Over the last few months Amtrak’s been making headlines for all the wrong reasons with the Cascades derailment in Washington State (December 2017), Train vs trash truck in Virginia (January 2018), and now the head on derailment in South Carolina (February 2018). I was able to follow each of these incidents.
There is one common denominator when the media covers stories like this, it’s often an instant black eye for Amtrak or the railroad involved in the incident.
Let me explain:
There was a time when people would tune into the big three networks for the stories of the day. When the “Breaking News” graphic wasn’t constantly stamped to the bottom of our television screens. This is when more time was taken to research and accurately report the stories of the day. With the combination of the internet and smartphones news is now delivered right to the palm of our hands. With “Breaking News” reporting the media tries to be first but not always accurate. In most cases reporters, anchors, and producers try to play experts in something they don’t know anything about. This seems to be the common trend for railroad related incidents.
With this latest incident the media was quick to blame Amtrak. Now that the dust has settled it looks like it was the fault of CSX who is in charge of Columbia Subdivision where the derailment took place. From what it looks like the siding switch was left open leading Amtrak Silver Star train 91 off the main line right into the parked CSX Autorack train. For major routes like this the switches are thrown remotely by a dispatcher of the territory. By the time the crew of train 91 saw what was in front of them it was too late. As for the why this happened that will be investigated.
Most people only see the first report as for the follow up to the investigation it doesn’t often make the lead story.
My thoughts and prayers go out passengers and their families of Amtrak train 91.