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Author Topic: Cascades Derailment
Vincent206
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Details are just starting to come out, but an Amtrak Talgo has derailed near Lacey. The accident occurred on a bridge over I-5. One of the cars landed on the freeway and there will likely be major delays to rail and highway traffic.

Just confirmed that there are fatalities in this accident.

This would have been the first train to operate on the new bypass route between Tacoma and Olympia.

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yukon11
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The reports say the derailment took place in Pierce County, near Dupont, and near Tacoma. One or more cars fell down to the freeway, below. One car is sort of dangling down not quite on the freeway.They say it is Amtrak #501 which derailed. They are reporting numerous casualties and injuries.

Richard

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Vincent206
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It looks like this accident happened just before the Pierce County/Thurston County line which would mean that it is on the new tracks that were just opened. Incredible if true.

The location appears to be just south of Mounts Rd in Pierce County near DuPont.

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Gilbert B Norman
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http://www.kgw.com/mobile/article/news/amtrak-cascades-train-derails-near-olympia-onto-i-5/283-500305839

Likely better time and place to note this, but I guess some cars from the Wisconsin Talgo now have a home.

Very sorry to learn that there appear to be fatalities; so far as the cause, let the NTSB do their job - they're pros.

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Vincent206
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http://www.king5.com/article/traffic/injuries-and-casualties-reported-in-amtrak-train-derailment-near-lacey/281-500303305

Pierce County Sheriff will be the lead agency on the accident scene and they were the source I quoted for the fatality report.

Location is definitely on the new tracks.

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Gilbert B Norman
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As of a few moments ago, all three cable news outlets are airing live coverage of the incident.
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Vincent206
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Just prior to the I-5 bridge crossing there is a curve in the tracks that looks to be about 30 degrees. I assume the track speed would be less than 79mph through that curve. The lead engine appears to still be upright on the tracks but everything behind the engine looks to be off the tracks.

Number of fatalities is 3 according to multiple sources.

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George Harris
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I refrain from comment
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yukon11
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Fox news mentioned that the mayor of Lakewood, WA, about 10 miles south of Tacoma, warned about such a derailment 2 weeks ago. He said that high speed rail was dangerous in that area. The report said the train was going at around 80 mph, but it is early and the train speed has not officially been established.

Richard

PS- Fox news says the major of Lakewood was not as much concern about whether 80 mph (now they say 81 mph) was too high a speed, but more concern as to what might happen if the train hit an object on the track, causing derailment. There is a very unsubstantiated info that the train did hit an object of some sort.

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Ocala Mike
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I simply hope that none of the following are involved in this: 1. Sabotage. 2. Host railroad implications. 3. Amtrak underfunding implications.

Isn't this spot near McChord/Ft.Lewis? Prayers and condolences for all victims.

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Vincent206
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An aerial shot of the crash site. The locomotive you see still standing on the tracks is the end of the train. There were 12 passenger cars and 2 locos on train 501 this morning. All the passenger cars left the tracks.

There is a speed restriction for that curve "T-30/P-30" so the train should have been traveling at a maximum of 30 mph. I don't have the expertise to tell if the wreckage pattern is consistent with a 30mph derailment.

There also is a recording of the emergency call from train 501.

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Vincent206
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This is the curve where the accident occurred.
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Ocala Mike
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So, depending on the ultimate cause, what investment in infrastructure would help here?

The highway overpass? Subsidizing/incentivizing host railroads to better maintain and construct rail lines on which passenger trains travel? Better rail cars? I'm lost by this whole thing, and can't escape the conclusion that if passenger train travel is anathema to companies like UP, things can't be expected to improve.

Even if it turns out to be human error, where was the PTC?

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Jerome Nicholson
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According to NBC News, there was no PTC on that section of track.
And since this was the first day of service on this track, is it possible the engineer was not used to such an extreme curve at that point?

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palmland
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Vincent says there is a 30 mph speed restriction for that curve. The news reports say the train was moving at 80 mph. While we won’t know until the NTSB reports, if both reports are accurate, draw your own conclusions.
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Vincent206
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It's being reported that the last GPS reading for the train was 81 mph at a point about 1/4 mile before the crash location. At 80mph a train will travel 1/4 mile in about 11 seconds. Seems unlikely that a train would be able to decelerate from 80mph to 30mph in 11 seconds.
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Gilbert B Norman
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If it's established that there is foundation to Mr. Vincent's, as well as many a media outlet, that 501 (18) was "doing 80 in a 30", then I can see it now - a Fireman mandated on any passenger train operating within non-PTC territory.

And there goes Amtrak's, as well as many another regional rail passenger agency, claim of "we almost have farebox recovery".

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Vincent206
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NTSB has confirmed that the train was going 80mph through the 30mph curve. But the train also had 2 engineers in the locomotive. Because this is new trackage, there was a 2nd engineer riding along for a qualifying ride.

I think the NTSB should look at the training and management of the Seattle crew base. This is the 2nd derailment since July of a Cascades train. Also, how much of the training on the Lakewood Sub occurred at night? Sunrise on 12/18 in Seattle is at 753am (the accident happened at 733am). Was the engineer familiar enough with running the territory during darkness? And, of course, were the 2 engineers paying attention to the tracks or were they discussing the Seahawk's drubbing on Sunday?

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Ocala Mike
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The clamor now is for PTC - is that considered infrastructure? Who pays?
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Gilbert B Norman
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Mike, after RSIA08 was enacted by a lame duck WBush administration in response to Chatsworth, I was of thought who needs this PTC? After all, your PTC is a set of eyes being paid $125K.

But then, the incidents kept piling up - or at least came to my attention - Panhandle, Goodwell, Frankford Jct, and now DuPont. These and all too many others not coming to mind have resulted in the complete reversal of my PTC position.

Bring it on - sooner the better.

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Jerome Nicholson
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The lead engine was one of the new locomotives just put into service. The Philadelphia derailment was also pulled by a brand new engine. Is it possible the engineers have a problem with new equipment?
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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Nicholson, I'd LIKE to think that the necessary qualifying runs were made over this new territory. But if they weren't, and records were falsified, somebody will, and should, be looking at the bars.

Best case; situational awareness.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Seattle Times reports that two of the three fatalities were enthusiasts and strong passenger train advocates:

Fair Use:
  • Zack Willhoite and Jim Hamre, two longtime rail advocates, were among those killed in the Monday derailment of an Amtrak train near Olympia.

    The duo had been riding on Amtrak’s new Seattle-to-Portland service along a rebuilt inland track.

    Willhoite was identified by his employer, Pierce Transit, as a victim in the crash. He worked as a customer-service specialist and had been employed there since 2008.

    "He has always been deeply appreciated and admired by his colleagues, and played an important role at our agency,” according to a notice from Pierce Transit.

    Willhoite was a member of the enthusiasts’ group All Aboard Washington, and he was riding the Amtrak Cascades 501 with Jim Hamre, a fellow member. Willhoite also enjoyed traveling the state by long-distance bus.

    Lloyd Flem, a friend for 35 years and vice president of the group, said Willhoite and Hamre were also interested in rail policy — to promote rail, ferries and buses as alternatives to single-occupancy cars.

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Ocala Mike
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Reports from NARP (or RPA) that they were members of that organization.
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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by Jerome Nicholson:
According to NBC News, there was no PTC on that section of track.
And since this was the first day of service on this track, is it possible the engineer was not used to such an extreme curve at that point?

Having been there on more than one location i can say this: Before there is a formal "first run" there have normally been several runs without publicity and without the public on the train over the line before hand so that there will be no surprises. Since this is a short link put in mid stream so to speak in an existing line, who knows.
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Vincent206
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There were many test runs on the tracks before the first passenger train operated. But adding 2 new roundtrips required expanding the roster of engineers and conductors and it appears that the engineer on this train lost situational awareness and derailed the train. The NTSB can check training records and determine if more time should have been spent on the territory or if there is enough signage to warn engineers about "Dead Man's Curve". The accident occurred before sunrise in rainy conditions. How much training was done in those conditions?

PTC is scheduled to be activated on the line sometime in mid-2018. I don't think any of the Cascades tracks currently have PTC.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Vincent's Local ABC outlet has posted a photo gallery of the "Hulcher Vultures" salvaging the equipment:

http://www.kiro7.com/news/photos-massive-locomotive-moved-after-train-derailment/666679669

I know first hand that those folk are good at what they do (safe to say the MILW had their share of spills), but OMG [Eek!] ; what a Black Eye."

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Gilbert B Norman
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Try your best to ignore the political slings and arrows as well as the foul language, but this is a first hand account from a railfan passenger who was seriously injured:

https://transitsleuth.com

As Mr. Vincent noted at another topic, this incident has got to be Amtrak's "Titanic". That it occurred so visibly and disrupted so many had two sides; one that so many observed it with the media as good as there is one, but the good side is that so many first responders could get to the scene "on the pronto".

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yukon11
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This New York Post article says that the 30 mph curve should not have been there:

https://is.gd/cIVoTe

But, it was there. Still the question of why the train engineer didn't put the train into emergency slow down, or slow the train well before the curve.

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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Richard, every time I drive by this massive highway flyover, I think why must rail infrastructure be starved while the highwaymen just get whatever they want:

https://goo.gl/maps/7tP8tK8aJxN2

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Vincent206
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The deadly curve at the Mounts Road overpass would have been eliminated for 110 mph tracks, but for 79 mph trains the curve wasn't eliminated.

I know Amtrak trains handle 79 mph to 30 mph transitions every day without incident. So, why did this accident happen? I suspect that the newness of the alignment combined with the lack of experienced "old hands" will be a significant factor in the crash. In most businesses there usually is a certain amount of "institutional knowledge" about procedures that is passed along to newbies regarding successful best practices. But in this case there wasn't any institutional knowledge to be handed down because nobody had any real experience on the territory. We humans usually learn more from our mistakes than from our textbooks (or timetables). And, unfortunately, this mistake turned into tragedy.

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Vincent206
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The Olympian newspaper has an article about the emergency response to the December 18th Talgo derailment near Mounts Road.
quote:
Christopher Barnard Sr., assistant chief of operations for Joint Base Lewis-McChord fire and emergency services, arrived at work near DuPont at 7:30 a.m. Monday when the shift was changing.
Nothing serious had happened overnight, so Barnard was about to send out a message to his crew, essentially telling them to have a good day.
Then at 7:38 a.m. an emergency call came in, requesting engine after engine after engine to respond, punctuated finally by “This is not a drill.” And that sent Barnard off and running, racing to the scene of an Amtrak train that had derailed on an Interstate 5 overpass, south of DuPont at Mounts Road.

The emergency response teams did an excellent job handling the wreck. It takes a lot of planning to be ready for unexpected disasters and the local and state emergency disaster response teams were in action almost immediately. Quite a way to start a Monday morning.

Overall I was impressed by the local media coverage of the accident, too. There were a few wild rumors and misinformation that circulated briefly but most of the local coverage relied on verified facts and focused on the human angle. One station had a reporter/photographer team that had been on the train between Seattle and Tacoma. They were the first media team to arrive at the wreck and did a great job of telling the story with the added perspective of having de-trained just 15 minutes before the accident. Another station relied on a reporter who rides Amtrak every weekend to take care of her elderly mother in Portland. In these times the media regularly takes a beating, but in this case, the media, along with the emergency responders, did a great job of handling the accident response.

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George Harris
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The over reaction of the response of almost all is beyond comprehension. The trains should have been back on this line as soon as they could get the track cleared and repaired. To take the track out of service for an indefinite period of time and resurrect the old schedule and frequency is simply rediculous. No one, and I mean no one operating a train over this line will forget about this curve anytime in the near future.

Why there was no emergency brake application before the break in train line is inexplicible and may never be explained, as quite commonly anyone suffering the trauma those in the cab obviously did may never recover their memories of the last few minutes preceeding the event.

To pontificate about how the track should have been realigned to remove this curve simply ignores financial reality. The screams that would have occurred at the cost of rebuilding approximately 2 miles of track on new alignment that would include new grade separations over I-5 would have been deafening. Just think: Wild guess: $30 million plus, and maybe a big plus, to make a change that would save between 1 and 2 minutes time. Even if it would have seemed reasonable, the money was simply not there. Reality says you try to get the biggest bang you can for the bucks you get, and this change was probably not part of it.

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Vincent206
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The estimated cost of straightening the curve at Dupont was $230 million in 2006 dollars. If the state had spent the money to straighten the curve many other projects would not have happened. WSDOT chose to spend money on improvements that increased reliability and decreased the total trip time.

from the linked Seattle Times article:
quote:
Lloyd Flem, executive director of the rail supporters group All Aboard Washington, lost two friends in the crash. But he said last week keeping the curve was the correct, fiscally conservative move. “I’ll roll through a curve at 30 mph to save the taxpayers $200 million,” he said.

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George Harris
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See I grossly low balled my guess. Still agree to leave the curve as is was the correct decision. Money is not infinite. There is always a need to determine what is "the biggest bang for your buck", and this was not it, despite all the arm waving and Monday morning quaterbacking.
quote:
Originally posted by Vincent206:
The estimated cost of straightening the curve at Dupont was $230 million in 2006 dollars. If the state had spent the money to straighten the -many other projects would not have happened.

[/QUOTE]
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Vincent206
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The NTSB's preliminary report was released today. There's not much new information about the wreck except for the Amtrak work histories of the engineer and conductor who were in the lead loco.

quote:
The 55-year-old engineer had been working for Amtrak since May 2004 and had been promoted to engineer in August 2013. The other crewmember in the cab of the locomotive was a 48-year-old “qualifying” conductor who was being familiarized with the territory. This conductor had been working for Amtrak since June 2010 and had been promoted to conductor in November 2011. As of the date of this report, the NTSB has not yet been able to interview either operating crewmember of the lead locomotive due to their injuries sustained in the accident.
Seems like a fairly experienced crew. Nevertheless, they somehow failed observe the speed board 2 miles before the curve and failed to slow the train down in time.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Here is a YouTube video that I'm sure all concerned parties involved with the incident would like to suppress. But it's high quality and taken from public property:

https://youtu.be/xM77QLL1A4U

Somewhere I read the salvage is being taken to McChord AFB.

But how many who witnessed or learned of that move are going to conclude that rail travel is unsafe and "you'll never catch me riding that". Adding fuel to that fire is when they learn the incident (in almost certain likelihood; the NTSB report isn't out yet) arose from employee negligence.

And how will that perception be enhanced when they learn there was not a single air transport fatality last year - and none on US soil since 2013 (Asiana @ SFO).

What an embarrassment; must wonder why the various logos could not have been covered prior to the move.

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:

What an embarrassment; must wonder why the various logos could not have been covered prior to the move.

What's the point? "Everybody" already knows whose it is. I know this sort of thing has been done in the past and is done by quite a few agencies / companies, but it really serves no purpose than make it look like you are ashamed of yourself or look like you are trying to hide something, thereby raising suspicion.
Posts: 2608 | From: Olive Branch MS | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Vincent206
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No doubt about it, Amtrak needs to instill a culture of safety in their operations. But I think it is possible to win back the confidence of the casual and occasional rider by making safety a genuine and prominent feature of the train riding experience.

Public transportation industries should always have 3 paramount priorities: 1. Safety, 2. Service and 3. Schedule. It's the job of management to train the workforce to understand their jobs functions and how they prioritize the 3S hierarchy.

Traffic congestion in the Portland and Seattle urban areas is some of the worst in the nation and the problems are spreading faster than new lanes can be built on I-5. In the Cascades corridor Amtrak faces competition ranging from high fare airline shuttle service to cheap-o curbside bus companies. The 501 accident is a blow to Amtrak's reputation, but I think the damage can be overcome once PTC is installed.

The need for dramatic improvements in Safety and Service are pretty clear. If Amtrak, WSDOT and ODOT can coordinate and deliver genuine results, a significant portion of the the public who currently ride on I-5 for trips between Seattle and Portland will consider switching to Amtrak.

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yukon11
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Former Amtrak employee talks about Amtrak and safety:

https://is.gd/LUaKco

Richard

Posts: 1595 | From: Santa Rosa | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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