Accidents, etc.

It is a fact of railroading that trains can and occasionally do leave the rails. The results of this can be inconsequential or catastrophic, depending on the circumstances involved. Even when trains stay on track they are capable of inflicting great damage if their path is obstructed at an inopportune moment.

We have fortunately never had an incident at Milepost 1147.2 during nearly a decade of living there. But there have been incidents at other points along the line, one of the most severe of which was a westbound Santa Fe freight train vs. a farm tractor at the unprotected crossing at MP 1146.0 sometime around 1993. The driver, I believe, died at the hospital of his injuries. Debris from that accident was scattered for nearly half a mile. It was a powerful lesson on the law of physics and proved yet again that when a fast-moving train encounters an obstacle — whether it be a piece of farm machinery, a passenger car or a human being — the train ALWAYS wins.

Here are some of the incidents we have witnessed in our area and in our travels.

Nov. 5, 1998. Bay Point. Amtrak's San Joaquin Train 716 encounters a truck leaving a factory. The locomotive, left, suffered damage severe enough that it was out of service for two months while undergoing repairs at Redondo Junction in southern California. The truck didn't fare as well. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

Another shot of the Bay Point collision. Here, the Pittsburg road switchers haul the disabled consist to Sando, where it was eventually picked up by Amtrak and hauled back to the Oakland diesel facility. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

Dec. 5, 1998. Hillyard (Pittsburg). A westbound BNSF mixed manifest freight train derails eight loaded autoracks on the Harbor Street bridge at MP 1155.5. The lead car, shown in this photo, was the most severely derailed. Workers were able to right the cars, but only after half a day was lost. The mainline was blocked from just before noon until well after 4 p.m. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

Another view of the Hillyard derailment, this time looking west from just above Harbor Street. This dramatically emphasizes the severity of the problem. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

April 27, 1999. Hillyard (Pittsburg). Five tank cars carrying propane derail in the yard outside the USS-POSCO steel mill, taking a portion of the track with them. The cars landed on their sides, but fortunately did not rupture. Nearby residents were assured there was no danger to their safety. The contents of the derailed cars were later pumped into tanker trucks and the damage repaired without further incident. Photo by Dan Honda, Antioch Ledger Dispatch.

Another view of the derailed tankers. Here, maintenance crews assess the damage. In the jpeg version of this file you can clearly see the underframe of the derailed car and the damage done to the tracks. A detached truck lies to the left of the image. Although the derailment did not foul the mainline, traffic on the BNSF was dramatically reduced for the next four days. Photo by Dan Honda, Antioch Ledger Dispatch.

May 29, 1999. Hillyard (Pittsburg). This is starting to get old. This time BNSF 2571 is the culprit as one of the trucks of the GP35U (right) derail while traversing the Harbor Street bridge. Fortunately, this is a minor albeit time-consuming incident. Photo by Jose C. Fajardo, Antioch Ledger Dispatch.

In another view of the derailment, workers prepare to harness another locomotive to the derailed unit in an effort to haul it back on to the tracks. Minor derailments such as this one are more common in railroading than many people realize. We usually don't hear about them unless dangerous or otherwise noteworthy cargo is involved. Photo by Jose C. Fajardo, Antioch Ledger Dispatch.

 June 29, 1999. Quantico (Bakersfield). While returning from a trip to Disneyland we detoured home via Tehachapi and were puzzled as to the lack of trains on the hill. We discovered the reason when we reached the outskirts of Bakersfield on the former Southern Pacific's Mojave Subdivision. Union Pacific had deposited several cars of an eastbound on the ground and was in the process of clearing the mess when we arrived. A pair of SP AC4400s are just out of sight past the signal bridge. Photo by Roni Gehlke.

Note the workers huddled near the wheels of the second tank car, preparing to move it with the crane. This was only a minor derailment, but it tied up traffic around Bakersfield for hours. One of the casualties was Santa Fe 3751, the historical steam locomotive returning to San Bernardino from its two-week stint in Sacramento for Railfair '99. We had hoped to catch it while it traversed the Tehachapis, but alas it didn't make the trip until late that evening. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

Not much a railroader can do when his train is on the ground except keep a watchful eye and observe the cleanup. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

And you thought that first crane was big. We think this one was either going to right the boxcar  in #11 or lend support in the effort to rerail the tanker. We didn't stick around to find out. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

 Aug. 1, 1999. Sando (Antioch). Spontaneous combustion was the probable cause of a fire that heavily damaged this Santa Fe boxcar and destroyed its contents, rolls of freshly milled paper. The blaze broke out shortly after midnight as the car sat in the yard outside the Gaylord California Mill. It forced the closure of the BNSF mainline. Firefighting efforts were hampered by the fact that the boxcar was attached to a chemical tank car and no one wanted to risk coming into contact with its unknown contents. The burned car was towed into the paper mill, then later moved to a siding in East Antioch where I photographed it Aug. 30. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

No one's going to be using this piece of charcoal for anything soon — the paper or the boxcar. Photo by Glenn Gehlke.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Please send e-mail to Glenn or Roni Gehlke.

Proceed to Milepost 1147.2 on main track. Hold main track at last named point. Over.

This page was last updated Sunday, September 26, 1999 at 00:30 hrs.