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Iowa History Daily: March 17 - Nodaway Amtrak Derailment

Iowa History Daily: Late on the evening of Saturday, March 17, 2001, Amtrak’s “California Zephyr” train en route from Chicago, Illinois, to Emeryville, California, derailed in rural Iowa near Nodaway killing one and injuring ninety-six.

Roughly seventy miles from the next scheduled stop at Omaha, Nebraska, the train engineer had slowed from the usual eighty miles per hour down to fifty due to trouble with the whistle system at rail crossings. In the aftermath, officials determined the track, not the train, was likely the cause of the accident.

Evidence at the scene suggested the top part of the rail, or the ‘ball,’ cracked from the base, upsetting the train and sending two engines and nine cars off the rails. Because the track did not completely sever, the railroad’s warning system did not trigger. The four-foot section of damaged rail had previously been patched after an initial problem was detected.

Following the derailment, emergency services personnel from four surrounding communities rushed to reach the 225 passengers and 16 crew members at the remote rural site far from roads. Fortunately, the Corning Volunteer Fire Department was at the local National Guard Armory preparing to serve breakfast following their annual “Fireman’s Ball,” allowing for an immediate response to the call. Six area hospitals serviced the injured, and two passengers were taken by helicopter to Des Moines. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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