Friday, August 26, 2011

California Zephyr: Two Related Events?

Two seemingly unrelated news items crossed my desk concerning Amtrak.

The first event: At 1:45 a.m. Thursday, police dispatchers were notified that a stalled car was straddling the Union Pacific railroad tracks near Highway 93A, near West Wendover, Nevada right on the Nevada-Utah State line.

[I spent two nights in West Wendover Nevada shooting a video for Freightliner. But that's another story another time…]

Dispatchers were attempting to inform railroad officials of the obstructed tracks when an eastbound Amtrak train hit the car and pushed it for about a quarter of a mile. The car was a total loss. The train had only minor damage.

After a delay of about two hours - while the car was removed from the tracks and police inspected the scene - the train was allowed to continue on its way eastward. No personnel or passengers in the train were reported injured.

Those in my audience with "whiskers" may recall that Wendover Air Force Base served as the training facility for B-29 air crews planning the atomic bomb attacks on Japan. At one time, more than 400 FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) agents, worked to help secure the secret mission of the base in 1944 - 1945, code named "Silverplate."

In more recent times, Wendover was used in the shooting of "ConAir." See the hyperlink in previous paragraph.

Hours later, a second event caught my attention: "An Amtrak train carrying more than 175 passengers from California to Chicago derailed today (Friday) after striking equipment on the tracks near Benkelman in southwest Nebraska. A small number of people were taken to hospitals."

Passenger Harvey Evans, 37, of Grand Island, Nebraska, said it appeared that the train struck a crane that was doing demolition on a nearby grain silo. The truck-mounted crane was obviously fouling the BNSF main line!

So what do these seemingly unrelated events have in common? Turns out they were inflicted upon the same train! Eastbound Amtrak Train #6, The California Zephyr, attempting to complete her journey from Emeryville California to Chicago Illinois!

"All of a sudden I hear brakes. (The) train's rolling, rocking, moving side to side," said Evans, who grabbed a chair to steady himself. "All of a sudden we stopped."

It's "been a long, rough trip," said Evans, in part because the train was running about eight hours behind schedule after hitting an abandoned car on the tracks Wednesday night near West Wendover, Nevada! "It's been one thing after another!"

And so, Amtrak's California Zephyr finds herself in the news again. In this incident, the train struck a crane that was razing an old grain elevator adjacent to the tracks in an unincorporated area west of Benkelman, Nebraska.

Two locomotives tipped on their sides and three of the California Zephyr's 10 passenger cars left the tracks about 8 a.m., near the state's borders with Kansas and Colorado.

As shown the vehicle base and crane machinery were separated by the impact, with the boom of the crane lying on the opposite side of the train! As we "go to press," there are no reported fatalities, with 20 passengers hospitalized.

Dundy County Commissioner Scott Hogeland of Benkelman said a private company is tearing down an old wood-and-tin grain elevator near the tracks. “A crane was on the tracks at that moment and the train hit it.''

The truck-mounted crane boom was hanging over the tracks. Apparently the demolition crew didn't expect a train at that hour. (It was running late, due to prior accident in Nevada.)

And despite the fact they were stranded miles from anywhere, plenty of help was soon on hand as the surrounding communities responded.

Railroad Stuff: Amtrak 174, Model P42DC, "GE Genesis Series 1," 4,250 hp. Hotel Power: 1 - GTA33 alternator, 800 kW, 480 V, 3 phase, 60 Hz, microcomputer control. Serial Number: 53031.

A special "Thanks" to Bill Coe for granting "Oil-Electric" permission to use his photo of the Zephyr on her side. Bill is a professional photographer, and has an excellent web site, which I encourage you to view.

Also to Gary Rich of Aurora, Colorado, for permitting us to use a photo of the Doane silo being demolished. You can see the BNSF main in the photo. Gary has some interesting shots on his site, which I encourage you to take a look at.

See Also:
Death in the Desert
California Zephyr: Words Cannot Express ...

2 Comments - Click here:

Eric said...

Hi Robert,

Although I don't officially believe in superstitions, I do believe in unlucky trains or engines. VIA P42DC 911 was one example, as it experienced mechanical failures and accidents after being put in service.

Excellent post, as was Panama Canal Expansion.

Eric said...

What a ride! seems like traveling the train is a bit like the 'old west' travel. the excitement never ends. Amazing coverage that you were able to pull all the facts together with wonderful photos to ensure the truth of the incidents. Love the article on the community effort- Good is present. You're stories are amazing . Thank you for all the time and effort to do these.

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