Retired Amtrak engineer talks speed, challenges of job

RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) – 8News reporter Claudia Rupcich spoke to a retired train engineer from Ashland about what it’s like to run a train. Doug Riddell spent 36 years in a locomotive cab.

“You have a throttle, which is like the accelerator in your car. We have a brake, but it’s a handle instead of a brake pedal,” he explained.

“The most important part of my job as an engineer is safety.”

Riddell says an engineer must know the railroad–and always pay attention.

“You take into account your speed, and you say, ‘Well I’m a quarter of a mile away or half a mile away and I’ve got to get down to 30 or 40 mph’ you reduce the throttle and you put the brake on,” said Riddell.

Speed is the focus in the NTSB’s investigation into the Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia, after finding the train was traveling more than 100 mph at the time of the crash, twice the limit on that part of the track.

“Maintaining your speed is one thing, it’s knowing when to put your brake on to stop,” said Riddell.

But we learned today the train accelerated before derailing.

“If you move your foot off the accelerator, your car starts rolling and will eventually stop. If I leave the throttle in an active position, the train is going to continue on, it will pick up speed,” said Riddell.

The train’s engineer, Brandon Bostian, has agreed to speak with investigators in the next few days.

“What happened in that last minute that caused the train to accelerate instead of decelerate, the only person who knows that is the engineer,” said Riddell.

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