The hurt behind the crash of Cascades No. 501

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Wednesday, December 20, 2017

It has been a rough few days for all of us who love railroading. Everybody is heartbroken about the tragic Amtrak Cascades derailment. Many of us know people who were on the crew or who were among the passengers who were injured. Friends have lost colleagues or pals. It is our worst nightmare come true.

Compounding it all is the chatter that goes on in the fog that lingers in the minutes, hours, and days after a catastrophe. One of the safest ways to travel doesn’t seem so safe in the eyes of the uninformed. We hear a lot of reporting that shows how little the outside world understands how railroads work. We hear a lot of confusing facts and speculation that make no sense.

We’re crushed because something we know to our core to be so good — the joy of a passenger train — seems to have turned on us. It sickens us to see what should have been a small step forward in the Pacific Northwest and in the U.S. stumble in such a big way. In this era of technology and training, it’s hard for us to imagine, with so many safeguards in place and so many conscientious people at work at all levels of railroading, how something like this could happen.

Railroading is one of the greatest businesses in the world. It’s a work of passion, enthusiasm, and dedication for anyone who takes it up as a career or as a hobby. It is a way of life. Like I said, we love it. We wouldn’t trade it for anything. But here we are. Sad. Mad. Upset. Still in shock. In disbelief.

There’s a lot we don’t know right now about all of this. And that’s OK.

What we do know is that people who care will reach out to those who are injured physically or emotionally and say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done. We will make it better.

What we do know is that people who care will find out the cause of the accident. They will figure out how to make it so that this never happens again.

What we will always know and love about railroading is its resilience. We will mourn. We will cry. And then, we will remember that there’s much good in this thing we love called railroading. We’ll reflect that today is a gift, that tomorrow is never guaranteed. Eventually, we’ll get back to being train crewmembers, passengers, and enthusiasts. There’s a railroad to be run.

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