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31 Comments

  1. He Who Fakes It Well
    He Who Fakes It Well December 18, 2017 10:18 am

    OK, when I heard there were 78 passengers, I got curious. A passenger mentions that “at least seven cars derailed from the tracks.” So let’s say, 7 cars, a locomotive, and apparently a “rear locomotive” (I presume to avoid the need to turn the train around at the end).

    To transport 78 people approximately 175 miles. Sounds cost effective to me.

  2. Pat
    Pat December 18, 2017 11:57 am

    Boy, that’s a mess! I feel for those people – both the Amtrak passengers involved and the “collateral damage” of traffic that was held up on the highway.

    I’d hate to think it was cheap building that caused the accident, but sabotage would be worse.

  3. firstdouglas
    firstdouglas December 18, 2017 12:15 pm

    Took the Seattle to Portland ride once a few years back and was dismayed to discover that these trains have NO onboard lockers, only underneath the train, pre-travel storage ..so anyone traveling alone must carry his valuables with him into their dirty bathrooms if the need arises. From then on it’s been about fifty-fifty as to which prospect has kept me off those trains: their accommodations, or the likelihood of Atlas Shrugged style rail line maintenance.

  4. mark leigh
    mark leigh December 18, 2017 1:09 pm

    To increase the joy the southbound I-5 lanes have train blocking traffic. That travel disruption is going to be significant and there are only limited alternate routes.

  5. Pat
    Pat December 18, 2017 1:37 pm

    Awful.
    I don’t think I’ve ever seen such compacted destruction in one place from one event, even after a tornado.

  6. Mike
    Mike December 18, 2017 2:02 pm

    I saw this on the news earlier. Kinda sounds like the route was improved but the tracks weren’t. If the track used wasn’t built specially for high-speed travel or specially upgraded for high-speed travel then “accidents” will happen.

  7. Claire
    Claire December 18, 2017 7:12 pm

    Mike, you may be onto something. While the new route was promoted (and sold to voters) as being faster, and the speed limit along most of it was 79 mph, the Seattle Times reports that the speed limit on the site of the derailment was 30 mph.

    https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/curve-where-amtrak-train-derailed-in-washington-has-speed-limit-of-30-mph/

    I suppose it will be a long time before the official cause of the wreck is known, but it seems likely to be another case of an engineer taking a curve at more than double the design speed. Perhaps he also believed the hype about the higher speed of the new route.

  8. Claire
    Claire December 19, 2017 4:50 am

    Although not “official,” it’s confirmed this morning that the train was speeding at ~ 80 mph into a 30 mph turn.

    I also read that the deadly “improved” route was designed to shave a whole 10 minutes off the (roughly 3 hour) trip between Seattle and Portland. The old route was scenic and ran along the shoreline of the Tacoma Narrows (part of Puget Sound). Although the new route is owned by Sound Transit (Seattle) and was upgraded by the state department of transportation, the initial money came from an Obama administration program to encourage high-speed rail.

    Well, they got their high-speed rail, all right. And so did everybody else. Multiple dead and the southbound lanes of the west coast’s main freeway remain closed this morning around the site of the derailment.

  9. John
    John December 19, 2017 5:38 am

    Our friendly Amtrak was just a cruisin’ down the rails when suddenly the train track does a really fast left and departs the area. Undeterred, our faithful Amtrak transitions to airplane mode and lines up for a final approach across I-5. Nice touch down! Our two hundred ton engine plows to a halt into the asphalt.

    Unfortunately, the repurposed freeway will be unavailable to regular traffic until a little shovel and lift work is funded. Sorry about that.

  10. ILTim
    ILTim December 19, 2017 5:57 am

    He Who Fakes It Well, rear locomotives came into use on Chicago area commuter trains as a kind of bumper or crash ballast object for passenger safety.

  11. Pat
    Pat December 19, 2017 6:08 am

    “rear locomotives came into use on Chicago area commuter trains as a kind of bumper or crash ballast object for passenger safety.”

    Whatever happened to cabooses? Or some other car-equivalent be substituted?

  12. Comrade X
    Comrade X December 19, 2017 7:50 am

    Caboose’s went the way of the rear brakeman & fireman for that matter, they are not needed any longer, everyone rides on the head now I believe, paid my way thru college as a brakeman on the railroad.

    here’s the official statement;

    Statement on Amtrak Cascades derailment
    Monday, December 18, 2017 – 11:35
    Today’s (Monday, Dec. 18) tragic derailment of the Amtrak Cascades southbound train has significantly impacted the lives of many this morning. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this event and their families.

    We are working closely with multiple partners, including Washington State Patrol, Sound Transit, Amtrak, Pierce County, JBLM and local emergency responders to assess the situation and render assistance. After emergency response is complete, and the National Transportation Safety Board has released the scene, the train will be removed from the interstate right of way. We anticipate this will be a lengthy process due to the severity of the incident and the size and weight of the train cars. WSDOT is working with other agencies on any rerouting of traffic during the investigation.

    The Amtrak Cascades train service is jointly owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation. Amtrak operates the service for the two states as a contractor, and is responsible for day to day operations. Amtrak Cascades runs trains from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Eugene, Oregon.

    The tracks, known as the Point Defiance Bypass, are owned by Sound Transit. The tracks were previously owned by BNSF and were used for occasional freight and military transport. WSDOT received federal grants to improve the tracks for passenger rail service. As owners of the corridor Sound Transit managed the track upgrade work under an agreement with WSDOT. Funding for the upgrades was provided by the Federal Railroad Administration, which reviewed work throughout the duration of the contract.

    Today was the first day of public use of the tracks, after weeks of inspection and testing.

    Methinks the taxpayers may be putting up with this bill.

  13. Claire
    Claire December 19, 2017 7:57 am

    “Methinks the taxpayers may be putting up with this bill.”

    Yeah, somehow I doubt the engineer (or engineer’s estate) will be paying all that’s due. The taxpayers already forked over $181 million to “improve” this section of the route, which didn’t even survive two hours of real-world use. And all to save 10 minutes of travel time in the cause of an Obama-era pipe dream of high-speed rail.

    Accidents happen. But this was no accident. This was a rolling series of 100% government-caused disasters. Boondoggles. Fiascos. Fatal bureaucratic screwups from start to finish.

  14. Ruth
    Ruth December 19, 2017 8:00 am

    One of the articles states that the track change was also in an attempt to relieve crowding/traffic problems on the old line. The old line was to have been used exclusively by freight trains after the new line opened. Which I can see as being valuable. But yes, it sounds like someone failed at testing the new lines properly……

  15. fred
    fred December 19, 2017 8:22 am

    People make mistakes.Some lost their lives,some will live and have their lives ruined.

    Speculate….what if train was speeding,and engineer had a brain hiccup,imagine how you would feel in that situation?

    Tragic all around.

  16. Comrade X
    Comrade X December 19, 2017 9:22 am

    Ok this is conspiracy theory territory but this is what I’ve been receiving from people who live in that area;

    https://nypost.com/2017/12/18/object-on-tracks-may-be-cause-of-deadly-amtrak-derailment/

    https://mobile.twitter.com/OfficialAntifa/status/880160542442311680

    http://komonews.com/news/local/activists-staging-largest-protest-against-pse-gas-storage-facility

    https://mobile.twitter.com/komonews/status/942827648400613376

    You decide, but I don’t see how Amtrak would have anything to do with the protest that was going on.

  17. Claire
    Claire December 19, 2017 9:23 am

    “Speculate….what if train was speeding,and engineer had a brain hiccup,imagine how you would feel in that situation?”

    I’ve been thinking about that ever since I learned the train was speeding. I can imagine this happening: The engineer has been told that the new line is “high-speed rail.” He (maybe she) is either unfamiliar with these tracks or believes they’ve been changed since last time he drove on them. He sees the 30 mph signs but assumes they’re left over from the unimproved past.

    Too late he realizes the “improved” line still contains a slow-to-a-crawl curve (the very thing he’s been told the new line was intended to do away with).

    I am absolutely not judging the engineer, or even assuming he had a brain fart. It seems much more likely he was given bad information about the route he was to drive. Possibly he was even led to believe that the automatic speed governors which are supposed to be part of this route are already in operation, though they aren’t. Who can know at this point?

    No, I don’t blame him. I feel for the engineer and everyone else on that train.

  18. Claire
    Claire December 19, 2017 9:27 am

    Given that the train was known to be going more than twice the posted speed limit, I’m not buying any of that, Comrade X.

    OTOH, I’m surprised some terrorist or even some lone nut hasn’t already tried obstructing the tracks.

  19. Comrade X
    Comrade X December 19, 2017 9:54 am

    “Given that the train was known to be going more than twice the posted speed limit, I’m not buying any of that, Comrade X.”

    At this point in time I agree Claire.

  20. Comrade X
    Comrade X December 19, 2017 11:31 am

    A good reason for why people should carry a first aide kit that’s more than a boo boo kit.

  21. Paul Joat
    Paul Joat December 19, 2017 2:02 pm

    From what I learned at a security conference, the speed control for trains is computerized, and at least on some trains the control computer is accessible from the passenger WiFi, and on at least one of those the user and password for the control computer was left at factory default. Speed of the train was settable remotely. I doubt that this had anything to do with the accident though.

  22. larryarnold
    larryarnold December 19, 2017 5:35 pm

    It could all be as simple as, “There’s the speed limit sign. Now I need to cut my speed in half. Wait! We’re going downhill! They didn’t tell me I’d be trying to slow down while going downhill. It’s too–”

    Trains suck at slowing down.

  23. fred
    fred December 20, 2017 12:46 am

    With all the AI,all the self driving car business,how is it even possible trains arent speed controlled as a matter of course? Im reading there is lobbying to prevent that??

  24. Pat
    Pat December 20, 2017 5:03 am

    Trains, train routes, and the infrastructure should be vastly improved AND COORDINATED before any speed-control or other high-tech measures can be applied. The problem now is that too many changes are made locally/regionally (and usually politically) without any thought to the consequences, or effect that the changes will have elsewhere. That’s what happened here. That’s what will happen with self-driving cars.

    No one can foresee every consequence or apply every alteration to what *might* occur along a train route. Bad weather, stalled vehicles, animals on the tracks, mudslides, earthquakes, broken track – all can affect a train’s speed before some human becomes aware that speed-change must be made. Only a Mike (computer in “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress”) can be alert to every exigency at all times in order to immediately alter at that site – and he would have to be asked politely. Robots are not the same as Mike, and our currently-feeble minds are not equal to the task.

  25. Steve Watt
    Steve Watt December 20, 2017 7:25 am

    Somewhere there’s a kid, scared to death because he put a penny on the tracks and now he believes he caused this.

  26. Claire
    Claire December 20, 2017 10:23 am

    From the Seattle Times. Now we know why the new line was opened before safety precautions were in place.

    Washington state transportation leaders had long ago envisioned the corridor would be refurbished by 2019, according to state records, but to fully collect federal stimulus money, construction had to be completed by mid-2017. The state then vowed to open the line this fall.

    Officials kept that promise, launching the new Point Defiance Bypass route on Monday. But had they waited just a few more months, the service would have included a critical safety feature that automatically slows trains if they exceed speed limits.

  27. fred
    fred December 20, 2017 12:38 pm

    There you have it Claire.The actual responsible parties will walk free.As ALWAYS,gov screws it up,they walk,the citizens pay the price in all regards.

    Sounds just like the murdering ‘hero’ cop saga’s.

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