If you were still awake last night around 10 pm you saw the news start to come in about a horrific and now deadly Amtrak crash right past 30th street station around Wheatsheaf Lane Port Richmond (Philadelphia).
Many years ago for quite a few years I used to commute on Amtrak to NYC and when I lived on Main Line, train tracks ran through a lot of our neighborhoods.
This crash was always a fear. Especially when we would as residents of small Main Line neighborhoods used to see freight trains on the R5 rails. Yes freight trains. Recently it has been on the news about folks in Philadelphia expressing concern and protesting about freight trains and the fear of crashing. Even in 2013 SEPTA tried for “TIGER” funds for this.
What does this have to do with this crash which news reports now say 6 people confirmed dead and at least 140 injured?
Infrastructure. AMTRAK has a lot of track to maintain and this morning 7 cars are strewn like toy trains on a child’s train table. When I lived on the Main Line in Lower Merion Township like many others including friends from Bala Cynwyd through even to Malvern Borough today, we had tracks literally in our neighborhoods. The tracks aren’t just running through city neighborhoods. For me it was across the street, for some the tracks were right beyond their back yards, sometimes only a matter of feet away. And you would see SEPTA local commuter trains, AMTRAK trains, and even freight trains.
Seeing the freight trains was the worst in my old neighborhood because the tracks would literally groan and shake with their weight. Of course what was even more fun is when you would call to find out why freight trains were running through residential neighborhoods and they would tell you “there are no freight trains running through residential neighborhoods on the Main Line.” You would have to take a photo of the freight train in order to prove it.
There is always news around here about people wanting AMTRAK to clean up, do repairs, be better neighbors. Where I used to live still suffers during storm events – portions of the neighborhood flood horribly because of stormwater runoff. Former Congressman Jim Gerlach used to try to help us with our AMTRAK issues, even came out personally quite a few times to see the tracks himself, but there need to be a lot more elected officials to do this all over the country.
I remember once a few years ago, government officials holdings community forum with AMTRAK and this Senior Government Affairs guy from AMTRAK NYC was part of the panel. He wasn’t particularly used friendly to the regular folk and I wonder if his phone is ringing off the phone this morning ?
I hope the media stays on this story. There needs to be a spotlight on our aging infrastructure as far as our rail systems go. And there was a former Congressman (Pagrick Murphy) on this train along with a producer or some other kind of NBC news employee. And given the age of social media in which we live there are a lot of photos surfacing from the scene of this crash. Right now they are saying Amtrak service is suspended on the northeast corner, and I bet a lot of the SEPTA trains are canceled as well.
When I commuted to New York we experienced quite a bit on AMTRAK. One time in the summer we got caught in a marsh fire in between coming out of the tunnel in New York City before we got to Newark.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas there was always “jumper season”. Yes as awful as it sounds – that was the peak time of year when people would attempt suicide by train. One time they didn’t cover up the body parts fast enough. I don’t mean to sound callous but that’s what it was. It was horrible.
And what also came to mind last night is if last night’s tragedy had occurred during the holiday season when the trains are so packed what would have happened? Quite literally then people are standing in the aisles between New York and Washington. If that had been the case last night, you would’ve been looking at a much larger body count. And I’ve never understood how AMTRAK allows that to occur anyway because it’s just not safe even without worrying about crashes.
Of course this derailment and accident makes me think of all the developers who want to build right on the train tracks. We have an example of that locally which is Eastside Flats in Malvern borough. In media coverage of this crash in Philadelphia, it looks like the catenary wires came down too – those are those big wires on giant poles you see around a lot of the train stations.
Say prayers for the victims of this crash. And send up a huge word of thanks for the first responders who were so amazing last night. Things like this don’t happen very often, but wherever there’s a track that could happen. I hope that this means we will have a more meaningful conversation in this country about our aging infrastructure and government officials will do more than pay it lip service. And AMTRAK does have a pretty healthy budget every year, so how do they spend their money? Is it on infrastructure repairs and upgrades or salaries of middle level and upper management?
Here is media coverage:
NOTE: Those trying to contact passengers on the train should call the Amtrak Hotline at 1-800-523-9101.
At least six people were killed and over 140 people hurt after an Amtrak train, carrying 238 passengers and five crew members, derailed and rolled onto its side in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia Tuesday night, according to officials.
The death toll from the crash rose to six Wednesday morning when Temple University Hospital officials confirmed one patient had died of their injuries overnight. 54 patients were treated at Temple, 25 remained hospitalized Wednesday morning including eight patients in critical condition, chief medical officer Dr. Herbert Cushing said at a briefing.
All seven cars of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 derailed and came off the tracks near Frankford Junction on the 2000 block of Wheatsheaf Lane shortly after 9 p.m., officials said. The train was heading to New York from Washington, D.C., and had six passenger cars as well as an engine.
New York Times: