Special Issue: September 2007

Linsey Ettlin Message To Riders

Dear Capitol Corridor riders and friends,

What happened to Capitol Corridor service on Monday evening October 1?
October 1, the first day of our fiscal year started out with a continuation of September’s good record for on-time performance. Then, about 5.30 pm, as train #540 approached Martinez Station, the locomotive pushing the train derailed adjacent to Union Pacific Ozol Yard. After the derailment, train #540’s locomotive also apparently sideswiped a Union Pacific locomotive parked on an adjacent track. While train #540’s locomotive derailed, all passenger cars remained on the tracks, and most passengers were not initially aware of the derailment.
The tracks at the derailment were moved a considerable distance (approximately 4ft.) by the impact of the derailment and all trains in both directions were halted on both sides of the scene. Union Pacific had inspectors on the site to determine if the adjacent main track was in operable condition. Good fortune was on our side and the adjacent main track was determined to be in operable condition, meaning that passenger trains could pass by the derailment site on the other main track once temporary repairs were completed. This all took some time, and Amtrak opened an operations conference call line to ensure that up-to-date information was being provided to the crews, to passengers on trains, and at stations up and down the line, as well as keeping telephone information operators informed of the latest updates. Amtrak police were also dispatched to the scene to assist operating personnel. In addition to train #540, trains #542, 544, 545, 547 and 549 also experienced lengthy delays. The longest delay was for passengers on board train #540, at about 4 hours. San Joaquin trains were also delayed through this area.
Derailments are extremely rare in passenger service and cannot be predicted, and this is the first such incident we have had in more than nine years on the Capitol Corridor involving a scheduled train with passengers on board. A thorough investigation is being conducted by Amtrak and Union Pacific to determine the cause of the derailment and implement any identifiable measures that can be taken to help prevent such incidents in the future.
Union Pacific Railroad estimates that repairs to the damaged track could take 36 to 48 hours. Capitol Corridor trains will continue to operate on one main track, which may result in additional delays through the work area.
To make matters more difficult, this derailment occurred in one of Union Pacific Railroad’s busiest routes in Northern California. Please bear with us while repairs are made, so that normal operations can commence. Once again, I apologize for the delay.