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Earthquake in Southern California
October 16, 1999, 02:46 A.M.
www.trainweb.com/news/1999j16a.html

Please note: All information contained in these pages is posted for historical purposes only. Any and all crises that occured as a result of the earthquake mentioned herein are now nonissues.

7.0 Earthquake hits Southern California October 16, 1999 at 2:46 A.M.
Amtrak Southwest Chief westbound Train #3 derails near Ludlow

Click here for additional details of the Amtrak derailment!

02:46 AM - Earthquake strikes southern California. The TrainWeb WebCams appear to have frozen at about 2:46 AM. We have not had a chance to determine the reason for the frozen webcams. Most likely either the power or DSL internet access in our Fullerton Santa Fe Depot office is out. When power or DSL access is restored, WebCams #1, #2, and #6 should come up by themselves. WebCams #3, #4 and #5 will most likely require manual intervention. The TrainWeb server is in a different location than our Fullerton office, is up, and does not seem to have been affected by the earthquake at all.

KFI 640 AM appears to be the only source of live information about this earthquake at this hour. No other radio or TV station has made mention of this event yet. KFI 640 AM is a 50,000 watt station that can be heard throughout southern California and at times can be heard from much of the western U.S.

03:55 AM - There are initial reports of a possible 20 car Amtrak derailment near Barstow, 10 miles north of the town of Ludlow. Ludlow is about 40 miles east of Hector which has tentatively been identified as the center of a 7.0 earthquake. Some injuries have been reported. Please stand by for further details.

04:03 AM - Most recent reports are that there are power outages in Fullerton which is probably the reason for the frozen webcam images. There are extensive reports of power outages throughout Southern California, including for my own neighborhood. However, my own home has not had a power outage.

04:29 AM - The Amtrak train cars appears to be 100% upright all in a straight line with lights on in all of the cars. People that have seen the train from the road have said that you would not know that the train is derailed if you had not been listening to news reports. There are a few emergency vehicles by the train but no reported injuries as yet. This derailment is now considered minor.

04:33 AM - This has now officially been dubbed the "Hector Quake" and measured at magnitude 7. A number of banks have shut down their ATM networks to keep phone lines available for emergency calls. The quake has been felt as far away as Las Vegas, Nevada and Phoenix, Arizona.

04:48 AM - Confirmation has come in that the derailed train was Train #3, the Amtrak Southwest Chief heading westbound to Los Angeles from Chicago. The track did shift during the earthquake which caused a very minor derailment. There does appear to have been just one minor injury onboard. Passengers are being bused to Barstow and then will probably be bused on to the few remaining stops on the route including San Bernardino, Fullerton and Los Angeles.

09:04 AM - Updated report about Amtrak: There were 155 passengers on the train with 4 reported minor injuries. Two passengers were taken to a local hospital. Although a minor derailment with no overturned cars, the Amtrak derailment seems to be the most serious damage done by this earthquake. The quake was centered near Ludlow and Interstate 40. Althrough a very powerful earthquake at magnitude 7.0, the maximum shaking took place in a sparcely populated area of the California desert. The Amtrak train and passengers had the unfortunate timing of being very close to the epicenter at the time of this quake.

09:10 AM - I have placed a few calls into our Fullerton Santa Fe Depot office but have not yet been able to reach anyone. If there is someone at the TrainWeb office, please give me a call at home! Some people have been attempting to call my office phone at TrainWeb, but the message service provided by our local phone company appears to be inoperable. When I call in for my messages, all I get is the date and time the messages were left. The content of the messages themselves are empty, and this includes a few messages that I had already listened to in the last couple of days and had saved. Thus, the earthquake appears to have had a serious impact on the message services of our local phone company. If the electricity is still out in our Fullerton office, then it is possible that our staff that comes in on Saturday just left since there is not a lot to do in our office without electricity!

10:06 AM - Finally reached our staff in the TrainWeb Fullerton office. The electric power did go down during the earthquake but is up now. All the webcams are being restarted right now and should be operational by the time you read this.

Click here for additional details of the Amtrak derailment!

More information from Robert Berkman (ctcdagget@mindspring.com), added 11/13/99:

  • There seems to be some confusion regarding the consist of Amtk #3. For the record, 3 GE model P42-9BHW, and 1 ElectroMotive (GM) model F40PH locomotives were pulling a standard (for #3) consist. The car immediately following the engines is the checked-baggage car, followed by the double deck Superliner passenger cars. The confusion appears to be in identifying the nonpassenger cars behind the superliners. The 1st group of cars are mail and express (USPS, UPS, RPS etc contracted services) cars, probably about 6-8 cars. The last group are called "Railiners", and are a relatively new concept where specially equipped truck-type semi trailers, which ride on portable rail-truck assembelies. The contents of these semis are also likely to be mail and express. NO Freight cars or freight are ever carried by Amtrak. The equipment is all high speed (90+) and fully compatable with all other Amtrak trains.

  • Not discussed (at least yet); the 7.0 happened at 0246, and the derailment at 0310. Usually when any earthquake happens (>5.0), dispatchers stop all trains everywhere. 246 to 310 is a very long time. The engineer said that the train speed was 60-65 mph at time of derailment (track speeds in area are 70 & 79).

  • Note that no cars overturned or accordianed (jacknifed), or separated, a real testimonial to tight lock couplers and good old Pullman-Standard (their last product) manufacturing.


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