SEATTLE — An Amtrak train that derailed Sunday in Washington state was traveling through a section of track that contains a switch that will move a train off-course if the drawspan on the approaching bridge is open.
It’s unknown if that switch caused the derailment, and officials continue to investigate how the Amtrak Cascades 506 went off-track with 267 people aboard, leaving some with minor injuries, according to the Seattle Times (http://bit.ly/2tpw3h1 ). The locomotive, a baggage car and two passenger cars left the rails and tilted sideways.
BNSF Railway, which owns the tracks, said the train was traveling north from Oregon when it derailed 50 to 100 yards (45 to 90 meters) before the Chambers Bay drawbridge south of Tacoma, Washington.
Built in 1914, the bridge has switch-like devices known as “derails” between the twin rails designed to prevent an accident if a train were speeding toward a partly or fully opened draw-span.
“They do exist in the vicinity. Whether that was a contributor to the incident, we don’t know,” said Jason Biggs, operations manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation rail division.
Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham declined to comment about possible causes. The derailment is being probed by The Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak and BNSF.
Ron Pate, WSDOT rail director, said he recently rode through the Chambers Bay area and said BNSF pays close attention to it. He doesn’t think Sunday’s derailment is due to worn-out equipment.
Freight trains resumed service Sunday night, as did Amtrak service Monday.
Some passengers complained of a disorganized response from Amtrak.
“It was just a shambles, there was no communication whatsoever,” said Daniel Crozier, who was on vacation with his family from Auckland, New Zealand. “It was all guesswork as to what we should do next.”
Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com