The more we learn about Amtrak derailment the stranger it gets

As a retired National Transportation Safety Board railroad and rapid transit accident investigator, the more I hear about the Dec. 18 derailment of Washington state Sound Transit Cascades Train 501, the stranger it gets. Confirmed “facts” seem to be very few so far.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident, which killed three people and injured more than 50 others, and is still trying to determine the probable cause and prevent such accidents in the future.

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9 Responses to The more we learn about Amtrak derailment the stranger it gets

  1. ignore amos says:

    This sounds like an accurate assessment to me. You have to know what you’re going to do before you get there. The crew being unfamiliar with a new territory, they didn’t prepare for slowing down. After a certain point it’s too late to worry about. They have speed signs, 2 miles in advance of speed restrictions, and again at the restriction. But that doesn’t make up for knowing where you are. Think of it as the difference between knowing your music by heart or reading it off a sheet. FRA rules require people to qualify on each piece of track and to operate there at least once a year to stay qualified. They have to limit their speed to 10 mph if they’re not qualified but required to operate on any piece of track.

  2. Winston Smith says:

    Total bullshit. I used to run the local tracks as a child and RR Tracks have SIGNS, just like cars have road signs to tell them where they are.

    And try to tell me Amtrack hasn’t heard of GPS yet…………OK well bad example; maybe a goobermint transportation system hasn’t heard of GPS.

    Show me the pics of the morons driving the train, please. I bet it will tell us a lot about the cause.

  3. Trib says:

    Las Vegas related? Possible cover up of a anti-gov group.

  4. bradoplata says:

    I figured they got either lost or distracted on the original thread. On the Union Pacific, most slow speed signs are only 2500 feet. You have to know where you are at.

    They will settle for however much the victims and their families want. The qualification process they used was fucked up with that many people in the cab. None of those engineers had the balls to say they wouldn’t go for it. They’ve tried that with me before by having a fireman (student engineer) as well as a student conductor to go along with the conductor and me. I said I wouldn’t do it so they would usually send the student conductor home. Just bullshit attempts to save time and trouble.

  5. Steve says:

    Nah, for what it’s worth, IMHO, it was an Antifa stunt…..they put concrete on the tracks. They had that scenario on their web site about a week before the accident. Now, you can’t find it on their site.


    • R says:

      If the train is going more than double the speed limit before a curve simple physics will derail a train without any conspiracy.

  6. Dan Gwaltney says:

    It doesn’t matter what the exact reason was, the fact is that it happened and it shouldn’t have. It is too easily preventable. One little sign two miles from the scene is laughably insufficient warning. A hi-tech control system sounds cool but is too easily relied on when it could fail just as easily as that engineer failed. Why not just use yellow paint? Just slop that shit on everything, or some things all along the slowdown zone so the engineer can’t help but see it no matter where in the zone he is. I don’t know about there, but here in N. Florida every stinkin’ pine tree looks just like every other pine tree. You can ride for miles with no landmarks at all, so it is entirely possible to not know exactly where you are.
    The bottom line is, some asshole wanted to spend a whole bunch of somebody else’s money, and some other asshole didn’t want to wait until he was through spending it.

  7. bradoplata says:

    Points on the railroad are designated by miles. Every mile has a marker with whichever mile it is, then there is a quarter mile marker every quarter mile. They are either ascending or descending depending on which direction you are going.

    So say, for instance, I am leaving San Antonio and going to Houston. The mile markers are descending because mile marker zero is someplace in the east. So I start at mile pole 201 and after a quarter mile there is a 3/4 mile marker, then a 1/2 mile marker and so on till mp 200, repeat until you get to where you are going.

    We have timetables that have permanent information such as track speed at a particular point. So, say at mp 196.25 there is a 30 mph curve. I know this because I am supposed to be qualified over a territory, and because I can read the timetable and should know that I was at mp 201 when I left. Depending on speed and train make-up, I should take action so I am at 30 mph when I need to be. Passenger trains can stop like an automobile, so they usually slow down at the last minute.

    Human beings, being fallible, make mistakes. There appear to be factors which led to this disaster being more likely to occur, just like most large scale accidents.

    It amazes me that they allowed so many people in the cab while learning the territory. It amazes me that they didn’t take familiarization trips at passenger speed. It amazes me that the crew was running track speed if they weren’t sure where they were at. It amazes me that they didn’t admit to each other that they were both new on the route, and that one didn’t take charge of navigating while the other one ran. I’m not claiming to be the world’s best engineer, but I when I ran on territory I wasn’t absolutely familiar with, I told the conductor so, and he helped me with upcoming slows and things I needed to know so we didn’t get into any trouble.

    I am proud of what I do, and when things like this happen they make up feel good rules that just makes my job that much harder. if anyone has any questions about railroading, please feel free to contact me through my wordpress nick and I will be happy to answer them if I can. I’m also on Quora with the same bradoplata nick.

  8. somedude says:

    Titanic method.

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