Marshall, TX Amtrak Derailment, Nov 1983

Marshall TX Train wreck.jpg



Marshall, Texas (AP) -- Investigators are hoping a shattered section of rail will reveal how five railroad cars on the Amtrak Eagle derailed deep in the East Texas woods, killing four women and injuring scores of other people.
National Transportation Safety Board workers said Sunday that a preliminary investigation of Saturday's accident -- the second-worst in Amtrak's 12-year history -- showed that the passenger cars derailed when they hit a separation in the track.
However, NTSB member Donald Engen said the broken section of rail will be sent to a Union Pacific laboratory in Omaha, Neb., for further tests and a final report may not be ready for four months.
NTSB spokesman Bob Buckhorn said the rail was broken in several places, causing the separation.
"The track breaks and the broken piece of rail comes up and is hit by the oncoming truck, which is the technical word for the set of four wheels," Buckhorn said. "You can say that the train derailed because of the break, but there's probably more to it. A train can pass over a break in the rail without derailing."
Engen said the shattered rail was the same section Missouri Pacific Railroad crews worked on within two hours of the accident. After the repair crews finished, two freight trains had passed over the rails before the two-engine, nine-car Eagle, an Amtrak spokesman said.
On Sunday, torn pillows were strewn along the tracks and disposable coffe cups littered the ground near the accident site, but the only other sign of the accident was a Missouri Pacific railroad crew sitting by a campfire after replacing the 700 feet of mangled track.
Buses carried 101 of the 145 passengers on board to Dallas and San Antonio following the accident. Workers unloaded baggage into a truck Sunday morning and the train was righted, put on repaired track and moved to a Marshall railyard where federal investigators sealed it off and began their examination.
"There were people crawling all over the top of the cars; electrical lines were all over the place; people were crying, people were in shock," said volunteer firefighter Randy Minatrea.
Officials said 24 people were admitted to three hospitals, and scores of others were treated for minor injuries and released.
The accident was Amtrak's worst since June 10, 1971, when 11 people were killed at Salem, Ill., said Cliff Black, a spokesman for the rail network in Washington. Amtrak was formed May 1, 1971.
A data recorded aboard the train, which was headed for San Antonio, Texas, from Chicago, showed it was traveling at 73 mph when it derailed, said Missouri Pacific Vice President Richard Davidson. The speed limit for passenger trains on that stretch of track is 75 mph.
William Grimmer, the general superintendent for Amtrak's Midwest division, said no defects had been found on the Eagle, which carried a crew of 17.
Killed in the wreck were:
CAROL McDONALD, 74, of Dallas.
DOROTHY BLASK, 77, of Milwaukee.
ALMA HELENA ZAHN, 69, of La Crosse, Wis.
SYBIL FISHER, 59, of Mineola, Texas

Winchester Star Virginia 1983-11-14


Amtrak Train Derailment Texas

My grandmother, Carol McDonald, died on that train. Thank you David for helping the victim and providing dignity to the dead.

on the train

I heard of this wreck just today. My dear friends grandmother Alice, who is now 103, remembers the wreck vividly. She was in route to California with her sisters. The three all survived with no injuries, she talked of the trip to San Antonio and the journey on to CA, she is an amazing lady. She even remembered the date!

I was on that train, too.

Something I never forgot was a small boy with his mother, he might have been 7-9 years old. Everyone in our train car got out alive and were waiting in the field beside the train for help. We were finally told we need to walk to the road but had to climb through the train to get to the other side. The small boy started to scream hysterically and beg his mother to not make him get back on the train. It was awful hearing his screams and couldn't get it out of my head while we walked to the main road and on the bus ride to Dallas. It's been 31 years and I can still remember it like it was yesterday.

I was on that train.

Hello Stu,

I am amazed this is the only article I can find. I do not want to disappoint anyone but that is not the train in the picture. The Train was a double-decker and there was not a road any where near the track. I remember how long it took the rescue workers to cut through the East Texas Pines and trees to get to us. Also, the car in the picture appears to be an early 1990s Ford.

I was one of the youngest people on the train at 21 years of age. The track looked like a giant corkscrew. I was the first one to reenter the rear car. It was the worst, nearly upside down and covered with downed wires and telephone lines. I had to jump through the dislodged door to avoid electrocution. It was like entering the "Poseidon Adventure", the seats were almost hanging and blood and luggage were everywhere. One of the few people, discussed in the article, traversing the train from above, was I. On the bus ride that night to Austin and San Antonio; I became known as the hero in the red shirt. I appreciated the sentiment but I did not feel at all like a hero.

I cannot remember her name, for sure, anymore but one of the women listed above, I found alive. I believe it might have been Dorothy Blask, as someone called her name. A young male nurse and I tried desperately to save her but she succumbed to her injuries in our arms. I found the other three already expired and located blankets to cover them. I never had felt so helpless before. I will never forget that day. Never!!! I never wore the red shirt again.