Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak trains’

Survivors From Penn Central and PRR

February 20, 2018

I went railfanning in Trenton, New Jersey, recently and in keeping with the Penn Central birth/Pennsylvania Railroad demise theme, I would like to present some reminders of those railroads that are still in service today.

These include position light signals (now colorized) and former Metroliner cars serving as cab cars on Keystone Service (New York-Harrisburg) trains.

My New Jersey Transit trains clicked away the miles at a steady 105 mph between Trenton and New Brunswick under the heavy catenary of the former PRR mainline.

Photographs by Jack Norris

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Snow, Ice Pile Delays Wolverine Service Train

February 14, 2018

An Amtrak Wolverine Service train struck a pile of ice and snow left close to its tracks, damaging the locomotive and delaying passengers for more than four hours during which the train lacked heat and the restrooms were inoperable.

The incident occurred on Monday evening and involved Chicago to Detroit (Pontiac) Train No. 352.

The train struck ice and snow that a local snow plow crew had left close to the rails near Michigan City, Indiana.

A Chicago radio station said some passengers felt sick and one said she feared losing consciousness during the ordeal.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the train was forced to stop after striking the snow and ice while Amtrak personnel re-aligned the snow plow on the locomotive.

That task took nearly two-and-a-half-hours and during that time the head-end power to the passenger cars was disconnected.

Magliari said that Amtrak police and managers distributed snacks to passengers during the delay and provided what help they could. Two other Amtrak trains using the route were also delayed.

Amtrak will discuss with the unnamed town involved the need to avoid piling snow next to railroad tracks, Magliari said.

CSX Signals Had Been Turned off For PTC Installation

February 6, 2018

Some news accounts of the head-on collision between an Amtrak train and a CSX freight train in South Carolina early Sunday morning mentioned that the signal system in place on the line had been turned off.

There was a reason for that. CSX crews were working to cut in a positive train control system on the route, the same system that National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said might have prevented the crash.

During a news conference on Monday afternoon, Sumwalt said Amtrak’s southbound Silver Star was operating with track warrants in temporarily dark territory.  See a post below for an account of the final seconds before the crash.

Crews for Amtrak and CSX were in verbal contact with the dispatcher controlling that stretch of track where the work was being performed, which is the Columbia Subdivision of the Florence Division.

Sumwalt said NTSB investigators have thus far not found any problems with the track where the collision occurred in Cayce, South Carolina.

Earlier NTSB news briefings said that a switch had been left aligned to route Amtrak train No. 91 into the path of the CSX auto rack train, which was sitting on a siding without a crew onboard.

The collision, which destroyed Amtrak P42DC No. 47 and CSX AC44CW Nos. 130 resulted in an Amtrak engineer and conductor being killed.

Sumwalt said the NTSB inquiry will be broader than the mechanics of how the crash occurred.

“It is very important that we look at each of these incidents in isolation to determine if there are systemic issues,” Sumwalt, making reference to other incidents involving Amtrak in recent months. “Last Wednesday, it was a garbage truck that was on the track. We aren’t sure what happened here [and] why that switch was lined for the siding. We do look at safety culture issues and we did a report in October.”

That report, which reviewed an April 2016 incident in the Northeast Corridor in Pennsylvania that left two Amtrak maintenance of way workers dead, was critical of Amtrak’s lack of an effective safety culture.

2 Dead, 110 Hurt When Amtrak’s Silver Star Collides Head-on With CSX Auto Rack Train

February 5, 2018

Two Amtrak crew members were killed and more than 100 injured early Sunday morning when the Miami-bound Silver Star was misrouted into the path of a parked CSX freight train.

The accident happened at 2:35 a.m. in Cayce, South Carolina, about 10 miles south of a the train’s previous station stop at Columbia, South Carolina.

Officials said Train No. 91 had 147 aboard and 110 of them were reported to have suffered injuries ranging from minor cuts to broken bones. Nine of those aboard were Amtrak employees.

Killed were Amtrak engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Georgia, and conductor Michael Cella, 36 of Orange Park, Florida.

Dr. Eric Brown, the executive physician for Palmetto Health,  said six people were admitted to hospitals for more severe injuries, including head trauma.

National Transportation Board Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said on Sunday afternoon that the switch had been manually “lined and locked” to divert the Amtrak train into the freight train.

“Of course key to this investigation is learning why that switch was lined that way because the expectation is the Amtrak would be cleared and would be operating straight down,” Sumwalt said.

Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson said during a conference call with reporters that before the crash the Amtrak crew was communicating with a CSX dispatcher by phone because a signaling system that governs traffic in the area was down for maintenance.

Authorities said investigators are still trying to determine how fast the Silver Star was going at the time of the collision, but the top speed there is 59 mph.

Sumwalt said the CSX train had two locomotives and 34 empty auto rack cars. It had unloaded automobiles on the west side of the main line and then used it to back into a siding on the east side of the main line.

“We were able to see that it was actually literally locked with a padlock to make it lined to go into the siding,” Sumwalt said of the switch on the main.

He said investigators will focus on why the switch wasn’t restored to its normal position before Amtrak No. 91 arrived.

NTSB personnel at the scene retrieved a front-facing video camera from Amtrak P42DC No. 47 and sent to their laboratory in Washington for review. The train’s event data recorder had not been located as of Sunday evening.

“I can tell you there’s catastrophic damage to each of the locomotives,” Sumwalt said. “In fact, I would say that the Amtrak locomotive would be not recognizable at all.”

The consist of the Amtrak train included a P42 locomotive, three Amfleet coaches, an Amfleet cafe lounge, two Viewliner sleepers and a baggage car.

Sumwalt said the crash could have been avoided if positive train control had been in operation at the time.

About 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel was spilled after the collision, but authorities said it posted “no threat to the public at the time.”

Passengers who were not injured or had been treated for injuries were taken to a middle school for shelter.

They were later put aboard chartered buses to continue their journey southward.

Crossing Gates at Location of Amtrak Special Collision in Virginia May Have Been Malfunctioning, NTSB Says

February 3, 2018

The grade crossing gates in Virginia where an Amtrak special carrying congressmen to a political retreat struck a garbage truck on Wednesday may have been malfunctioning at the time of the collision, NTSB investigators have said.

The investigators told reporters that several witnesses have come forward to say that there had been “issues” with the gates in the days before the incident.

The collision occurred on the Buckingham Branch Railroad near Crozet, Virginia. One person inside the truck was killed. None of the congressmen, their aides or family members was seriously injured. They were en route to a Republican conference being held at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The NTSB said that the chartered train was traveling at 61 mph at the time of the accident, which is slightly over the 60 mph top speed for that section of track.

The NTSB investigation is expected to take up to two years to complete.

Man Killed in Amtrak Crash Identified

February 1, 2018

The person killed when a chartered Amtrak train carrying Republican congressmen on Wednesday struck a garbage truck in Virginia has been identified as a passenger in the truck.

Authorities said the victim was Christopher Foley, 28, of Louisa County, Virginia.

A second but unidentified passenger in the truck was airlifted to University of Virginia Medical Center with critical injuries, the Abermarle County Police Department said in a statement. The truck’s driver was listed in serious condition at the hospital.

The UVA Medical Center said it received six patients from the incident in Crozet, which is located about 13 miles west of Charlottesville. The train had Amfleet cars and P42DC locomotives on the front and rear.

The hospital said one of the patients it received was in critical condition, one was in good condition, three were still being evaluated and one had been discharged.

The National Transportation Safety Board had a team of investigators on the scene by Wednesday afternoon.

NTSB member Earl Weener said investigators wouldn’t speculate on any possible cause of the incident, which Amtrak said occurred at 11:10 a.m. on the Buckingham Branch Railroad. The line is used by Amtrak’s tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal.

Earlier reports said about 100 GOP lawmakers, their aides and families were aboard the train en route to a political retreat being held between Wednesday and Friday at the Greenbrier resort at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The retreat, which will continue in modified form, was to have a visits from President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Weener said the NTSB will work with representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

He said that Pete Kotowski, a senior highway safety investigator for the NTSB, will be in charge of conducting the investigation.

Weener said investigators initially will focus on the collision site.

“Over the next few days our investigators will work on the scene to document the crash site and gather factual information,” Weener said. “Our mission is to understand not only what happened, but why it happened and to make recommendations to prevent it from happening again.”

He said that investigators will not seek to determine the probable cause while on the scene of the crash.

Weener did say that NTSB investigators will use a number of “factor groups” to analyze the collision site, including human, highway, vehicle, motor carrier and survival factors.

The human factors group, he said, takes into account the potential responsibility of the train engineer, including the operator’s background, licensing, experience and level of training as well as the possible influence of alcohol or drugs.

NTSB officials will attempt to recover recording devices located in the lead and trailing P42DC locomotives.

Weener said there is no evidence that the collision was the result of an attack of some kind.

“The NTSB does safety investigations so the fact that we are here, the presumption is that it was an accident,” Weener said. “Should we find anything that indicates differently, we’ll immediately involve the proper authorities.”

Amtrak spokeswoman Christina Leeds said it was premature to offer specific comment about the incident, but did say that accidents at rail crossings are far too common.

In a news release, Amtrak said it will in the coming days continue to work with the NTSB, law enforcement, Operation Lifesaver and other stakeholders to reduce the frequency of these accidents.

“This is an opportunity to remind everyone about the importance of exercising caution around railroad rights-of-way,” Leeds said.

The passengers aboard the train were taken by bus to the Greenbrier and by early afternoon the train had been taken to Charlottesville.

Amtrak Special Carrying GOP Congressmen to Political Retreat Strikes Truck in Virginia, 1 Dead

January 31, 2018

One person was killed and five others injured when an Amtrak train carrying 100 Republican members of Congress, their aides and their families to a political retreat struck a garbage truck in Virginia on Wednesday.

Killed was an occupant of the truck. Three people were transported to the University of Virginia Medical Center, including one who the hospital reported was in critical condition. Two others were taken to another medical facility.

None of the members of Congress, which included House Speaker Paul Ryan, were seriously injured, although Rep. Jason Lewis of Minnesota was taken to a hospital for a possible concussion.

News reports said that three congressmen who are doctors tended to the injured before emergency personnel arrived. They included Reps. Larry Bucshon of Indiana, Roger Marshall of Kansas and Brad Wenstrup of Ohio

The congressmen were traveling to a conference being held at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The accident occurred at 11:20 a.m. on the Buckingham Branch Railroad in Crozet, Virginia, near near Lanetown and Marymart Farm roads.

The route is used by Amtrak’s tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal, which is scheduled to depart and arrive in New York on Wednesdays.

“Today’s incident was a terrible tragedy,” Ryan tweeted later. “We are grateful for the first responders who rushed to the scene and we pray for the victims and their families. May they all be in our thoughts right now.”

Amtrak issued a statement saying that two of its crew members and two passengers on the train were taken to a hospital with minor injuries.

The train remained upright and did not derail. Photographs made at the scene showed damage to the lead locomotive.

The train had departed from Washington for the retreat, which is to start today and run through Friday.

The train was pulled by P42DC No. 145, the Phase III heritage locomotive. The train of Amfleet equipment had a trailing P42DC, No. 4

A GOP spokesman said the retreat will continue as scheduled.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it sent a Go-Team to the scene to investigate.

News reports said that U.S. Capital Police were on the scene. One account said that following the crash, police wearing dark clothing surrounded the train with weapons drawn.

They had been aboard the train and got off shortly after the train stopped.

Passengers aboard the train were put aboard buses to be taken the rest of the way to the Greenbrier.

Running in a Winter Wonderland

January 24, 2018

When the weather in the upper Midwest turns wintry, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited often runs late.

Earlier this month Nos. 48 and 49 were running six hours or more behind schedule due to the effects of winter conditions.

Delays in turning the equipment in Chicago were given some of the blame, but winter operating conditions can also lead to frozen switches, broken rails and freight train emergencies that are not Amtrak’s fault.

If No. 48 leaves Chicago late, it likely will get even later as it rolls eastward toward New York and Boston.

On a sunny but frigid day last week when the early morning temperatures were in the low teens and the wind chill was sub zero, I braved the elements to photograph No. 48 at Geneva, Ohio, where it came through more than two hours off schedule.

It was running a few minutes behind an eastbound CSX stack train. I can only speculate that the dispatcher put the intermodal train out ahead of Amtrak because it would not be stopping in Erie, Pennsylvania, but Amtrak would be.

Michigan Amtrak Trains Running Faster

January 24, 2018

Most Amtrak trains serving Michigan now have faster running times, the Michigan Department of Transportation said this week.

Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) have seen 20 minutes cut from their schedules. Blue Water service between Chicago and Port Huron, Michigan, has seen a smaller running time cut.

Both lines use rails owned by Amtrak between Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Porter, Indiana.

Amtrak dispatchers control the Chicago-Detroit line as far east as Dearborn except for a portion of track in Battle Creek that is owned by Canadian National.

MDOT acquired 135 miles of track from Norfolk Southern in 2012 that are used by Amtrak between Kalamazoo and Dearborn except for the CN track in Battle Creek.

The top speed between Porter and Kalamazoo is 110 mph. The maximum speed is 79 mph on the MDOT-owned track, but that is expected to rise to 110 mph this year after the completion of positive train control testing and assignment of Siemens Charger locomotives to the route.

The State of Michigan has used $347 million in federal funds to replace rails, smooth curves, upgrade crossings and signals and improve train signaling and communication systems.

These improvements are expected to result in higher running speeds.

MDOT also funded a new connection in West Detroit for a faster route to a CN line that serves Amtrak stations in Detroit, Royal Oak, Troy and Pontiac.

“At MDOT’s direction, Amtrak work crews have corrected years of deferred maintenance and have taken over dispatching,” said Joe McHugh, Amtrak vice president of state-supported services in a statement. “We have created the longest railroad segment outside the northeast that is being made ready for an even more reliable and faster Amtrak service.”

Double Shot of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited

January 8, 2018

Amtrak’s westbound Lake Shore Limited is running seven hours late as it rushes through Painesville, Ohio, on Sunday morning.

Amtrak train No. 48 has some heritage on the point as it passes through Northeast Ohio.

After church on Sunday morning I saw on the Amtrak website that Lake Shore Limited No. 49 left Erie at 8:57 a.m. Under normal running time that would put it at the Painesville station at 9:57 a.m.  Also, No. 48 departed Cleveland at 9:33 a.m., which would put it under normal running through Painesville at 10:03 a.m. It had Phase IV heritage unit No. 184 on the lead. Luck was on my side. No. 49 arrived at 9:50 a.m. and No. 48 showed up 11 minutes later at 10:01 a.m.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas