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Sunday, April 3, 2005

Wreck of the Old 27

Nothing like a little passenger train derailment to liven up a drab day. Four relatives of ours were on the ill-fated Train 27 as it made its way from Spokane to Portland this morning. They had been on the train for nearly 24 hours, having boarded way over in northeastern Montana, and they were expecting only about an hour more before making it at long last to Portland.

Then, WHAM!

Our crew suffered some severely jangled nerves, some bumps and bruises (at least, so far that's all that's shown up), and a few small property losses. Not to mention four extra hours of travel ordeal when they were already bone-weary. There are some prescription medications missing, too, and that's a major concern; we hope we can handle that somehow by telephone in the morning.

Portland looked pretty good to them as they pulled in on the charter bus that's become all too symbolic of Amtrak service in these parts nowadays. They're off in the morning to Hawaii, where they'll soon be reunited, we all hope, with their soldier man on leave from Iraq.

Tonight their shaky home video was shown on a couple of the local TV stations' news shows. At least they can have a laugh about that. But mostly we're all thinking, It could have been much worse. And I hope we can get those prescriptions refilled, on the double.

Comments (4)

I watched that footage and thought, 'Wow, I'm glad they are ok. They are doing a great job in being calm enough and level headed enough to get the important shots from their perspective."

It always seems to be the case that there's a nearby Amtrak situation a week or two before I'm about to take a train ride to visit my girlfriend, or before she comes to see me. Last time it was that several-hour strike just two days before her trip south...

Gah. I'm still not taking Greyhound. Have you SEEN the Seattle bus station?

I hope your family members are all OK, Jack. I would be sorry to see this come as a sore strike against Amtrak, whose ridership and routes have grown a lot in the northwest in the last few years, and which I not only ride regularly but depend on.

I don't know what you mean by "charter bus that's become all too symbolic of Amtrak service in these parts nowadays." The Oregon Department of Transportation pays for the "Amtrak" busses that supplement and support train routes, through some of the I-5 corridor, and to the coast and eastern parts. You don't see these in other states. You see them in Oregon because the DOT pays for them. They add a lot of expanded utility to limited rail scope.

A comprehensive discussion of Amtrak infrastructure and funding -- once again and perhaps seriously at risk of federal axe -- would take a lot of time but would merit light as well as heat.

Reports are that Burlington Northern had and ignored notice of the track deficiencies that led to this frightening derailment. Little doubt it will be more expensive to fix the track and settle the suits.

Amtrak playing second fiddle on these tracks has been problematic forever. It's arguably what has kept Amtrak from becoming a more viable national railway system.

As ever, no time seems worse than the present for remedying that.

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