Train Wrecks, Vol. 2

Train Wrecks, Vol. 2 - Special

From train crossing accidents and floods, to horrific crashes and evacuations, this 100-page special issue from Trains magazine covers historic disasters that caused sweeping changes in the railroad industry. Also, discover the new technologies that emerged from catastrophic events.

United States
Kalmbach Publishing Co. - Magazines


stories behind the wrecks

As long as trains have run on tracks, there have been derailments, crashes, and other tragedies. It has been that way for almost 200 years. It is still that way today. During the 20th century and in the first two decades of the 21st, U.S. railroading saw major advances in the effort to keep railroaders and the public safe: Better training, stricter rules, technological achievements. This second volume of Train Wrecks, from the editors and publishers of Trains magazine, is a testament to those who work safely in the industry every day and a memorial to those who gave their lives. It’s also, we hope, an inspiration to all to keep making forward progress. We chose to focus this issue on the wrecks that changed the industry in significant ways. You’ll…

disastrous debut

Charlie and Beverly Heebner woke up early on Dec. 18, 2017, ready to be a part of history. The couple from Olympia, Wash., purchased tickets to be aboard the first Amtrak Cascades train to take the newly rebuilt Point Defiance Bypass, a 14.5-mile route that moves passenger trains away from Puget Sound and inland toward Interstate 5. Days earlier, the couple had taken one of the last Cascades trains to run on the original route, which BNSF Railway still uses. The Heebners had little idea that they would be present for a different historic event, a more infamous one, when, minutes after departing the Tacoma, Wash., station, Amtrak train No. 501 derailed on a curve at speed. The lead locomotive and 12 cars derailed and some landed in the middle of…

railroading’s titanic

UNBEKNOWNST TO THEM, THE AIR BRAKES HAD BEEN SLOWLY RELEASING EVER SINCE THE ENGINE HAD BEEN SHUT DOWN. Just before 11 p.m. on July 5, 2013, Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train No. 2, an eastbound oil train, pulled to a stop at the east end of the Nantes siding, 7 miles west of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. Locomotive engineer Thomas Harding, a 33-year veteran of the railroad, who first hired out on the Canadian Pacific in 1980, emerged from the cab of General Electric C30-7 locomotive No. 5017 into a warm July night. The 74-car train with five locomotives stretched into the darkness along Route 161 and, with the exception of the idling locomotives, all was quiet. Harding began to walk along the train and apply handbrakes on five locomotives, a buffer car,…

collision at chatsworth

Sept. 12, 2008, was another pleasant day at the Chatsworth, Calif., Metrolink station. The end-of-summer weather featured clear skies and a slight breeze, a perfect complement to watching a nice mix of Amtrak passenger trains, Metrolink commuter trains, and Union Pacific freights. At 4:19 p.m. on that Friday, Metrolink train 111 from Los Angeles Union Station made its Chatsworth station stop. The train’s final destination was Moorpark, 20 miles down the line. It would never arrive. Moments after the Metrolink train departed, those on the station platform heard a loud bang. About a mile away, train 111 collided head-on with Union Pacific freight train LOF65-12. The Metrolink engineer and 24 people on the commuter train were killed. Another 135, including the three-man UP freight train crew, sustained injuries, many of them life-threatening. THE…

planning helped save lives

The initial call dispatching a Los Angeles Fire Department squad to the Sept. 12, 2008, Chatsworth collision termed the incident a vehicular accident, a prosaic designation that gave the crew little warning it was responding to an event responsible for 25 deaths and more than 100 injuries. Nor did it foretell that the incident would have an influence on 21st-century railroad safety matched only by the Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, disaster. Within a few hours of the first crew’s call for additional help, the Chatsworth response had expanded to involve almost every law enforcement agency in Los Angeles and mutual aid from approximately a half-dozen neighboring city and county agencies. More than 300 first responders were directly involved in rescue efforts and countless others participated indirectly. In all, more than 1,000 emergency personnel…

the wreck at chase

About 1:33 p.m. on a sunny Sunday, Jan. 4, 1987, near Chase, Md., on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, all hell broke loose. The operator in the tower at Edge-wood, 4 miles from Chase, reported to the dispatcher in Philadelphia that his control board “lit up like a Christmas tree. I don’t know if the damn thing will come back.” He wasn’t the only one. Bay tower in Baltimore reported that he had lost three sets of power switches. Those reports were the first indication that a set of three light engines had run through a switch where four tracks merge into two to cross the double-track bridge over the Gunpowder River, directly into the path of a fast-moving passenger train. The wreck rewrote the book on rail safety, led to engineer licensing,…