To begin, I sent out a note to those people who I associate with knowing what is going on.
I wrote: I just heard, "Amtrak is headed back to New Orleans" from dispatcher Karen (BNSF) talking to an engineer that is trying to leave Lafayette headed east. He's going to have to park it at Berwick for some reason until the arrival of..., I guess a west bounder.
The Sunset Limited, moving against the grain (headed east instead of west), is really fouling things up, it seems. She said she's going crazy and was talking to 4 trains, one right after another. I have a feeling the train has broken something while still closer to New Orleans than Lafayette, but is able to limp home, all speculation on my part. Steve
If anyone has heard something on that, inquiring minds would like to know. I could still be in Lafayette waiting on it.
The first reply:
Someone said that the Sunset was significantly overdue in New Iberia, but nobody knew why. This is the first anybody has heard of a return to New Orleans. I'll let you know of what I learn.
He followed with:
The train is thought to have departed Schriever westbound on-time. Whatever happened was probably west of there. Those in New Orleans have thus far reported hearing nothing. At about 4:30 PM, a westbound train with a British Columbia Railways locomotive in the lead was reported past New Iberia.
"Late at New Iberia" certainly jives with what I heard. Karen (the dispatcher) said something to the effect "that's really bad" and the engineer agreed with her. Now, they could have been talking about anything, but I have a feeling it was more than a small problem or incident. It has not been mentioned again, so, the train, again guessing, has probably made it into NO. Thanks for the get back.
I'd bet it was still on the east side of the Atchafalaya when the problem occurred. So that really narrows it down. I heard the dispatcher talking maybe a little after 5PM? Normal is for the train to hit New Iberia about 2:45. I'd guess Morgan City about 2pm Too bad local (6:00) news is over. 10pm local news in that area might have something.
At 7:10, the Sunset was at a stop in Schriever. That's all I know.
As of 4:40, the Sunset was reported sitting stopped on the main about a half-mile east of the Bauou Boeuf bridge between Boeuf and Amelia. So, between then and around 7:00, it had backed to Schriever. (20 miles)
Big Map: Click to enlarge, hit X in upper right corner to return.
Track distance: Bayou Boeuf rail bridge to Schriver, 21.3 miles.
It was reported at 8:16 that three charter buses had just arrived alongside the Sunset at Schriever. This means that Amtrak is forwarding the passengers by substitute carrier.
Are you hearing any activity by freight trains that are or aren't moving either way through the Lower Atchafalaya area? That could indicate if the problem is with a bridge or with the Sunset's own equipment.
I had to turn the radio off so I haven't been listening.
I figured the buses would be showing up. Only 3?
Prior to having to disconnect (tv room, too) I had only heard about the train that had to cut itself up to provide for the crossings at Berwick. I may have heard that it was lined up behind another train, but do not quote me on that. The engine side of the transmissions get a little scratchy below Cade. The fact that the Sunset was able to back the 20 miles (?) probably indicates there isn't anything wrong with it.
I was thinking that if it was going back to NO, it might have cosmetic damage due to a collision at a crossing. If a bridge is out there is no acceptable detour. I'm betting on a bridge problem. But, it seems that would be the squawk on the radio. Now the radio is dead. I'll see what I can hear out of Livonia. Whew, if that bridge at MC has been hit or has major mechanical problems, that is not good news.
9:45: A BCOL4644? train (the British Columbian he spoke of earlier) was cleared to proceed from Broussard west to Iowa Jct. Had it been sitting since before 5 pm?
Double-checking the earlier report, it said "three or four buses had just pulled up." Maybe they were the first to arrive with others to follow.
I have a report at 9:57 that Amtrak had sent a locomotive from New Orleans to help retrieve the train, and at least part of it has departed Schriever eastbound. That suggests the possibility of mechanical problems. If not, once the passengers were on buses, its own power could have run around the cars on the Schriever siding and pulled it back to New Orleans with the power in the lead. (Later he added: But both engines were facing west, "elephant style" and probably no wye to switch them around)
Below is an engine similar to what was sent to rescue the Sunset.
I wonder why a replacement engine or set of engines was not sent to replace the problem engine instead of buses earlier. So, we can rule out bridge failure. The westbound trains almost always have 2 engines. I have seen an instance of just one but it may have been shorter. If an engine was available it seems that replacing the problem engine would have been the ticket if an engine was available to pull the dead engine back, also. If only one engine was sent, only part of the train could be retrieved if there was no other running engine because it has to haul up the HPL which I'm sure is no cakewalk. But 2 engines out? There must have been something seriously wrong. I can't figure out why the NO engine and a working engine of the westbound couldn't pull the whole train back leaving the dead engine in Schriever for a tomorrow pull back. Lots of variables there. I still say the smart thing would have been to send a replacement to keep the money rolling west.
I should have made clear that the engine thought to have been sent was one that's normally used as the Amtrak switcher there at New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal. It might not have been suitable to go to Los Angeles, and it would have been needed back home. Maybe that's all that Amtrak had available.
One healthy locomotive should have been sufficient to get the train to Lafayette, where a spare locomotive could have been obtained from BNSF. The problem seems to have been more than just an engine dying. Yet, it seems that at least one was running. If not, they somehow got help to back the train from Boeuf to Schriever. You're right that one locomotive probably couldn't do the HPL, but one is usually sufficient for flat land. The second one is for backup and the grades farther west.
I replied the next morning:
Amtk east due here at 10:15 this morning.
I have just received word that it was a "bridge strike" that stopped the train. I don't know which bridge or whether it's resolved. If not, today's eastbound might take the UP via Livonia, or it might be bussed from some point west of the bridge. Perhaps you can determine whether freight is flowing as usual.
In any case, today's eastbound wouldn't have used yesterday's westbound's motive power, even if things had gone perfectly. It takes much longer than that for a train to get to Los Angeles and come back.
I just checked the status of today's eastbound between Houston and New Orleans on the Amtrak web site. It says that, due to a service disruption, please phone Amtrak for more details.
Get ready for a chuckle as I asked:
What is a "bridge strike"?
If Amtk takes Livonia it will miss the New Iberia and Lafayette depots. Hum?
I'm sure "strike" means something mechanical and not a labor union issue. But, ... Thanks.
PS: Don't laugh, but if bridge tenders went on strike it would wreck havoc in La.
A "bridge strike" is when a bridge (usually a support pier) is struck by barges, etc. There's not always damage, but there has to be an inspection before rail traffic is allowed.
If it goes via Livonia, the passengers bound to missed stations would be bussed, and the same bus would go through to New Orleans to take any eastbound passengers from those stations.
An observer in New Iberia reported late this morning that it was the bridge at Bayou Boeuf that was struck. The damage was not bad, and it has reopened. The line was still closed, though, due to work windows for the tie gangs working down there somewhere. Today's Amtrak should be allowed to pass--assuming that some mischief did not befall it somewhere to the west.
(Tueday's eastbound was cancelled past San Antonio)
I suppose anything is possible concerning swapping power with the Texas Eagle which connects at San Antonio.
Maybe both of the locomotives on the Sunset were facing forward ("elephant-style"), which would mean that they wouldn't be ideal for leading back to New Orleans, even if they did run around the train. I don't suppose there's a wye anywhere near there. You'd know better than I which way the second unit usually faces.
The locomotive reported sent was B32-8WH 504, like its sister 506 (pictured)
I just heard a freight get a warrant from Lafayette east to Cade, but then the engineer said that he had work to do in Schriever, so whatever the deal with the "bridge strike" is now history. The mysteries persist. Was there a broken down engine or not? Did a breakdown and a bridge strike happen last night? Must have if a retrieval engine was sent. / Steve
No, I distinctly heard that engineer last night say, "too bad about the Amtrak", nothing about a bridge or maybe he meant "too bad about the Amtrak" due to the bridge?
"Too Bad" explained.
In addition to the normal payments for track use, Amtrak offers performance incentive bonus payments to its host railways if they will meet certain stringent goals for getting trains across their routes on-time (or on-time relative to when the train was received off connecting tracks of another railway).
BNSF works hard to earn the extra money and earns more of it than any other railway by far. In fact, BNSF has a "Passenger Service Manager" on duty 24/7/365 at the Fort Worth headquarters to prevent or minimize any delays to Amtrak trains while on BNSF. The same managers also handle any problems that arise on the commuter services that use BNSF rails (Chicago, Albuquerque, Seattle, and perhaps Los Angeles).
So, if something hit a bridge, the first question on everybody's mind would have been, "Did the Amtrak train get by before it happened?" If not, then that was "too bad about the Amtrak."
I have confirmation that 504 and 159 were both sent to bring the Sunset back to New Orleans. The latter had come in on yesterday's City of New Orleans. The radio chatter last night had referred to 504, undoubtedly because it was in the lead westbound. Almost certainly they would have been sent out back-to-back to that 159 could lead on the return. I'm guessing that the reason they were sent was that the Sunset's power was elephant-style.
I also hear that the eastbound Sunset was turned and went west on schedule from San Antonio, with its eastbound passengers getting bussed.
Me. Unfortunately, here at 2:30 on the 2nd day after the crisis, I have not heard if Amtrak has left New Orleans and is headed west. Possibly a reason for this is that I have not turned on the radio. That has been corrected and I am now monitoring hoping to close this episode with a "All has returned to normal" message.
Update, 2 days after the incident: Westbound Sunset Limited is late at Berwick, across the Atchafalaya from Morgan City. Is 3pm. It is 1 hour late. It was not an hour late. I just intercepted it at 3:40.
Check this Link for MORE
In 2009, the Boeuf Bridge made news:
The Bayou Boeuf bridge
BNSF Engineering teams completed construction on the Bayou Boeuf Bridge near Morgan City, La., replacing the aging, 102-year-old, 693-foot bridge damaged by marine vessels with weather-resistant steel and concrete. The bridge's 150-foot center swing span was also replaced, allowing the bridge to open more quickly for marine traffic and minimizing train delay.
"The new bridge can open for boat traffic in just five minutes, as compared to up to 20 minutes in the past," said Steve Millsap, assistant vice president, Structures.Additionally, trains were formerly limited to a 25 mph speed limit across the bridge. Now, freight trains can travel 40 mph, and passenger trains are allowed to travel at 60 mph.
Update, the 4th bus just arrived.
Sorry, this was a simulation due to the fact that our reporter
had retired to the stripper bar across US 90 from the Schriever
Below: Today's pictures of the Sunset Limited's return to service.
I especially wanted to see Amtrak today. I wanted to know
if the engines that were returned to New Orleans would make
it back this way. I had thought I had heard "AMTK 124"
or "120" that fateful night.
Seems "124" was correct. I arrived at Alligator Point.
I tried to get off the bike as I had time to get her coming
around the bend. But, I was entangled in my wiring.
My lens cover lariat had mated with my earphone cord and
were inseparable. I could not get the camera to my face.
The fight must have been a laugh for the crew.
My timing had been so precise and lucky, yet, I blew it.
Check for hidden big shots.
While you are on the floor laughing, I'll use this interlude to
comment about our girls.
AMTK 124 is looking a little ragged. Her roof is peeling
and frankly, she's a pig.
I have previously said that there is no way the crew can get
to the cars. That may be incorrect. The engine has a rear door.
I also said that a crewman could not look out the back of the engine.
That is obviously incorrect, also. I am wondering about the rules
using a watcher to scan for problems while backing up. Are there
rules concerning speed and duration of that arrangement? There
seems to be ample lighting in the rear, but probably not regulation
lighting for forward movement.
It also has rear side doors. If the engine was butted to a car,
there might be a means of passage between car and engine.
Some of these shots are large. Click them to find out.
There she went to the depot.
I caught up, after untangling myself.
I don't know if "38" was along at Bayou Boeuf. But probably.
She looks like she's had a facial. Possibly at the Howard St. Salon?
I went to the rails of the old SP Alexandria Branch almost
tripping over them.
Another big shot:
Not so good but it's big:
Then I heard a L&D was leaving the yard headed to Elks.
Big Shot: 2 engines were required. This was a long train.
There she goes.
I got hung up in traffic and the weather was turning worse,
plus it was nearing 5pm. Time to let it go and buzz on home.