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Empire Builder hit by landslide

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There was a post on T.O. about the slide caused derailment of the pre-Amtrak EB on December 27, 1959 near Carkeek Park. The post just linked to this picture, but I did a little more digging and found this post on another site that had more pics and a little more info. No fatalities and all the passenger cars remained dry, but the locomotives and baggage car ended up in the water and a few of the train crew had to be rescued by the Coast Guard and taken to hospital. Then I did a little research on the rainfall totals and found this article posted by a meteorologist at KOMO it appears that both 1959 and 2012 have been 2 of the wettest years ever recorded in the Seattle area.

I agree with those that point to the soil structure of the area combined with lots of rainfall as being the cause of the slides. Since the structure is sediment on top of clay, slides will happen if the soil becomes heavy because it is saturated with water and breaks the cohesion with the clay layer, plus you have the vibrations caused by a passing train...similar to what causes avalanches.

While it would be easy to point the finger at the homeowners and on the slopes above, I'm not convinced that they are to blame. the roots of trees and vegetation only grow so deep, and I suspect the clay layer is much deeper than even the deepest tree roots will reach so it wouldn't matter what is or isn't planted on the slopes above. If the clay layer was shallower, then maybe the roots of the vegetation would help in stabilizing the soil.

Unfortunately, I think these slides will continue to happen, especially in wetter years, no matter what BNSF is trying to stabilize the slopes. If uninterrupted train service in the area is the goal, then the tracks will either have to be relocated inland, or some massive and hugely EXPENSIVE engineering project will have to be built to protect the tracks...both prospects will have significant opposition so are extremely unlikely to happen anytime soon.

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Amtrak Central Office (Julie-person) just told me my #8 is in fact originating in Everett tonight where I planned to get on anyway. Hope she's right and no busses involved!

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From what I've read, there has been daily deluges of severe rainfall. (Footnote: Other exteme weather phenomena, like lastyears' warmest on record, is what fueled Sandy into a cyclone measuring 1,500 miles in diameter at it's largest. That's as big as either of east or west coasts tell me that Mother Earth is finally tiring of our sh**ing it for so long, whenever we please, in our air, oceans, and land). The planet is simply trying to clean the wounds we have placed into it.

Dude. You serious?

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Amtrak Central Office (Julie-person) just told me my #8 is in fact originating in Everett tonight where I planned to get on anyway. Hope she's right and no busses involved!

Good for you. If that is the case, then they must have determined the derailed cars are all right, and they are going to deadhead the "trapped" set to Everett. This morning's 7 was turned at Spokane, so it isn't in position to use tonight. If they can't use the "derailed" set, the only option is to turn 7 into 8 at Spokane again.

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From what I've read, there has been daily deluges of severe rainfall. (Footnote: Other exteme weather phenomena, like lastyears' warmest on record, is what fueled Sandy into a cyclone measuring 1,500 miles in diameter at it's largest. That's as big as either of east or west coasts tell me that Mother Earth is finally tiring of our sh**ing it for so long, whenever we please, in our air, oceans, and land). The planet is simply trying to clean the wounds we have placed into it.

Dude. You serious?

As a resident of the "deluged" area, I didn't notice a deluge.

Edited by zephyr17

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My friends who are scheduled for 8(7) leaving MSP tomorrow morning for CHI and a connection to the CL have already gotten word that they will be bustituted MSP-CHI.

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I'll throw a few things into this.

 

1) I live about 20 miles from the slide point and thought the rain over the weekend was unusually hard.

 

2) Over a hundred years after they cut it, they still have landslides along the Panama Canal. No homeowners cutting trees on the hilltops there, just geology at work. The land will get to the slope it wants to.

 

3) In the video of the slide scene, it looks like there are lots of trees on the hillside, and the hillside is very steep there.

 

4) Here is some course material on slope stability from Tulane University which you may find interesting. Dry soil will achieve an angle of repose (stable slope) of 30 to 45 degrees; wet soil can achieve a higher angle of repose due to surface tension of the water holding things together, but when the soil becomes saturated with water the grains of soil no longer touch each other and the soil will flow like fluid (as we have seen). And has been said, clay is particularly troublesome.

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There was a post on T.O. about the slide caused derailment of the pre-Amtrak EB on December 27, 1959 near Carkeek Park. The post just linked to this picture, but I did a little more digging and found this post on another site that had more pics and a little more info. No fatalities and all the passenger cars remained dry, but the locomotives and baggage car ended up in the water and a few of the train crew had to be rescued by the Coast Guard and taken to hospital. Then I did a little research on the rainfall totals and found this article posted by a meteorologist at KOMO it appears that both 1959 and 2012 have been 2 of the wettest years ever recorded in the Seattle area.

 

I agree with those that point to the soil structure of the area combined with lots of rainfall as being the cause of the slides. Since the structure is sediment on top of clay, slides will happen if the soil becomes heavy because it is saturated with water and breaks the cohesion with the clay layer, plus you have the vibrations caused by a passing train...similar to what causes avalanches.

 

While it would be easy to point the finger at the homeowners and on the slopes above, I'm not convinced that they are to blame. the roots of trees and vegetation only grow so deep, and I suspect the clay layer is much deeper than even the deepest tree roots will reach so it wouldn't matter what is or isn't planted on the slopes above. If the clay layer was shallower, then maybe the roots of the vegetation would help in stabilizing the soil.

 

Unfortunately, I think these slides will continue to happen, especially in wetter years, no matter what BNSF is trying to stabilize the slopes. If uninterrupted train service in the area is the goal, then the tracks will either have to be relocated inland, or some massive and hugely EXPENSIVE engineering project will have to be built to protect the tracks...both prospects will have significant opposition so are extremely unlikely to happen anytime soon.

JMX and DT -- Good job of looking up material. I too have read a lot about the Puget Sound slopes (and used to live in Seattle) so let me try to clarify a few points. The basic geological issue is that it's all fine textured glacial debris (with interspersed larger rocks) and thus has little inherent stability. What's worse, there are clay layers at various depths that are so densely packed that they are impermeable to water. So the water percolates down to these layers and accumulates there, providing a slippery boundary, and the material above just goes sliding. The depth of these layers in relation to rooting depth doesn't matter. It's the amount of water making it down there. Trees intercept far more water than lawns -- there's just more leaf area in a forest that can catch the water as it falls, then evaporate it in between rain events, and leaf area to transpire the water from the soil back into the atmosphere. So replacing forest with lawns indeed makes a huge difference.

 

Next, the septic and storm runoff from these houses and streets is completely accepted as a major part of the problem by everyone working on the issue. Read some of the previous threads, please. As for Panama Canal, sure clay and other fine-textured deposits will continue to slide forever but the hills around the Panama Canal are a very different kind of clay and tell us little about what's happening around Puget Sound. In any case, it's not "whether" they'll slide but rather "how much and how often". There's no question that increasing the water infiltration increases slide frequency.

 

As for the long-term solution? Simple - a rail corridor north along I-5. Anyone want to guess at the cost? The only feasibility issue I can see is tunneling from King St Station up to and/or under the canal. There's actually a large amount of right of way and/or parkland adjacent to I-5 from 45th St north. Before you gag on the cost, compare it to annual GDP for say King and Snohomish Counties in order to provide some sense of scale.

 

It was just incredibly bad planning back in the 60s/70s to go through the whole nightmare of I-5 w/o including a rail corridor.

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From what I've read, there has been daily deluges of severe rainfall. (Footnote: Other exteme weather phenomena, like lastyears' warmest on record, is what fueled Sandy into a cyclone measuring 1,500 miles in diameter at it's largest. That's as big as either of east or west coasts tell me that Mother Earth is finally tiring of our sh**ing it for so long, whenever we please, in our air, oceans, and land). The planet is simply trying to clean the wounds we have placed into it.

Dude. You serious?

Yes, very. I wish it weren't so, but it is.

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There was a post on T.O. about the slide caused derailment of the pre-Amtrak EB on December 27, 1959 near Carkeek Park. The post just linked to this picture, but I did a little more digging and found this post on another site that had more pics and a little more info.

 

If uninterrupted train service in the area is the goal, then the tracks will either have to be relocated inland, or some massive and hugely EXPENSIVE engineering project will have to be built to protect the tracks...both prospects will have significant opposition so are extremely unlikely to happen anytime soon.

 

 

As for the long-term solution? Simple - a rail corridor north along I-5. Anyone want to guess at the cost? The only feasibility issue I can see is tunneling from King St Station up to and/or under the canal. There's actually a large amount of right of way and/or parkland adjacent to I-5 from 45th St north. Before you gag on the cost, compare it to annual GDP for say King and Snohomish Counties in order to provide some sense of scale.

 

It was just incredibly bad planning back in the 60s/70s to go through the whole nightmare of I-5 w/o including a rail corridor.

 

I live about two miles from Carkeek Park, so those photos from 1959 were of much interest! I can't believe the BNSF mainline will ever be moved from where it is now. It would cost billions and the money isn't there. The tracks are where they were built over a century ago and will stay right there. The issue of the mudslides will have to be dealt with, but I don't see the tracks ever moving. Except for one or two small roads linking some homes that got snuck in west of the tracks, and the road to the ferry terminals in Edmonds and Mukilteo the route all the way from Broad Street on the central Seattle waterfront to Everett is entirely grade-separated, which is what we want. I'm thinking of the I-5 corridor north of NE 45th Street, up to Northgate, and it seems it's pretty thick with homes, etc., right up to the edge of the freeway. Tracks would need to be built all the way up to Everett. And there would be the problem of how to get the tracks from King Street Station to whatever point along I-5. The powers-that-be need to concentrate their efforts on protecting trains from inevitable (I suppose at this point) mudslides. Like sheds or barriers. Geo-engineers are studying where the most vulnerable areas and those could be dealt with first and what success or lack thereof for those could determine where to go from there. I simply think it's a waste of time to think about relocating the double-track main line. Yeah, back in the 60's when houses could be vacated, condemned, and leveled (and hundreds were) and whole neighborhoods torn asunder, tracks could have been laid alongside. It's way too late for that now.

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My friends who are scheduled for 8(7) leaving MSP tomorrow morning for CHI and a connection to the CL have already gotten word that they will be bustituted MSP-CHI.

 

Their good fortune to leave early Tuesday before the sleet and snow arrive at MSP.

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onboard #8...a train did show at everett last night. only 1 coach instead of two and a wierd diner #37012 that is usually held back for backup on the cascades we were told. cheap champagne in my sleeper never tasted so good. thought it would be a bus to spokane for sure. all normal here in whitefish this am. 3 cheers to the great crews for getting that equip going quickly!!!

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Guest Muns
onboard #8...a train did show at everett last night. only 1 coach instead of two and a wierd diner #37012 that is usually held back for backup on the cascades we were told. cheap champagne in my sleeper never tasted so good. thought it would be a bus to spokane for sure. all normal here in whitefish this am. 3 cheers to the great crews for getting that equip going quickly!!!

I am awaiting your train in St. Paul tomorrow morning - just checked the status and they indicate a service intreruption for 8/28. How are you progressing. Thanks for the updates.

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EB #8 on time @ Browning this fine Tues morning. all normal. ignore the service disruption under train status. irritatingly they do that for the WHOLE route if any segment at all is disrupted. in this case only the trivial end piece from everett to seattle. i dont think any trains were skipped or bussed eastward of spokane by this. if no further disruptions expect us in msp wed am. short one coach though but we have the portlanders tacked on now so should be room for everybody. pax loads seem light.

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EB #8 Tues am Shelby in: 11:11am out: 11:43 ontime. my phone app is starting to report our train status correctly now so hopefully u can check w julie and friends from here on. rest assured, a train is comin. so far so good anyway.

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Western Washington is seeing one of the worst slide seasons in nearly 100 years. This season, there’s been 200 landslides on railroad property; 100 of those were significant slides. Fifty-six were blocking slides that suspended train service, compared to only four blocking slides the year before.

...
Burlington Northern Santa Fe is closer to a decision on how to cope. The railroad company said it wants to fix six sites over eight miles where landslides from bluffs, some as high as 200 feet over the tracks, have hit the tracks. On Sunday, one slide even derailed an Amtrak train.
“There’s going to be $16 million available, and we’re going to be designing a plan,” said Gus Melonas with BNSF.
He says the railroad has spent millions already on cleanup and fixes. The 16 million in additional dollars will come from the federal government, as it protects publicly-owned Amtrak and Sounder passenger trains. It will be like another project done a few years ago in North Seattle to help with drainage.
“We also put up catchment walls, retaining walls and it’s under review by engineering right now,” said Melonas.
...
The railroad isn’t ready to say exactly where the six most concerning slide zones are. But $16 million in federal dollars is lined up for those repairs, because much of that will protect the publicly –owned passenger trains that use the tracks.

 

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The diner will need to go to Beach Grove due to major damage underneath and the 2 coaches will need to have all the wheels changed out. The wheels just showed up today and the wheel change out will take place over the next 3-4 days.

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