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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Rail Stories-by Andrew McCreight

In the early Eighties, I was on a freight train headed west from Echo-Orange to Houston. We had departed Orange and was in the river bottom when we were informed on the locomotive radio that Beaumont yard had a derailment and that we would have to hold up east of the KCS bridge.

The engineer and I were on the head end of the train. We sat there for several hours waiting on instructions to head towards Beaumont. The conductor and rear brakeman were on the caboose. We had not communicated with them since we left Echo because the caboose radio did not work and in those days only old head conductors had walkie talkie hand held radios. Anyway, the conductor and brakeman  got concerned about was going on and they walked the 100 car train to the head end.

After everybody got on the Locomotive, we explained that were being held out by Beaumont Yard.
During our conversations something impacted our train from the rear. We did not realize that Amtrack had been following our block signals. Apparently the engineer had been short flagging the signals at speed that did not allow him to stop his train before impacting the rear of our train.
One thing in defense of the Amtrack engineer is that it was rainy and foggy. Our caboose marker was inoperative and they did not see our rear end until right at impact.

After the impact, we all looked at each other in amazement because our 100 car train move a couple car lengths with the engine breaks set up. After making an educated guess, we all came up with the Amtrack scenario. We immediately started calling out on the radio and the crew on Amtrack acknowledged that they had rear ended our train. The Amtrack locomotive front draw bar had been impaled into our caboose and the caboose ended up looking like an accordion! If our conductor and brakeman had not walked to the headend of our train, they would have died that day!

All involved were very lucky that day! Although there were several injuries, no one was killed.

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