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Retired Colorado railroad engineer reacts to deadly I-25 train derailment

He says railroad tracks can break for several reasons
Posted at 8:26 AM, Oct 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-18 10:26:22-04

PUEBLO, Colo. — Dave Miller said in the more than 30 years he's lived in Pueblo, it's never taken more than 45 minutes just to get across town.

"Takes you forever sometimes to make it," Miller said. "Detours going to highway 50 and 115 and up, it can be a pain in the rear."

The delays in travel are a result of a deadly train derailment on Sunday afternoonwhen a total of 30 cars derailed and caused a bridge to collapse. According to investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board, they believe a broken rail is the cause of the derailment.

"In my experience, derails are not all that common, and that's from 40 years of being out on the rail," retired locomotive engineer Bruce Barrett said.

Barrett said he's worked for a major railroad company as an engineer and in positions of management. Conductors work closely with engineers before, during and after their trips to make sure the train is safe to operate, according to Barrett.

"Safety is the number one rule in our rulebook, it is the same thing we do, it's the most important thing that any railroader does," Barrett said.

Specialized crews are in charge of checking and testing rail tracks, according to Barrett, but he could not speak to the frequency of doing so. Barrett said that typically, these tracks can break for several reasons.

"That can be a mechanical thing, it can be a track issue. Have something fail, and track caused by either weather conditions, temperature changes, something that could be metal fatigue, something on that order," he continued.

Barrett said he has more patience than most when it comes to delays on Interstate 25. He's satisfied with the time it will take to get the questions he has answered, stressing the importance of a thorough investigation.

"As people, we have to understand that they need to get to the bottom of what happens so we can have lessons learned," he said.

The NTSB has said their preliminary report of the derailing will be available within 30 days. The full report is expected to take 12-24 months.