Chug … Chug … and Derail?

December 22, 2017
Image via Pixabay

The inaugural (or first) Amtrak train service between Seattle and Portland—the Amtrak Cascades 501—was much anticipated by commuters in both cities. The train was set, the tracks had undergone improvements and inspections, and passengers were looking forward to their first ride. But things turned disastrous when the train, which was speeding, turned a curve and derailed. The incident sent rail cars off a bridge onto a busy highway below. Three people died, and many more were injured. The incident prompted questions about what really happened. While equipment data indicated that the train was traveling thirty miles per hour over the speed limit, the train track had also recently installed a Positive Train Control system that allowed tracks to put the brakes on a speeding train. As it turns out, the equipment was still being tested and was not required on all tracks until the end of 2018.

The investigation of why the driver was speeding continues, and the focus is on how to prevent future accidents. In the meantime, the Amtrak Cascades 501 has been canceled for now.