Thursday, January 1, 2009

Oops! Life in the Lounge Car Isn’t Always Relaxing

Last week, as Amtrak’s eastbound California Zephyr was headed toward Reno, Nevada, a boulder dislodged from the side of one of those mountain passes in the Sierras and rolled into the side of the train. Evidently, it hit the lounge car, because that car had to be removed from the consist before the Zephyr continued on its way to Chicago.

The Southwest Chief in Apache Pass.

I’ve often wondered why we don’t hear about incidents like this more often because all of Amtrak’s western trains snake their way through a lot of passes where huge boulders are scattered all over the steep sides, many appearing to balance precariously above the tracks.

Many of the more unstable areas have “slide fences” running alongside the tracks. These are usually five or six strands of electrified wire, that send a signal to the operating railroad if one of the strands is broken, either by a single bounder or by a landslide. Good to know … although it is a bit spooky looking up at some of those Jeep-sized boulders as you’re rolling slowly by just below.

Still, this is the first time I ever recall hearing about a boulder or landslide actually hitting a train, so I presume it’s a very rare occurrence. I’m counting on that since I’ll be riding the Zephyr again next April!


udden said...

Apache Pass in Arizona ??

Try New Mexico

JIM LOOMIS said...

Darn it! That's what I thought, but I checked on a web site that said AZ. Are there two so named?