and maneuvering VS wheels running on a track. Track conditions are the biggest contributor to accidents in freight hauling.
  • Commercial aircraft have more lax interaction ("softer servo response") between electrical and mechanical systems than trains which must have stricter interaction (a "harder servo response") for the propulsion and braking between multiple cars. Otherwise, a derailment can occur. In fact, even the best electro-pneumatic/hydraulic braking systems can fail to keep a train on the rails if there's some anomaly.
Case in point: In the early 1980s, Boeing (the company that builds aircraft) built about 1000 rail cars for the Boston Transit Authority and the San Francisco Muni Railway. A four car train had eight traction motors and 24 axles which had to be carefully coordinated by an electronic control unit (ECU) in the lead car of the train. However, there were severe problems with maintaining acceptable speed regulation between cars and erratic braking. Even after 5 years of poor performance, Boeing could not mitigate these problems and the entire fleet was scrapped in 1997.

However, because train controls are designed to default to fail safe, there were no fatal accidents, but a lot of annoying and unexpected stops. Also, our rail transit system uses subway and surface tracks that are a lot better maintained than what Amtrak uses.
 
Last edited:

Kjeldgaard

Joined Apr 7, 2016
410
Case in point: In the early 1980s, Boeing (the company that builds aircraft) built about 1000 rail cars for the Boston Transit Authority and the San Francisco Muni Railway. A four car train had eight traction motors and 24 axles which had to be carefully coordinated by an electronic control unit (ECU) in the lead car of the train. However, there were severe problems with maintaining acceptable speed regulation between cars and erratic braking. Even after 5 years of poor performance, Boeing could not mitigate these problems and the entire fleet was scrapped in 1997.
It sounds like a case similar to the Danish IC4 saga.

DSB had an modular IC3 and IR4 train system, which after some "childhood diseases" drove really well, but then they needed more 4-car diesel train sets car and it became the failed IC4 project.

So right now, the old, but continuously refurbished, IC3 and IR4 drives millions of miles, while expanding the rails for electrical operation and higher speeds.
 

tcmtech

Joined Nov 4, 2013
2,867
At the moment it appears that there are two stories behind the accident. One being the train was going ~80MPH in a location that it should have been going 30 due to poor/missing track speed signage or indication devices or operator error and two being antifa is claiming to have sabotaged the tracks by pouring concrete on them.
 

Thread Starter

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
7,594
Top