Chase, Maryland Train Wreck

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  • Topic: Amtrak, Locomotive, Train stop
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The Chase, Maryland, train wreck occurred at 1:04 p.m. on January 4, 1987, on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor main line in Chase, Maryland, at Gunpow Interlocking, about 18 miles northeast of Baltimore. Amtrak Train 94, the Colonial, from Washington, D.C., to Boston, crashed into a set of Conrail locomotives running light which had fouled the mainline. Train 94's speed at the time of the collision was estimated at about 108 mph. Fourteen passengers on the Amtrak train were killed, as well as the Amtrak engineer and lounge car attendant.

Two members of the Conrail locomotive crew tested positive for marijuana, and the engineer served four years in a Maryland prison for his role in the crash. In the aftermath, drug and alcohol procedures for train crews were overhauled by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which is charged with rail safety. In 1991, prompted in large part by the Chase Maryland crash, the US Congress took even broader action and authorized mandatory random drug-testing for all employees in "safety-sensitive" jobs in all industries regulated by the Federal Department of Transportation including trucking, bus carriers and rail systems. Additionally, all trains operating on the high-speed Northeast Corridor are now equipped with automatic cab signaling with an automatic train stop feature.

At the time, the Chase train wreck was Amtrak's deadliest crash ever. In 1993, however, the wreck at Big Bayou Canot in Alabama resulted in a much larger death toll. Contents

* 1 Amtrak Train 94: pre-collision
* 2 Conrail light engine move pre-collision
* 3 The collision
* 4 Post-collision response, cleanup
* 5 Investigation, charges and conviction
* 6 Changes for future prevention
* 7 Memorial to a victim, reflection after 20 years
* 8 References

[edit] Amtrak Train 94: pre-collision

Amtrak Train 94 (the Colonial) left Washington Union Station at 12:30 PM (Eastern time) for Boston South Station. The train had 16 cars and was filled with travelers returning from the holiday season to their homes and schools for the second semester of the year. Two AEM-7 locomotives, Amtrak numbers 900 and 903, led the train; 903 was the lead locomotive. The engineer was 35-year-old Jerome Evans.

After leaving the Baltimore, Maryland Amtrak station, the train's next stop was Wilmington, Delaware. Just north of Baltimore, while still in Baltimore County, the Northeast Corridor narrows to two tracks at Gunpow Interlocking just before crossing over the Gunpowder River. The train accelerated north toward that location.

[edit] Conrail light engine move pre-collision

Ricky Lynn Gates, a Conrail engineer since 1973, was operating a trio of Conrail freight locomotives light (without freight cars) from Conrail's Bayview Yard just east of Baltimore bound for Enola Yard in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Gates was later determined to have violated several signal and operating rules, including a failure to properly test his cab signals as required before departure from Bayview. It was later discovered that someone had disabled the cab signal alerter whistle on lead unit CR 5044 with duct tape, muting it almost completely. Also, one of the light bulbs in the PRR-style cab signal display had been removed. Investigators believed these conditions probably existed prior to departure from Bayview and that they would have been revealed by a properly performed departure test.

Gates and his brakeman, Edward "Butch" Cromwell, had also been smoking a marijuana joint. Marijuana disrupts one's sense of time, and this kept Gates from slowing down at the proper signals. Cromwell was responsible for calling out the signals if Gates didn't see them, but failed to do so.

[edit] The collision

As Amtrak Train 94 approached the Gunpow Interlocking near Chase, Maryland on the electrified main line, the three Conrail freight locomotives were moving north on one of the adjacent freight tracks. The...
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