Amtrak train derails in Centralia

By Gus Bode

Amtrak train derails in Centralia

No injuries in second Amtrak derailment in a week

An Amtrak train with 162 passengers en route to Carbondale derailed in Centralia early Monday morning, causing no injuries but leaving passengers confined for about 9 hours before the train started to move again.


The southbound passenger train had just departed Centralia’s station at about 1:30 a.m. when the two front engine cars derailed, turning the six-hour trip from Chicago to Carbondale into a 17-hour ordeal.

A replacement locomotive did not arrive until about 8 a.m.

An Amtrak spokeswoman said the accident is under investigation and that no new specific directions have been given to conductors traveling through that location in the future.

Conductors relayed news of the derailment to passengers two hours after the incident.

Monica Clay, a junior in special education from Chicago, said she was angered by the way Amtrak staff treated her and her 1-year-old son, Michael.

“They treated it like it was our fault,” she said. “During the whole time we were sitting there they didn’t offer us anything.

“And I only had two bottles for my son.”


Power was cut from the engine cars to the coach cars, causing toilets to overflow and air circulation to cease. The warm air and bathroom stench made for an uncomfortable wait.

“If we die and go to hell, this is what hell is going to be like,” said Dave Kim, a sophomore in radio-television from Chicago.

One Amtrak employee on the train, who spoke on condition of anonynimity, said passengers should have been thankful the train was moving at a slow speed at the time of derailment.

“You should be happy because you could have died,” he said.

The train separated from the tracks only minutes after it departed from the Centralia post.

Some passengers had friends and family pick them up in Centralia, while others called cabs. The train did not continue its travel until 9 a.m.

The derailment is the fourth in a week on Illinois lines and Amtrak’s second. An Amtrak train derailed in Pickneyville Feb. 10. Days before that incident, a Illinois Central-Canadian National freight train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in Tamaroa, causing the town to be evacuated.

Jack Burke, spokesman for Central-Canadian National, the railway company that owns the tracks where the Centralia and Pickneyville accidents occurred, said the cause of both wrecks is pending investigations.

He did confirm that the Amtrak derailment in Pickneyville and the accident in Centralia both were caused when the locomotives on each train derailed.

When the train finally pulled into Carbondale at approximately 1 p.m., 17 hours after it left Chicago’s Union Station, one man stepped off the train, looked at the sky and pumped his fists in the air.

Amtrak trains will continue to run as scheduled, officials said.

Reporter Brad Brondsema can be reached at [email protected]