Crazy Train

It may seem inappropriate that this post has the same title as an Ozzy Osbourne song, but I can’t think of anything more fitting.

On the way back from Carbondale today the train I was riding in struck a pick-up truck just north of Centralia, IL, near Sandoval.  The driver was killed.  I don’t know all the facts, but here’s what I know:

  • He was a teenage boy (16-18 from what I heard) in a pickup truck.  His cousin and another friend were following behind him.
  • It happened about 8:30 this morning. I didn’t hear what they were doing or where they were going.  They speculated that he was trying to “beat” the train, but that’s not confirmed. 
  • There were no gates at the crossing.  The engineer of the train tried to slow down, but couldn’t.
  • The train was going 80 mph and they told us it only takes 6 seconds for Amtrak to make it through a crossing.  The driver just happened to be on the tracks in those 6 seconds.
  • The train pushed the pickup truck about a quarter of a mile before coming to a complete stop.  The truck was stuck to the front of the train, causing it to become inoperable. 
  • The Amtrak staff was super helpful and nice and they were definitely prepared for a catastrophe.  They all deserve medals for their efficiency and compassion.  
  • I’m okay.  I felt a little bit of shaking and then smelled what I thought was an electrical fire or something. It wasn’t until about 10 mins later that we realized what happened.
  • We waited on the train for about 4 hours before being bussed back to Champaign.  Even though it was a  huge inconvenience for everyone, I heard very little complaining.

It was a crazy, surreal experience. It’s not any of our fault, but it was really eerie knowing that I was even present for such a horrendous accident.  My heart goes out to that family and the residents of the community.   Small towns are very close-knit, so I’m sure that it will have a lasting effect on everyone.

And please, people, look for trains before crossing the tracks.  I don’t mean to sound like Safety Joe, but this totally could’ve been avoided.


I should note that I LOVE taking the train and will absolutely take it again, despite this experience.  The delay was certainly not Amtrak’s fault. It’s worth repeating that the Amtrak employees responded to the situation with grace, competency, and a great deal of compassion.


5 responses to “Crazy Train

  1. that’s horrible. i’m glad everyone else is okay.

  2. Angela Reinhart

    I’m glad you are okay and will keep the young man’s family in my thoughts and prayers.


  3. Oh no. . . this is awful. Sorry you had to end your weekend on this note.

  4. It’s very unfortunate that someone was killed because there were no lights or gates at a RR crossing. I think that RR’s should be responsible to install warning devices at crossings.

  5. Most public crossings are gated, but private crossings are often not. Even with gates, many drivers swerve around them – accidents like this take place nearly daily between Amtrak and the much more numerous freight trains. The rail industry works hard with Operation Lifesaver to educate people about how quickly trains bear down on you, but there are always those who don’t see, don’t hear, or simply don’t heed the trains. It is tragic.

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